One of my favorite parts about springtime is that everything lightens up, and that includes what we eat. Of all the "summer" food choices, one of my favorites has to be smoothies.
How do you go about making a green smoothie? It's so simple! Start with a regular fruit smoothie and then add a leafy green vegetable like baby spinach (by far the most mild and perfect for beginning green smoothie drinkers and kids), kale, collard greens, or even wheat grass. Greens such as these are among the most nutritionally dense foods available and they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and all sorts of stuff that is good for our bodies. The advantage to adding them to a fruit smoothie is that the fruits dominate the flavor of the greens and the absence of any fats or heat (like cooking them in a saute pan with oil or butter) maximizes both the amount of nutrients they retain and how much you can absorb.
The energy green smoothies give me is reason enough in itself to drink them on a daily or near-daily basis, but I've also noticed that they significantly curb my cravings (especially for sweets and sodas), are great for digestion and make my skin clearer. When I was drinking them daily at breakfast last summer I lost almost 10 lbs and I attribute it highly to this simple change in my diet!
Our standard green smoothie "recipe" at our house is a frozen banana, frozen mixed fruit (I buy a ginormous bag from Costco), an orange, several handfuls of baby spinach, a handful of ice, and enough water to blend. To that I may add supplements like ground flax seed (for fiber), probiotic powder, and/or vitamin C powder (if we have a cold or are surrounded by sick family), all of which can be found at any health store and are essentially tasteless. If you use very ripe fruit, the smoothie should be adequately sweet and you will be able to just blend and go! There are times when the fruit isn't as sweet and so I like to add a bit of sweetener to taste -- healthy options are honey or stevia. Some people like agave nectar as well.
My children love these smoothies. In fact, my 3.5 yo always asks "what color" I'm going to make the smoothie and is truly elated every time I say I'm making it green! Both she and my 2 yo frequently beg for me to make them. Even my husband, who is by self-admission one of THE pickiest food eaters on the planet, genuinely likes and drinks them (he especially likes protein supplements added to his).
If I'm making a green smoothie only for myself, I like to be more adventurous in my ingredients. You'll find that the more raw greens you drink, the more accustomed you become to them. I've adjusted my tastes enough to where I like even wheat grass powder, which can taste quite strong but has amazing health benefits. I also enjoy adding things like Omega-3 fish oil (I buy one that is lemonade flavored) or a dash of coconut oil.
There are really no rules to green smoothies -- just use the fruit you like/have around the house and don't be afraid to try new combinations! If you're new to eating greens, especially when they're raw, start light with them and work your way up. Maybe the first time your green smoothie will be only 5% "green" -- that's OK!
Also, green smoothie beginners may want to start with a favorite juice rather than using water to blend. It's not as healthy but for some people who are used to eating/drinking very sweet things, it may be necessary at first. Over the weeks gradually water down your juice until you're using only water and finding it enjoyable to do so.
For a creamier, more calorie-rich smoothie you can add yogurt -- I love the new Greek kinds as they can have upwards of 14g of protein per serving -- or replace the water with cow/soy/almond/rice/coconut milk.
Do you drink green smoothies? What's your favorite recipe?