I don’t really like vegetables.
I mean, they’re ok, and often quite good prepared certain ways, but I can’t say I get excited about them. I do see the irony in this, yes: a vegetarian blog by someone who doesn’t love vegetables? If I had my druthers, all the vegetable nutrition in the world would be contained in russet potatoes, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions. Carrots and celery are acceptable if they have been cooked long enough to take on the flavor of whatever they’re in–soup, pot roast–i.e., they must not taste like carrots or celery. My husband happily munches spinach straight from the bag. I kind of want to punch him.
I want to make it clear that I do not lead a vegetableless existence. I do eat salads, last night’s dinner had eggplant, asparagus is great in frittatas, and so on. But my vegetable consumption, especially greens, is too low for any reasonably health-conscious adult. So how could I get the greens without needing to sit dejectedly in front of a pile of kale?
Smoothie-making, and its cousin, Juicing, are getting a bad rap, and in some ways they deserve it. Sugar is sugar no matter how you slice it, and fruit has a lot of sugar. So, smoothies can be a glycemic disaster, and juicing is even worse, because you’ve lost the regulating benefits of fiber. And the fat content can vary wildly, in either direction: add fruit to frozen yogurt and you might as well have a milkshake; add only fruit to water and you’ll be hungry in an hour.
So how can you avoid a monstrous concoction that will give you nothing but trouble? Keep a few things in mind:
Is there fat or protein?
Fat and protein = full. Most smoothie recipes use banana to make them, well, smooth. But try avocado instead. Yes, it’s high in fat, but not that kind of fat, and it’s lower in sugar, which means you’ll feel satisfied longer. Avocados do require a little planning to give them time to ripen, and once they’re ripe they need to be used quickly, but it is possible to freeze them for ease of use. Just puree in a blender with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per avocado, and then use an ice cube tray to freeze individual portions. The cubes should be good for about three months.
Plain greek yogurt or protein powder work well too–you’re unlikely to notice the “grit” that protein drinks made with water have. And for heaven’s sake, none of that Dannon or Yoplait stuff if you go the yogurt route. Avoid added sugar in whatever dairy or protein you decide to incorporate (plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, plain nut butters, etc.).
Is there fiber?
Fat and protein and fiber = a smoothie that will keep you going until lunch, or dinner, or whatever. Don’t forget that even a “good” smoothie has as many calories as a meal–they’re not snacks. (Unless you can allot 350 or so calories per snack, in which case you are probably hanging around the Olympic pool this week.)
Is there sugar?
Trick question. Unless you’re doing an all-veg smoothie, your fruit is contributing plenty of sugar. I do find that some frozen fruit (pineapple, raspberry) is less sweet than fresh, so I sometimes add a little raw honey if I’m using a greens mix that is particularly…assertive. I can’t comment on things like stevia, as I haven’t branched that far into alternative sweeteners.
So, there are about a million green smoothie recipes floating around the internet, some good, some bad, but here’s what I’ve been drinking these days to help myself feel a little more like a responsible adult. Would I be better off with a salad? Sure. But what should happen and what is likely to happen, are, as we all know, two very different things.
Green Monster Smoothie
- 1 granny smith apple, diced
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple bits
- 2-3 cups greens (Trader Joe’s just came out with a kale, collard, and spinach mix!)
- 1-2 cups water (start with one and add more if needed)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey