Have you ever heard of somebody NOT wanting to improve their health? I haven’t. But what I do hear are a whole lot of excuses as to why they cannot; all the reasons that keep their hands tied, while health somehow eludes them. These rationalizations usually include gripes such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t like vegetables”…and the list goes on. Am I judging? Not one bit; in fact, I was pushing the same hot air no more than 4 years ago. But after being tired of hearing my own lame excuses over and over again, I finally just jumped in head first and have never looked back! I found that convenience seems to be the biggest issue which holds us back; let’s face it…we’re an extremely lazy society. And interestingly enough, the reason why we are so lazy is that we simply lack the proper nutrition to fuel us in the first place; it’s a terrible cycle to be stuck in.
The thought of giving any extra effort beyond our daily “duties” makes us sick to our stomachs. Well, worry no more. I’m going to tell you how you can start getting onto the health track with a small handful of ingredients and a blender. Thats right, I’m talking about smoothies. But aren’t smoothies just another food fad like…fondue? Sure, if you’re only going to have one every other month when you go meet up with your “healthy friend” at Jamba Juice. But what if you could truly take your health back on your own? What if you could find 5 minutes each day to create a simple meal that fully nourishes you with whole food, can be dumped into a “to-go” cup and tastes amazing…would you shift your perspective?
I make a lot of smoothies. So many, in fact, that I have a backed up list of recipes I’ve yet to post on my site. I’ve always had a system when it comes to making them; but as complicated as many of my concoctions can be, you really don’t need all of the ingredients that I use in order to make a great smoothie for yourself. You also don’t need an insanely expensive blender; when I first started, I used a very affordable yet amazing machine by Kitchen Aid . You can snag it between $80-$130 USD on Amazon. We’ll go into further detail on ingredients below but for now, let’s do a quick reality checklist to see what you actually need get started:
Blender: This is what you’ll use to create your smoothies. Buy it once, use it everyday.
Liquid Base: This is the foundation of every smoothie. Whether it be Filtered Water, Coconut Water, Tea or Non-Dairy Milk, this will be the liquid component.
Baby Greens: In order to take advantage of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which plants provide, you’ll want to get in your greens. Buy bagged; From “bag to blender”, no cooking required.
Fruit – Not only do fruits add sweetness and flavor but they also contain many antioxidant and energy benefits. Stock up on Bananas and bags of frozen berries.
Protein – When I first converted to a plant-based diet I was constantly asked where I get my protein from (and actually still do). Some of the best sources of protein to put into your smoothies will come from nuts, seeds and superfood powders. Some of my favorites are Hemp Seeds, Cashews, Flax Seeds, Hemp Powder and Spirulina. Another great thing to have on hand is a large tub of clean, plant-based Protein Powder (about 20 servings worth). One of the cleanest and most powerful brands that I have ever tried comes from Vega. See which products are right for you. My top 2 choices are Vega One and Vega Sport.
That’s it in a nutshell. But if you’re really low on cash, groceries and/or time…all you really need is a liquid base and the protein powder. Super simple…super fast…super good! If you just keep those simple handful of ingredients on hand, you can’t lose. And if you want to step it up a bit (after you’ve become a smoothie wizard) refer back to these simple steps and tips for guidance.
1. Liquid Base
The first thing to always go into the blender is the liquid. Measurement markers are usually right on the blender jar, so no need for an extra measuring cup. A good rule of thumb is 8-12 oz, depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be. If you want to be able to drink it faster (on the go), you can always add more liquid for easier drinkability. If you’re in a pinch, filtered water is the easiest choice. Coconut Water is also an excellent choice for hydration and electrolyte replenishing qualities. For texture, creaminess and added nutrition, use a nut milk such as Almond, Hemp, Cashew or Coconut Milk; these are normally supplemented with B-12 and Vitamin D (which are crucial if your diet is plant-based). For the advanced “en-smoothiast”, you can even use chilled teas, health tonics, pressed vegetable juices, aloe juice, etc.
2. Baby Greens
The second step is adding your greens to the liquid. I have found that “baby” varieties work best in the blender due to their soft leaves which break down much easier…even in blenders that are less powerful than the holy grail Vitamix or Blendtec models. As far as convenience goes, you can’t beat baby greens because you can buy them in the market already prepped in a bag or container. Just bust it open, grab a giant handful and toss it into the blender with your liquid base. You can use baby varieties of Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Arugula, Spring Mix as well as many other varieties of fresh farm micro-greens and sprouts. Many people complain about not being able to eat enough servings of greens throughout their busy days; well this is your chance to pack it in there and get it down easy. Once you’ve tossed a couple handfuls in the jar, put the lid on and blend on the high setting until all the greens are completely blended. You should end up with green liquid and no tiny green bits.
3. Fruits and Veggies
My smoothies are primarily fruit based, aside from the greens. I do this on purpose because I also drink extracted vegetable juice daily. I “eat & blend” my fruits and “eat & juice” my vegetables. The reason I do this is due to the high sugar content in most fruits. If you blend the fruit, you keep the fiber which will help slow down the absorption of the sugars. Blend your fruits and juice your veggies! So, for this step I almost always start with 1 Banana OR 1 Avocado; it will give the smoothie it’s velvety texture. If you’re looking for creamy but would rather go without the extra sugar; go with the Avocado (packed with healthy fats, vitamins and aminos). Now throw in 1 handful of berries OR 1 piece of fruit (Apple, Orange, Pear, etc). The possibilities are endless; don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Once you’ve added these ingredients, blend on the “crush ice” setting to break up the fruits and then slowly switch over to the high setting. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea if its too thick (add more liquid) or if its too watery (add some ice cubes).
4. Protein Powder
Many seasoned en-smoothiasts go without protein powders but since I am a vegan, I definitely make sure I cover my bases and add it. I’ve also been working out quite a bit since my weight loss, so I’m trying to build some muscle as well (why not?). And if you’re trying to take as much of the guesswork out of smoothie-making as possible, protein powder is the easiest, quickest way. One serving can cover a good portion of your nutrition needs; just be certain that it’s a good one. Theres a lot of junk out there disguised as healthy supplements. Make sure you research and read labels. It should be plant-based, nutrient dense, high in protein, made from clean (whole food) ingredients, chemical free, non-gmo and on top of all that…taste really good! That said, I’ll do you a solid and save you the search. Look no further than Vega’s line of nutrition products. And since we’re talking convenience and essentials, we may as well be talking about Vega Essentials. 20 grams of plant-based protein, 3 servings of greens, 25% daily value of Vitamins and Minerals, 16% daily Fiber, 1g Omega 3s and only 130 calories per scoop. It’s available online, your local Pharmacy and now even Target stores. The price is not bad either; around $2 per serving which is less than a trip to the donut or coffee shop (do I even need to compare the health benefits of those food choices?)
5. Optional Mix-Ins (for when you become a pro)
I find smoothies to be a great opportunity to mix in other superfoods from nature that can increase the nutritional value of this meal in a glass. Of course, at first, you may just want to go with quick and simple shakes (steps 1 -4). That said, save this extra info for when you’re a seasoned smoothie pro and want to upgrade. Myself, I don’t think I’ve ever made a smoothie that did not at least contain some Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds. These seeds are so very important to everyday health…vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, Omegas; they are a powerhouse on their own. Based on what my body feels like, I will also add in a superfood supplement (or 2, or 3). Superfoods are berries, herbs, teas, mushrooms, etc that are found from all over the world. Each one has a unique nutrition profile and can help maintain different parts of the body. Their packed with antioxidants which the “basic” groups of popular produce simply do not contain. It’s always best if you can find the whole food itself; but if, like me, you simply do not have access…bags of the pure powder will do just fine. Some of the ones I use are Reishi, Lucuma, Goji, Camu Camu, Acai, Spiralina, Matcha, Hemp, Cacao and Maca. Other mix-ins to consider are soaked nuts, oats, quinoa, dates (pitted) and good oils such as Coconut or Hemp.
So, as long as you have a blender, some liquid and a excellent plant-based ingredients, you truly cannot fail at making a nutritious smoothie. Make this a new everyday habit to replace a small meal or some other habit you’d like to avoid. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling better and wondering what else you can incorporate into your health regimen. Now pour that amazing smoothie into a tall glass and toast to your newfound health!