Build your best smoothie
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Like most people, I love to sit down to a casual meal and take my time eating the lovely food in front of me. But the truth is, we’re all rather busy these days, aren’t we?
For those moments when breakfast or a quick snack has to be done on the fly, I have a few go-to options that are always in rotation, including fresh cut veggies or fruit, or a well-balanced food bar. But my all-time favorite? A smoothie. Especially during warm summer months.
When working with clients or speaking to a group, I get a lot of questions about healthy versus unhealthy smoothies, the difference between juicing and blending and the best equipment for making fresh juices and smoothies at home. Keep reading for a few of my top tips!
Juicing versus blending
I absolutely adore juicing, but let’s be honest – it’s not exactly time efficient. I have a juicer and I use it when I have time, but I opt for smoothies on a more regular basis in an effort to get liquid nutrients on the fly. Whichever way you choose, here is a bit more about both methods.
When it comes to using a juicer, the purpose of removing the pulpy fiber from vegetables and fruits is to send all of those vitamins directly to our bloodstreams without having to make the digestive system work – if there is no fiber to digest, the body simply has the job of absorbing nutrients.
This is also beneficial when you consider how many fruits and vegetables you would have to eat or blend in order to achieve the concentration of vitamins that are in one serving of juice that comes from a juicer. If the average 32 ounces of juice has two cucumbers, two broccoli stems, four stalks of celery, one romaine lettuce heart, six kale stalks, an apple, a pear and more, then imagine trying to squeeze that into a veggie and fruit smoothie. Start drinking now, because that will take all day!
Blending fruits and veggies has its benefits, too. Packing a bunch of healthy ingredients into one drink means you are delivering a fantastic dose of nutrients to your body. A smoothie does, however, contain fiber and, while that is not a bad thing at all, it will cause your digestive system to get to work.
One very specific benefit of blended fruits and veggies? It’s a quick and simple process! Like I said, juicing is wonderful, but can be time consuming. Blended smoothies are ideal for the guy or gal on the go, and are a great option for squeezing in a healthy nosh on busy mornings.
Plus, experts recommend women consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men munch on 38 grams per day. The fiber in smoothies will also help to slow down blood sugar spikes or the “rush” that can be experienced from drinking straight up juice. This is a factor that is especially beneficial to someone who suffers from diabetes or any other blood sugar imbalance.
Build-your-own (BYO) smoothie
- Get some greens in there. Leafy green vegetables are a nutrient-packed addition to any smoothie and barely detectable once you add in all of the other ingredients. Choose from 1-2 cups of raw spinach, dandelion and mustard greens or baby kale. If you are choosing kale, make sure you purchase baby kale because the large leaves can make a smoothie taste like sludge.
- Choose a liquid. This is where I add 1 cup of a dairy-free beverage, like almond, coconut, hemp or flaxseed milk, or even some pure coconut water. Of course, water, regular milk and fresh-pressed juice are also liquid options. If you’ve blended your smoothie for a bit and it still looks too thick, just add a bit more liquid to it.
- Add a little fat. I’m talking the healthy kind, like nut butters (peanut, almond, sunflower or cashew) or flaxseed meal, which is also packed with Omega-3s and fiber. Avocado is also a delicious option, giving smoothies a rich and creamy texture. No matter what you choose, add about 2 Tablespoons.
- Throw in some fresh or frozen fruit. This is where you add a bit of sweetness to your smoothie. Bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches are all yummy choices. Choose frozen and create a thicker smoothie texture.
- Extras: I also love to add a bit of something extra to all of my smoothies. Try chia seeds, cacao powder, spirulina, fresh spearmint or peppermint leaves, or plant-based protein powder to give smoothies a boost.
Keep in mind when purchasing a blender or juicer it is important to choose one that fits your lifestyle and budget. Sure, the ones with all of the bells and whistles are fun, but you want to make sure you also choose one you will actually use! Here are a few of my favorites (prices are approximate):
- Vitamix 5200 Super ($450)
- NutriBullet ($89)
- Magic Bullet
- Breville Juice Fountain Plus ($149-$179)
- Omega Juice Extractor ($299)
Tell me: What’s your favorite smoothie recipe? Send me an email!
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at