There was a time in my life, (12 weeks to be exact), when smoothies comprised about 50% of my diet. During my "no solid foods allowed" period, smoothies were one of the only things I could eat and get the nutrients I needed. I probably had hundreds of smoothies during those 3 months. On December 22, 2009 when I was given the all clear to eat solid foods again, I swore off smoothies for the next year and a half. The thought of them made me sick. After a long sabbatical from the world of smoothies, I'm back on the bandwagon, and actually enjoying them this time around (maybe because I can sink my teeth into a juicy cheeseburger any time I want)!
I'm not a very good fruit eater. If I buy 4 pieces of fruit, it's highly likely that 2 will go bad before I get around to eating them. I'm not sure why I think eating fruit is such a hassle, because they're very healthy, convenient, portable snacks. Perhaps it's because I never think to "snack" on a piece of fruit, and the chances of me eating fruit as a part of my meals is pretty low. I'd imagine that most of us with the best intentions have the same problem as I do, and our diets end up lacking in fruit. The solution for me? Smoothies!
I have a pretty simple equation to smoothie making, but it's in its infancy and I'll continue to experiment and expand over the summer. This will likely be the first of several smoothie posts you'll see from me. The base ingredients of my smoothies are all the same: 1/2 cup of fat free Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of soy or almond milk, protein powder and 4 or 5 ice cubes. For straight fruit smoothies I use vanilla flavored, and when my sweet tooth is raging I use chocolate.
Let me just say, chocolate smoothies are freaking awesome. Add a few tablespoons of peanut butter (I really like the Better 'n Peanut Butter! Saves on some fat & calories http://www.betternpeanutbutter.com/index.php ) and it tastes JUST like a frozen liquified Reece's cup. Almond butter, bananas, and strawberries are also great mix-ins. The Chocolate Peanut Butter shake is definitely a meal replacement, clocking in at 490 calories, 9g fat, 61g carbs, and 36g protein. This includes 2 scoops of my protein powder, which is pretty high in carbs & protein, and accounts for 130 of the calories. Any of these shakes can easily be made without this ingredient.
Chocolate smoothies are something I've enjoyed for a really long time. Fruit smoothies, however, are a pretty new territory for me and I've been having a blast throwing fruit in a blender and seeing what comes out. Fort Mill, SC is well known for our peaches, and as many of you probably guessed, The Peach Stand I referred to in my previous post is a major seller of these super yum summer fruits. They sell over 40 varieties of peaches throughout the summer, so almost every time I go in there's a new kind to try. Peaches are a great smoothie fruit, especially when they're almost too ripe to eat (read: I was bad about eating peaches and now they're going to be rotten in a day)! A vanilla and peach smoothie is super refreshing.
Summer time in the Carolina's means we have our pick of fresh, local fruit. PLEASE, do me a favor, and visit your local farmers market at least once a week for some fresh fruits and veggies. It makes a difference. The produce you buy in your local grocery store is picked before it's ripened to make the long journey from Mexico or California or Mexico and arrive kind of ripe. These fruits and veggies are seriously lacking in nutrients and vitamins. While full color may be achieved after harvest, nutritional quality may not. Post-harvest handling during shipping can result in significant nutrient loss. Plus, the produce you buy in the store is much more likely to be treated with pesticides, films, coatings, irradiation, chemical preservation, and modification of ph levels, causing you to ingest some unhealthy things you didn't really bargain for when you bought your fruit in an effort to be more healthy. Plus, the best argument, fresh local produce TASTES so much better! My SC grown blackberries are bigger than my thumb and the flavor beats the pants off of anything I can get at Harris Teeter. OK, getting off my local produce soapbox now. My point is, go to a farmers market, buy what looks good, and let the fruit available dictate what kind of smoothie you'll make in the morning!
I've seen a few posts lately about avocado smoothies and I'll admit, my first reaction was mild disgust. Then curiosity. Then I googled "avocado smoothies" and it turns out there are about a million recipes out there. I based mine off of one of the first recipes I saw, and I've gotta say, I may never eat another smoothie without an avocado in it (well, except for the chocolate ones!). For my first foray in to the unknown avocado smoothie territory, I used my standard base (vanilla fat free Greek yogurt, soy milk, protein powder, and ice cubes). I added 1/2 of a ripe avocado, 1 kiwifruit, and 1 small bunch of grapes. Blend, pulse, pour.
The result? Pretty damn amazing. The first sip really blew me away. I didn't quite know what to expect. I mean, I LOVE avocados. I eat them by themselves. I'm a fan of kiwis and grapes, so I figured it would definitely be drinkable. What I tasted was so unlike any smoothie I've made before, and super duper scrumptious. My taste buds were doing a little dance for sure. The smoothness was incredible (no pun intended). It was a really great consistency. A lot of recipes I read suggested adding sugar or stevia (a natural no calorie sweetener). I think the sugars in my vanilla flavored base definitely took care of any lacking sweetness in the other ingredients. However, the avocado added such so much smoothness and thickness, which is what I usually add the base ingredients for, that I think I'll attempt my next avocado concoction without the yogurt.
Other mix-ins I saw that were popular with avocados included bananas (I can see that being ridiculously good!), tropical fruits, apples & pears, raspberries, and greens. Adding vegetables to smoothies is another unknown territory for me, one that I dipped my toe into yesterday when I threw a small handful of leftover parsley into a black & blueberry smoothie. Not bad. Adding greens like spinach, kale, and collards to your smoothies are a really great way to get the nutrients and benefits provided by dark greens, another area many of us draw up short on daily. They don't effect the flavor much but add a great boost. I'll do some more experimenting in this department and probably do my next smoothie post on this topic.
My avocado smoothie came up a little higher on calories than I would have liked. The grand total was 507 calories, 16g of fat, 68g of carbs, and 25g of protein. Nixing the yogurt base would automatically knock 100 calories and 15 carbs off of that total, and eliminating the protein powder would drive it down even further. These are adjustments I'll be making next go-round. The avocados accounted for the majority of the fat, as 1/2 an avocado contains just over 13g of fat. In fact, 75% of the calories in an avocado (144 in 1/2) come from fat. Why eat something that's so much higher in fat & calories than almost any other fruit or veggie?
Avocados have 60% more potassium than bananas, are rich in vitamins B, E, & K, and contain 20 essential nutrients. They have a high fiber content and provide 23% the daily RDI of folate. While avocados are high in fat content, it is mono-saturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fats. The coolest thing about avocados is that they're a nutrient booster. This means certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with an avocado. Eating an avocado on your salad can increase your absorption of carotenoids by 5 times! So, not only does an avocado make a smoothie taste yum, but it helps our body make the most of all the other good stuff found in the blender too by helping us absorb as much as possible. Turns out avocados and smoothies are a very good combination indeed, and a pretty good reason to drop 13g of fat and 144 calories! Please let me know if you give this recipe a try, and I'd love to hear how it turns out if you get creative with your avocado smoothie recipes! Have fun blending!