Sunday, September 7, 2008

Healthy Habits: Smoothie Makin'

In addition to my "Show and Tell" and product reviews, I thought I would add another genre to my Sunday features: Healthy Habits. These posts will include information about my health practices, especially the ones that I get asked about most frequently. I might post a recipe for a recurring dish, write about my food philosophy, or just fill you in on my fitness routine.

For today's edition, I thought I would talk about one of my food passions,
the smoothie. Anyone who has read my blog for a while is well aware of my love of the blended drink. I make some sort of blender creation almost every night--they make great accompaniments to my late-night blog reading sessions:)

Sometimes I make shakes, sometimes I make smoothies, but regardless, they are usually relatively healthful; some are even downright nutritious. Smoothies and shakes are an excellent way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit, an additional dose of calcium, and a boost of protein. You can enjoy them as an evening snack, a portable breakfast, or even for lunch when you're just not feelin' the sandwich route.

So today, I explain the science behind my blender experimentation.

The Liquid

I have found that the best smoothie liquid is
soymilk. Some people prefer juice or regular cow's milk, but I exclusively use Silk Plain or Silk Plain Light. I have tried using almond milk, and I was not satisfied with the results, although I have yet to make an attempt with hemp milk. I also use about .5 cup of water (you'll see why later).

Amount required: 1.5 to 2 cups total.
The Protein
While protein powder is not essential to a quality smoothie or shake, the texture it lends to the beverage is irreplaceable. It provides just enough froth and thickness for my preferences.

Other benefits include (duh) extra protein, plus many varieties are also fortified with vitamins and minerals. I look for brands that provide at least 6 grams of protein per serving; I especially like brands that include a considerable amount of calcium, vitamin B12, and iron.

I prefer non-animal based proteins, such as soy, hemp, rice, and pea proteins, although you could probably achieve a similar consistency using whey protein powders. Here are a few brands I like:

-Nutiva HempShake (hemp; 6-9 grams protein per serving; available in berry pomegranate, Amazon acai, and chocolate)
-Spirutein (rice, pea, and soy blend; 14 grams protein per serving; available in countless flavors)

Living Harvest (hemp; 8-13 grams protein per serving; available in plain, vanilla spice, and chocolate chili)

Alive! (rice/pea blend, soy [although whey is also available]; 15 grams protein per serving; available in apples and cinnamon, vanilla) Amount needed: 1 serving (varies by brand)
The Solid
AKA "the chunk" of the smoothie. I keep a constant stock of
frozen fruit on hand, with a variety available so that I don't get bored. Current favorites include cherries, mango, pineapple, banana, strawberries, and blueberries, although feel free to use your own favorites.
For a decadent shake, you can use ice cream or a similar product in place of, or in addition to the frozen fruit. I prefer the So Delicious line of fruit-sweetened, dairy-free desserts. Amount needed: 1 cup total
The Garnish
I like just a touch of crunch on top of my smoothies--it adds taste, texture, and visual appeal.
A few of my favorites include:

-Nature's Path Granola
wheat germ
whole grain graham crackers
-shredded coconut
I recommend chocolate syrup for shakes.
The Method
My method is not ground-breaking--I just dump and blend, really. Here's the sequence anyway:
Pour liquid. Start out with that half cup of water first. That way, you can tell if there is a leak in the seal of the blender without having to clean up a mess of soymilk. Once you have ascertained that the blender is ready for action, pour in your milk of choice.
Add the powder. If you wait to put it last, it gets whizzed all over the top of the blender and doesn't get incorporated into the smoothie or shake.
Add the fruit and/or ice cream.
Blend. If you have a multi-setting blender, use the ice crush button first, then try the liquefy/smoothie button.
Taste test. If it needs sweetness, add a touch of agave nectar or stevia. If the texture is not to your liking, add a few ice cubes or thin it out with water/soymilk.
6) Pour into the receptacle of choice, top with garnish, and enjoy!

If you have any questions you want answered or suggested topics of discussion for future editions of Healthy Habits, please let me know. Enjoy your evening!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips! They are really useful and I just got the Vanilla Alive! Shake. Can't wait to try it =)

VeggieGirl said...

I LOVE this new "Healthy Habits" feature for your blog - fabulous!! And you KNOW how much I love your shakes/smoothies, so this post was especially fun, and a real treat :0)

Hooray for Living Harvest hemp protein powder!!

Ruby Red Vegan said...

I like the new feature, Caroline! You really do have a science behind your smoothies. Reading this makes me even more excited to read about future smoothie & shake concoctions -- I have never added protein powder or ice cream to mine before, but now I think I am really missing out! And Soy Delicious fruit-sweetened is one of my favorite brands of ice cream. :)

Danielle said...

Healthy Habits are definitely your best idea yet! Thank so much :) :) :)

alaina said...

great tips! i work at smoothie king and have long been addicted to smoothies. probably the only thing i enjoy there is the free smoothie i get when i work :P

Anonymous said...

Oooh I love this post, Caroline! As I have always been envious of your smoothie-making ability, it was fascinating to read about the exact process you go through and some of your favorite products used to create them!

Anonymous said...

Hey I just did my first smoothis post! I am really loving making smoothies right now. Just had my first green smoothie.

sportsnutritionliving said...

I secretly always wanted to know how you made your smoothies because mine just dont seem to come out right all the time! Thanks for the step by step!

Tara said...

You are the smoothie queen!!! I'm really going to make a point to get into it like you. I know the extra protein and calories wouldn't hurt me either...actually help. ;)

I LOVE the living harvest vanilla spice protein mix. I bought that a while back when you first blogged about it.

Thanks for all the smoothie advice!

ChickPea said...

Shelby: Be forewarned that the Alive! mix turns green. I promise it tastes good though!
VeggieGirl: I knew you would appreciate the smoothie feature...and many thanks for the LH recommendation.
Ruby: I have much practice, so I guess that's how the science evolved. So Delicious is wonderful!
Danielle: Glad you like it!
Alaina: I've always wondered if smoothie place employees have any special tips on how to make them. They always come out so perfectly when I buy them.
EatingBender: Puh-lease, you have no need to be jealous of my abilities--Bender's Blenders are awesome.
Nikki: I have never made a green smoothie, so thanks for the tip--I'll have to try it one of these days!
SportsNutritionLiving: I hope you try some of the techniques! I am sure you will come up with some great combos!
Tara: Yes, I definitely use smoothies as my little nutritional "insurance policy." It ensures that I get adequate protein, calcium, and calories in my diet--things that always seem to be lacking. Glad you like the LH!