How to Create the Ultimate Healthy Smoothie

Busy, hardworking people do not always have the time to sit down for three square meals a day. However, the body still requires the nutrition that these meals provide in order to maintain a sufficient pace. Drinking a smoothie can be an easy and tasty way to deliver your body its essential daily portion of vital nutrients, including protein and fiber, while providing your body and brain the quick energy they need to keep you upbeat, alert and performing at your best. Smoothies can also be a useful way to healthfully handle sweet cravings. While there are a virtually limitless variety of smoothie recipes available, the fundamentals for making a healthy smoothie are essentially the same. Before you choose the ingredients you will use to make your smoothie, you need to have the right equipment to make it, including a decent quality blender. Remember that a smoothie can only be as healthy as its ingredients. The higher quality ingredients you start out with, the higher quality smoothie you will produce with those ingredients.

Basic Elements

A basic smoothie can be made from merely two ingredients, such as fruit or vegetables and ice. If you use frozen fruit or vegetables instead of fresh, you do not even necessarily need the ice. From there, many people like to add juice, yogurt and/or milk. With these ingredients alone, you can produce a healthy smoothie with low fat, less than 10 milligrams of cholesterol, less than 100 milligrams of sodium, nearly 50 grams of total carbohydrates, around 35 to 40 grams of sugar, between five and 10 grams of protein and several vitamins and minerals. Depending on the fruit used, the vitamins may include Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B complex, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Ingredient Quality

For the ultimate healthy smoothie, you should start with healthy and high-quality ingredients. The fruit, juices, milk and yogurt used should be as fresh as possible. Organic fruits and juices that do not contain preservatives, chemical fertilizers or other ingredients that are harmful to human health will also produce healthier smoothies than using inorganic alternatives. Additionally, 100 percent fruit juices are a healthier ingredient for smoothies than those containing sugar or artificial sweeteners. Smoothies made from low-fat or no-fat milk and yogurt contain less fat and cholesterol than those made from whole milk and yogurt. You can also, alternatively, choose to use soy or almond milk, which are both just as healthy and effective in smoothies.

Fortified Smoothies

There are many additional ingredients you can consider adding to your smoothies to increase their potential health benefits. While not all health supplements are recognized for their purported nutritional or health value by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many still have significant research and/or anecdotal evidence to back up their claimed benefits. Such possible supplements to consider adding to your smoothies range from whey protein powder and bran fiber to Echinacea and Ginkgo biloba. Additional ingredients that can be added to boost the nutritional value of smoothies include unsweetened peanut butter and oatmeal.

Common Smoothie Ingredients to Avoid

Just as the type and quality of smoothie ingredients can boost the potential health value of a particular smoothie, the ingredients can also diminish the potential health value of the smoothie. Ingredients to avoid adding to your smoothies if you want them to truly be healthy include coffee, sweetened flavor enhancers like imitation vanilla extract or hazelnut syrup, whipped cream, chocolate and alcohol. Additionally, avoid packaged, premade smoothies because these products typically contain a high amount of sugars, other hidden sweeteners, and preservatives. Moreover, there is no way to discern the freshness of the ingredients used, in spite of the listed expiration date, and spoilage or botulism is possible, as evidenced by the periodic recalls of premade smoothies and smoothie blends.

Texture, Flavor and Color

To give your smoothie a creamy texture, try adding soft bananas. Alternatively, ground up flax seeds can make for a more caramel like or gelatinous texture. For added spice or zest to the flavor, consider adding spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, or fruits like lemon or lime. For bright, colorful smoothies, consider using berries for a fruit smoothie, or kale and other green vegetables for a vegetable smoothie.

Smoothies for Kids

BAM! Body and Mind is a program administered by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to help teach skills in nutrition, disease, stress, safety and physical activity to kids between nine and 12 years of age. Among the program’s offerings are several suggestions for healthy smoothies with fun and enticing names, like Strawberry Banana Cooler, Orange Banana Crush, Pineapple Fizz, Orange Julius, Rainbow Juice and Sunny Surprise. Common ingredients in many of these recipes are fat-free or low-fat milk, fresh or frozen fruit, fresh or concentrated fruit juice, yogurt and ice cubes. Notably missing from each smoothie recipe in the CDC’s list is sugar or any other form of added artificial sweetener. The only sweetener added to any of the smoothie recipes is honey. School systems in Colorado and nationwide now recognize certain smoothies as acceptable alternatives to other foods listed in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Program guidelines.