All this mild weather has me thinking about SPRING! While it’s still a bit early for spring produce–just a few more weeks!–I find my body starts craving more color and lighter fare these days. During winter, I feel like I survived on spinach, apples, hummus and peanut butter! Have no fear–you can rush warmer weather with frozen berries and other fruits (and vegetables!) by throwing them into the blender for a light, colorful and healthy breakfast or snack! I had one just yesterday and loved every bite!
Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as the fresh ones because vitamins and minerals are retained during freezing. Also, imported fresh produce takes a toll on the environment (think carbon footprint here) and becomes less and less fresh the longer the trip. Buying in-season produce is always best, followed by frozen. Be sure to read the label and grab unsweetened varieties. Fantastic kinds to keep in your freezer include blueberries and raspberries, peaches and mango chunks.
Your beverage needs something to emulsify all the ingredients and provide liquid in which to blend everything. Lowfat milk, kefir and plain yogurt are my top picks, but fruit juices and soy, almond and coconut milk are other great options. One thing to remember: If your base is sweetened (like vanilla yogurt or sweetened almond milk), but sure to try your smoothie before adding additional sweetener.
Say YES to Spinach:
And avocados! Spinach packs a mighty nutritional punch, supplying more than 100% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamins A and K, as well as a ton of the minerals manganese, folate, magnesium and iron. Add a handful or two of baby spinach leaves and you’ll barely know it’s there (other than the green color, of course). An avocado has healthy fats that help our bodies absorb phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables, as well as being packed with fiber, folate and Vitamin K. Go green!
How Sweet is TOO Sweet?:
Remember people, a smoothie is supposed to be a healthy meal or snack, not a milk shake-like drink. Add half a banana for natural sweetness, or try a teaspoon of honey or agave nectar. Learn to appreciate a fruit’s natural sweet-tart flavor; before long, you won’t need to add sugar at all!
Add Some Protein:
Protein is what takes your smoothie from a light snack to a meal. Your liquid base (milk, yogurt) may supply all the protein you need (or want), but if you’d like more, consider adding peanut or another nut butter. Or, add half a scoop of protein powder. Protein powder is typically flavored, so you won’t need additional sweetener if you’re using that. However, before making a protein supplement part of your daily diet, consult with your doctor or (at the very least), take an inventory of your daily intake and exercise goals. Our bodies can only metabolize a certain amount of protein–any more and it just gets wasted. A quick online search can give you a ballpark recommended number of grams per day of protein, as well as the amount of protein in any given food.
Spice it Up:
Don’t forget that healthy smoothies can be super flavorful, too! Add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or vanilla or almond extracts. Other things to add: flaxseed meal or flax seeds, chia seeds, oats and coconut. Top with dried fruit, cereal, granola or additional chopped fruit.
-Banana, yogurt, honey and cinnamon
-Pumpkin puree, milk, nutmeg and honey
-Orange juice, yogurt, banana, mango and pineapple
-Peaches, cranberries (frozen), applesauce and yogurt
-Spinach, banana, milk and flaxseed meal
-Spinach, blueberries, raspberries, milk and honey
-Coconut milk, banana, mango and pineapple
Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician. She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related. An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy. Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive! You can find her at www.thefrozenpineapple.com.