It's Smoothie Time

Smoothies are a favorite of mine for lots of reasons.  Over the years, the types of smoothies that I make have evolved, and I hope this means that they have improved.  The main thing that I consider in a smoothie is the ingredients.  What is this stuff that I'm putting in them?  While I'm at it, let me clarify that to me smoothie and meal replacement shakes tend to be synonymous.

There are lots of powders and mixes out there.  Every brand makes lots of claims.  But it comes down to ingredients.

I'm not a nutritionist.  So, let me add that as a disclaimer there.  Nor, am I a medical doctor.  So, all of this is about what I have learned, tastes good and makes sense to me.

When I make a smoothie, I'm considering the following:

1.  Taste and texture
2.  Calories
3.  Fat
4.  Protein
5.  Fiber

If you are going to start incorporating smoothies, think about what you like and don't stick to one thing forever.  You will burn out and dread the thought of another one.  Also, look for seasonal options that make things different and fun.

The freezer can be your best friend.  Bananas that are getting too ripe?  Freeze them!  Want to have fruit on hand?  Buy a few bags of frozen fruit at the grocery store.  Or, freeze fresh fruit from the farmers market and freeze to have on hand!

Also, if you travel, some brands of shake mixes come in prepackaged powder packets that are super easy.  But, don't let that stop you.  I put a scoop of drink mix in a mini plastic container or even a small ziplock bag.  One a recent trip, I put a scoop of mix in a baggie for each day.  Put the bags inside of my shaker cup.  And I was packed and ready to go.  So easy, and I had breakfast each morning on the go.

Look for ways to incorporate vegetables in your smoothies for added fiber.  Beets, carrots, kale and celery can all be good ways to add a little some thing extra.

I always have the following things on hand at my house for smoothies:

1.  Coconut or almond milk - any milk will do!  Take your pick.
2.  Bananas
3.  Protein powder.  Vanilla is the most versatile.
4.  Peanut butter
5.  A bag or two of frozen fruit

When I first started making smoothies, my first one was a chocolate peanut butter with banana concoction that I still love!  But, I have branched out to sunrise smoothies with beets and carrots.  Or I have cinnamon roll smoothies and even PB and J Smoothies.  No!  I do not put jelly in them!

Here are a few of my favorites that I have come to love.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
and Banana
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana 
1 cup milk - dairy or nut
5 ice cubes
1 banana
1 tbsp of peanut butter
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp of cocoa powder

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie
1 cup of milk - nut or dairy
1 banana
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
5 ice cubes

Chocolate cherry
Chocolate Cherry
1 cup milk - nut or dairy
1/2 cup frozen cherries
1 scoop chocolate protein powder*
*If you don't have chocolate, use vanilla and add a tbsp of cocoa powder.

Pina Colada 
1 cup milk - nut or dairy
1/2 cup pineapple - fresh is best or at least canned that is packed in only juice
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Pina Colada Smoothie
German Chocolate
1 cup milk - nut or dairy
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut, toasted
1 tbsp pecans, toasted
you can add ice cubes if you want

The advantages of a smoothie is that you can have a meal that you can drink easily.  If you have things on hand, it gives you a reason NOT to feel like you HAVE to pick something up or order out.  It is an easy way to start your day.  And, many protein powders and drink mixes can be made with just water and used on the road.  I have even mixed my powder with milk on the road and had a meal that way.

When you pick a protein powder, do your research.  Compare brands.  I can tell you the brands that I use.  But instead, I'll tell you that I have more than one brand in my house now.  From experience, if you have more than one brand you will be able to tell the difference in the ones that have lots of sugar and additives.  It took just a little while to tell this.  Sure.  The ones with more sugar taste great!  But, is that what you are going for?  Maybe so.  But, grab a milkshake while you are at it and call it a day.  Labels.  Labels.  Labels.  Read up and choose wisely.  Not all protein and meal shake powder is created equally.

That doesn't mean your smoothie or meal replacement shake can't taste great.  Advocare has a seasonal meal replacement shake.  Iced Lemon Cake is the flavor.  Run and get these as fast as you can before they are gone!  They are delicious and packed with 24 grams of protein.  Trust me.  You will thank me later for that one.  Since they come in little packets, they are so easy to sneak into your purse or suitcase and take with you wherever.  These mix so easy in blender bottle and can be made with water or milk!

I have found that the store bought protein powders tend to be a little more gritty and yield a less appealing taste and texture.  The finer the powder, the smoother the texture overall.   A high powered blender might provide a great texture regardless of the powder, but this won't help if you are using a blender bottle.  So, this is one thing to consider.

And don't let sticker shock scare you!  Sure, $68 sounds like a lot for meal replacement shakes.  But, when you divide that by 28.  This is $2.43 per serving.  With about 50 cents a serving for nut or organic milk, and another 50 cents for fruit, you are up to $3.43 total.  That's a whole meal!  You can't buy a happy meal for that.   Be prepared to spend around $2.50 to a little over $4 per serving for most shakes and powders.  But you totally get what you pay for when it comes to this!  I've tried a lot of them.

Hamilton Beach Single Serving Blender, $15
at Target
Do the math and think about what you are spending per meal.  When you look at it through this lens, it is a lot easier pill to swallow.  Because, when you think about what you spend for a fast food meal or other meals you eat on the go, this is a small price and probably cheaper.  Plus, is it cheaper to eat cheap food or cheaper to buy great food and be healthier!?  I'm sure your wallet will thank you over the long haul along with your body.

I use smoothies as my go to way to have something easy and healthy in the mornings or on the road so that I stay on track.  This past year, I bought a $15 Hamilton Beach blender that I can take with me.  It is small.  When I am driving for work or with my family, I chunk it in a bag and can always have a healthy meal to offset whatever else is going on that day.

Also, Pinterest is my favorite way to find out about new smoothies.  I look for new recipes and combinations all the time.  If I have random ingredients , I do a search for a smoothie with that ingredient.  I did this earlier this spring with beets and came up with the a Sunrise Smoothie Recipe.

Finally, a blender cup works fine.  I use them all of the time.  But, these are really for just mixing powder and liquid.  Fruit won't work in them.  Again, think about the quality of your protein powder you are using.  Finer will give you a smoother shake in a blender bottle.  I probably won't buy any more store bought powders after this go around.  I just don't like them.

My Hamilton Beach $15 single serving blender cup is what I used the most.  But, if you want the fancy brand with more power, well you get what you pay for.  The fancy Vitamix machines and Ninjas provide a smooth texture that is superior to less expensive brands.  But, for me, my $15 blender works just fine.  I'm not trying to be a smoothie chef.  I just want to have a healthy meal.  I don't mind a few chunks of fruit.

I'm not going to replace all my meals with smoothies.  I cannot drink all my meals.  But it is a great quick option.  It is great for being on the go.  And best of all, it is great for keeping me on track.

Once you start to discover all of the creative things that you can do with smoothies, it becomes fun to see all of the great combinations that can be created.  Since many of these things are already on hand, it is a solution that works for any budget and and schedule.

Try something new!  You will thank me later!