Green Smoothies for Life!

A few weeks ago I started craving smoothies and made my poor husband stop at nearly every Keva Juice or Jamba Juice we saw. After a few of these smoothie binges I remembered a friend of mine had gotten interested in green smoothies as a nutritional boost for her skin. I realized that I could probably make smoothies for myself that were more nutritious and cheaper to make. So I went to task looking for green smoothie recipes. I specifically wanted a green smoothie recipe because I wanted the nutritional boost of leafy greens since I’ve struggled with eating fruits and vegetables my entire pregnancy.

Searching for green smoothie recipes can be a daunting task. Many of the results that appeared in my search for recipes contained a lot of juice (and I wanted to use whole fruits & veggies) or they were nutritionally void of protein or other great ingredients such as flax seeds. That’s when I found actual recipes, since a ton of the links are to someone’s blog that’s shilling a book or some diet plan. I did find some nice basic recipes that I could adapt to my own needs. Although I do like following a recipe for new things, I often quickly veer off on my own and start the cooking chemistry. Still, there are a few books on Amazon I’ve found that I may pick up, if only to give me some even more ideas.

For my smoothies, I went shopping and picked up some things I thought would be essential: ground flax seed, vanilla whey protein powder, low-fat plain yogurt, organic fresh baby spinach, oranges, bananas, and assorted frozen fruits. While I can’t remember exactly what I put into my first smoothie, I can tell you it tasted amazing. It also wasn’t green.  In fact, none of the smoothies I have made have been really green, but I did have a nice green-tinged oatmeal colored one. If you are a strong visual eater, I suggest putting your smoothie in an opaque cup that you can’t see the color, because they aren’t always appetizing to look at, but I’ve yet to have a smoothie that didn’t taste amazingly good.

Since I didn’t really follow a recipe, I can’t tell you exact measurements per se of what I include all the time, but here is a basic list with approximate measurements for the frozen fruit (in order of addition to the blender):

  • 8-10 oz of purified water (we have a filter on the tap)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (I use Bob’s Red Mill Golden Flax seed)
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (I use the Trader Joe’s brand; you can also use soy protein powder)
  • 3 good-sized handfuls of fresh baby spinach (I pick through it to make sure there are no really wilty or slimy leaves)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt (Greek style yogurt also works well if you like a thicker smoothie, I used the brand that was on sale at my store)
  • 1 navel orange, peeled & sectioned
  • 1.5 cups assorted frozen fruit (about 1/2 cup of each) I’ve used peaches, pineapple, strawberries, mixed berries, cherries-have fun with your flavors!

I tried using a banana as well, but realized I don’t like the texture it adds to my smoothies. If you like the banana texture, you can add them fresh and whole or slice and freeze them to add whenever. You can also add a splash of orange juice (1/4 Cup or less since juice is full of sugar and void of fiber.) I’ve also read about using kale instead of spinach, but I haven’t tried that yet. I was told if you use kale, blanch it first, because it will remove some of the bitterness of the kale. That’s too much work for me honestly, so I’ll stick with spinach. I’m also researching how to add carrots to my smoothies.

After I add all the ingredients to the blender I pop on the lid and use the “liquefy” setting for about 30 seconds, then switch to “frappe.” This recipe will create nearly an entire blender of smoothie, so I have 2 cups that I pour it into and I drink the large one in the morning and the smaller one with lunch.

My favorite blends are Orange-pineapple-peach, Peach-pineapple-cherry, and Strawberry-pineapple.  I like using the mixed berries as well, but they can overpower lighter flavors like peach, and there will be a lot of seeds in your smoothie. But like I said, I haven’t made a smoothie I didn’t like yet.

Have I noticed any health benefits? Yesiree Bob! For one, I’ve found that I don’t miss having coffee in the morning anymore, which is a major achievement for me, since I loved my morning cup of coffee. I also swear I have more energy throughout the day, and it’s not just a sugar high, because it lasts most of the day. I’ve even noticed I don’t get tired as early in the day in general and have been going to bed later. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my skin lately and the only thing I’ve been doing is this smoothie regimen. Additionally, my digestive system has become even more regular than it was on my Metamucil plan (the 3 x a day one). While I’m still taking the Metamucil, I believe the smoothies have enhanced the benefits of the Metamucil. In fact, if you want to do the dirty research, you’ll find that adding this much spinach to your diet can result in a “colon blow.” Indeed, I experienced this phenomenon, having needed to go to the bathroom 6 times in 2 days, which was probably more than I’d gone in the past 2 weeks, and since then I’ve been pretty close to regular, which is a nice change of pace for me.

I wish I’d started making these smoothies in my first trimester. I can’t believe how different I feel since I started drinking them 2 weeks ago. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. I’ve had mommy guilt about not eating as healthy as I should during my pregnancy. It’s not that I avoided healthy foods and went crazy on the cookies. I had a genuine aversion to almost all the healthy foods I used to regularly eat. It was quite distressing to me. What I love about the smoothies I’m having now is that I’m getting a nice dose of spinach every day, which is a nutrient powerhouse. With the exception of the protein powder and yogurt, most of the ingredients are low-calorie. The smoothies also have a good amount of fiber because I’m using whole fruits and leafy greens. I know it would be better if my body was working on the fiber rather than the blender, but I know that my smoothies are far healthier (and cheaper) than what I can get at a smoothie shop, where most of the drinks are laden with sugars (from juice or even worse-sherbet and ice cream.) I’m a convert. I can see myself having these every day for the rest of my life. If you haven’t tried a green smoothie, I encourage you to try one and see if it works for you. Pregnant or not, I can sing the praises of this food trend.

While green smoothies are certainly not a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet, for me they have been a lifesaver. I’ve noticed a difference since I started having my daily smoothies. I would go as far to say that if I’d discovered these earlier in my pregnancy, I may not have gained as much weight as I have during this pregnancy.

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