Let me preface this blog by saying that I am not a food blogger! I typically don’t cook or prepare food with any sort of a recipe - it has more to do with what I have on hand and ends up being a bit of an experiment every time. If you are looking for a smoothie recipe with very specific measurements and ingredients - there are many options available to you elsewhere!
When it comes to green smoothies, aka veggie smoothies I’m going to be real with you, I have made some weird ass tasting smoothies over the years! This “builder” is the result of about 11 years of trial and error. Sometimes I still end up with a combo that’s not so great but hey, that’s the risk you take when combining veggies and fruit! However, I have developed a basic formula that will more or less result in a delicious smoothie.
Why are green smoothies so good for you? First of all, the blender breaks up the contents into tiny bits, so it is essentially pre-digested. This means your stomach doesn’t have to work hard at all to break it down much further! Perfect for people with digestive troubles or difficulty chewing! Second, it’s just an easy way to get more veggies into your diet! Great for kids and picky eaters, you can adjust the fruit to veggie ratio and they might not even notice! Smoothies are a great option for a nutrient dense, whole food, grab and go meal!
The base: Greens!
I like to use two different greens in my smoothies to make up the bulk of the drink. I usually add 1 to 1 ½ cups of greens to each smoothie. My favorite go to’s:
Spring mix - I like the prewashed kind that makes it easy to grab a handful
Romaine - lends a mild flavor and sweetness to the smoothie and doesn’t overpower in flavor
Spinach - Also lends a mild flavor but heads up- it will coat your teeth in oxalic acid which can make your teeth feel kind of chalky and weird
Kale and Tuscan Kale - I’ll warn you, too much kale can lend a bitter taste to the smoothie, so I usually don’t add as much as the other greens (maybe ¼ to ½ cup) Pro tip: keep a bag of fresh kale in the freezer - it will stay fresh for months and helps make the smoothie super cold. Yay for no more rotting bags of kale in my fridge!
Green leaf lettuce - similar to romaine it lends a mild flavor and sweetness that doesn’t overpower
Collard Greens - I definitely recommend removing these greens from the stalk as they won’t break down that easily and will leave stringy bits in the smoothie
Swiss Chard - similar to kale, it can lend a bitter flavor to the drink, but the stalks blend up pretty nicely and the colors are just lovely.
Fresh parsley - adds a nice fresh flavor and is great for aiding natural detox
Greens that will make your smoothie taste gross:
Brussel sprouts - I’ve tried them several times and they just make it weird. If you do add some, just try one
Dandelion Greens - ok, I’ll be honest I really only tried this once or twice several years ago but they added a strong flavor that was NOT delicious.
Foods that sweeten things up:
Fruit: The sky's the limit here, I prefer to use frozen fruit (I always have frozen blueberries on hand) and I try not to use more than a cup of fruit in each smoothie. If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to add more. If you are limiting sugar or trying to lose weight, experiment with using less and limit tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, bananas etc. Typically northern fruits like berries and apples have less sugar.
Cucumber: Believe it or not, they do make the smoothie sweeter! I like mini cukes and add them whole - their skin is much more tender than the big guys and it blends up nicely - plus that’s where many of the nutrients are!
Beets: I peel them and chop them a couple of times, can be cooked or raw. They are naturally sweet and make the smoothie a lovely red color - don’t be alarmed if your poop or wee wee is “beet” red later that day!
Carrot - can definitely add sweetness, but too many will overpower in flavor
Vanilla extract: enhances the sweet elements of the smoothie and can help round out the bitter elements, I wouldn’t do more than a teaspoon.
Honey or maple syrup: A dab'll do ya, especially if you already have some fruit in there. This might be a saving grace if you try your smoothie and it tastes kind of weird.
A splash of fruit juice: A friend left some organic blueberry lemonade at my house recently which is something I normally wouldn’t have on hand but adding a splash really sweetened things up to a luxurious level! Try it with any juice you have on hand!
The creamy element - higher fat foods will keep you feeling full
My favorite milk is just plain old whole cow’s milk, it makes the smoothie super frothy! Look for non-homogenized or gently pasteurized grass fed dairy, bonus points if you can get your hands on some organic raw milk! My favorite local dairy is from Trinity Valley in Truxton, NY.
Full fat coconut milk from a can: I usually add a half of a can to one smoothie and save the other half for another day (add enough water to make the smoothie liquidy). Coconut milk from a can will have less additives than milks found in a carton. Don’t be alarmed if the fat or oil has congealed on the top, you can simply blend it for a couple seconds in your blender and it will return to a milk consistency.
Milk substitutes: There are a ton of options out there, some better than others, most are highly processed. I only recommend these milk-like products if you are truly sensitive or allergic to dairy.
Avocado - adding a half will add a lovely creaminess - especially good for those with a dairy intolerance.
Unrefined coconut oil: if you want a more coconut forward flavor, this can help!
Adding a little pizzazz:
Citrus zest, juice or extracts: I’ve tried lemon, lime and orange and all of them kick things up a bit
Fresh mint or mint extract: I might avoid these in smoothies sweetened with fruit and just stick to greens and a sweetener like honey or maple syrup. Especially delicious with…
A Tbsp of cocoa powder: need I say more?
Fresh or dried coconut: great with chocolate or tropical fruit flavors, blend well to avoid chunks or a chewy texture
Cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin spice - great with apples!
Protein - along with fat, will keep you feeling fuller longer
I like vital proteins collagen powder, although I just heard that they have been bought out by Nestle corporation, so I will be looking for a new option.
Adding nut butter can be a nice way to add in both fat and protein, I haven’t done this often, but it’s especially delish with cocoa powder.
Other protein powders: I’ll be honest, I don’t use them so I’m just not familiar. One thing to keep in mind is all protein powders (even collagen) are highly processed. Many also have added sugars and sweeteners that aren’t so good for you. Read the label! If the ingredients are a paragraph long, it’s probably not the best option.
Other general tips:
Blend the smoothie for a while, like longer than you might think. This took me longer to learn than I’d like to admit - and many chewy, chunky smoothies later… just blend it for a while!
I find smoothies taste the best if I drink them immediately, but you can store them in the fridge for a day or two before they get too wonky.
I’ve found that using no more than four or five main ingredients results in a better tasting smoothie. Ex: 2 types of greens, cucumber and one or two fruits. If you start adding a lot of vegetables or fruit, the flavors get kind of muddled. So keep it simple! Adding zest, juice, or spices in addition to your main ingredients is totally fine.