Making Smoothies For The Beginner
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How To Smoothie—The Beginning
Smoothies have nutritional benefits and they are easy to make, but it can be tricky to figure out the right ingredients and quantities to use, especially if you’re new to making smoothies—you might just find yourself cycling through the same handful of recipes.
So if you’re wondering about how smoothies are made and how you can make a variety of tasty and healthy smoothies, then this beginner’s guide to making smoothies (from basic smoothie making tips to using nutrition-boosting add-ins) will put you on the right path.
And here’s your first basic tip on how to smoothie:
Remember to keep your portion sizes and ingredients in check. Even healthy ingredients can quickly add up to create a calorie-laden drink with more calories, fat and sugar than a dessert.
How To Make A Simple Smoothie
While you don’t need a formal recipe to make a good smoothie, and you should certainly feel free to experiment (which is where a lot of the fun is!), it can be a little overwhelming when first starting out with making smoothies.
Indeed, when just starting out all you really want to know is how to make a simple smoothie, and this is why adhering to a few general rules is good advice.
Whether it’s making simple smoothies or more elaborate ones, ratios take out some of the guesswork and allow you to scale your smoothies.
And taking out the guesswork allows you to focus on taste and combinations.
The following basic ratios can be used with any combination of ingredients, but add more liquid if you prefer a thinner smoothie and add less if you want a thicker one.
Simple Fruit Smoothie Ratio
2 parts frozen fruit
1 part liquid
Simple Green Smoothie Ratio
1.5 parts frozen fruit
1 part leafy greens
1 part liquid
[Note: If you aren’t using a high-powered blender like Vitamix, Ninja Blenders or Blendtec, you may find you need to add more liquid to get your smoothie to blend well, but don’t overdo it as it can cause your smoothie to separate faster (more anon).]
Basic Smoothie Ingredient Tips
We will go more into depth about the ingredients for smoothies in the following sections, but here are some basic smoothie tips:
You need at least one type of liquid and solid per smoothie.
To make a smoothie thicker – Use frozen fruit. Although you can definitely just blend up any fruit for a smoothie, using frozen fruit makes it thicker. For even extra thickness consider bananas as well as things like yogurt and honey.
Use enough liquid – This one’s often overlooked, but you need enough liquid for your other ingredients to blend properly. The best idea is to start small and add more liquid if necessary.
Don’t forget about added ingredients – We will cover more of this below, but there are a lot of extras you can add for flavor, nutrition, and a denser smoothie that keeps you fuller for longer.
Of course, smoothies taste delicious, but this isn’t the only reason to drink one. Whether you are making one to have as an added snack or replace a meal, it’s never too soon to think about nutrition.
Indeed, smoothie nutrition can get pretty high because packing a lot of stuff into them is an easy thing to do: just focus on using ingredients with high vitamins and minerals.
Add both fruits and vegetables – The easiest way to make sure you are making a nutritious smoothie every time is to add both fruits and vegetables. The benefits of this are two fold—cuts down on the calories (from the fruit) and replaces it with more vitamins and minerals (from the vegetables).
Calcium and vitamin D can be obtained by using milk, nut milk, or yogurt.
Healthy fats can be had from nut butter, or chia and hemps seeds (the seeds will also add thickness).
Coconut oil is a common recommendation in the how to smoothie world, but it’s hardly nutritious (it’s about 90% saturated fat). It’s a tasty choice, though. We’ll talk a little more about coconut oil below.
And Focus On Balance
Balance can be achieved by combining ingredients instead of focusing on more simplistic approaches. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Choose a green, a berry, and a liquid for the balance, then add any extra ingredients in a deliberate manner so it doesn’t mess up that balance.
What Makes Smoothies Sweet?
If you’re wondering what makes smoothies sweet then it’s mainly the sugar from the fruit, but you can add more sweetness with things like maple syrup or honey.
Careful with the quantity though or it’ll become a dessert.
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Ingredients For Smoothies
Of course, the ingredients are important, and your smoothie will contain at least a liquid and a fruit, and hopefully a vegetable, but let’s cover some details on how smoothies are made by going over some of the common ingredients for them.
Liquid is how to make a smoothie thinner whilst adding volume.
Water is the easiest choice for a light smoothie, and insofar as making a smoothie thinner, it’s water that could be your number one choice.
You don’t have to worry about the taste in combination with other ingredients because it just dilutes.
Doesn’t add calories.
However, since water dilutes, water-based smoothies can end up a little bland. To avoid this you can focus on other liquids instead.
Coconut water is another great choice for a light smoothie.
Will add a tropical twist.
Works well with most fruits.
There are various milks you can use, each giving your smoothie a slightly different taste.
Milk can be used to make smoothies both thinner and creamier.
Dairy milk is:
Adds calcium and a little bit of protein.
For dairy-free there are nut and seed milks:
Adds a mild nutty taste.
Give a more creamy consistency than dairy.
Of course, you can use any nut or seed milk you like, but almond, cashew or hemp seed milks are all good choices that add flavour. Rice milk is the most neutral.
Making your own nut and seed milks is also an option if you like the idea.
Coconut milk is high calorie (~90% fat) and the nutritional profile is not worth paying attention to, but it’s another dairy-free option for making much creamier smoothies!
The kind sold in cartons next to the other nondairy milks is thinner.
Canned coconut milk is pretty thick, and you will probably want to thin it with some water.
Plain and unsweetened yogurt, either dairy or nondairy, can also be used to create a creamy smoothie with added nutrition.
Yogurt-based smoothies will be thicker than those made with liquid.
If too thick, try thinning it with an equal part of water first.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, making it ideal for an easy meal replacement smoothie.
Coffee or tea
Try using coffee or tea for a unique and flavorful smoothie.
Due to strong taste they will not pair well with all fruits, but coffee in particular can be quite good with bananas, nuts and cocoa.
Dilute both coffee and tea with water for a less overpowering taste.
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Can You Make A Smoothie without Juice?
You may wonder why there’s no juice mentioned here. I mean, don’t we make smoothies with juice?
Well, you can make smoothies with juice, but you should avoid using undiluted fruit juices in your smoothies.
The reason for this is that your smoothie is already packed with fruit, and you don’t need to add more calories and sugar from a juice.
If you want to add some juice to flavor your smoothie, try using a small amount of juice with one of the other liquids.
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Use any fruit you like in your smoothie—use a single fruit or experiment with different combinations.
Many fruits taste great together, and you may find yourself enjoying some surprising combinations.
Berries pair well with many fruits—plus the added benefit of more antioxidants.
Fresh Or Frozen Fruit For Smoothies?
You can use fresh fruit, but frozen fruit has some advantages.
Is convenient—can be added to your smoothie without any prep work.
Typically more economical—look for the big bags in the frozen section.
Allows you to skip the ice, resulting in a less diluted, and often better-tasting smoothie.
Excellent Fruits for Smoothies
As mentioned, you can use any fruit you like, but here are some that tend to work very well:
Bananas are a common base for smoothies since they pair well with most fruits and add sweetness and creaminess.
Freeze them for best results—peel it, cut into chunks and freeze. They will keep for at least a few weeks.
Alternatives to Bananas
You can make a good smoothie without using bananas.
Avocado. Adds creaminess and a dose of healthy fats. Chia seeds or flaxseed can both be used to thicken a smoothie and are great sources of ALA Omega-3 fats.
Mango. Adds sweetness and is fairly dense. Can be used alone or in combination with other thickening ingredients.
You can also try yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese or nuts to get the right consistency.
Try adding a handful of leafy greens to your fruit smoothie for an easy way to increase your vegetable intake.
Start with milder tasting greens, such as spinach or lettuce, especially if you are new to greens in your smoothies.
Kale, chard or any other dark leafy green are also excellent additions, and when paired with the sweetness of the fruit even these more assertive greens aren’t overpowering.
Simply wash them and cut or tear them into large pieces before blending them in.
Some people like to blend the greens and liquid for a bit before adding the fruit, but this step is generally unnecessary if you are using a high-powered blender.
How to Boost Nutrition
Once you’ve learned how to make a basic fruit or green smoothie, you can start adding in various ingredients to turn up the nutrition.
Here are some suggesstions.
Choose One or Two High Nutrient Foods
These add-ins can add up quickly, so always keep you portions and nutrition in check. Go slow at first, and try choosing just one or two to avoid overwhelming flavors.
While they are high in vitamins and minerals, smoothies are typically fairly low in protein.
Milk or yogurt can provide some protein, but adding a scoop of protein powder will really boost its protein content.
A good idea if you are drinking the smoothie as a meal replacement.
You can get unflavoured protein powder.
Try adding a green supplement powder for a nutritional boost.
They blend well.
Taste good in combination with many fruit and vegetable ingredients.
Matcha, for example, is a green tea powder that is high in amino acids and antioxidants.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts, seeds and their butters are great smoothie add-ins.
Good choice for adding healthy fat and thickness.
High in fat—be mindful of your portion sizes to avoid putting too many calories in your smoothie.
Go easy. A small handful, a tablespoon or two, is often all that’s required for thickness.
There are many nutritious seeds to choose from; try chia, hemp or flax if you are new to seeds.
Avocados are a great source of many vitamins and minerals.
High in good fats.
They pack a lot of calories into a small package:
Try adding just one-fourth or one-half.
Cacao Powder or Nibs
It is quite low in calories and may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, among having other benefits.
Try adding a tablespoon or two per smoothie.
Typically pairs well with bananas and other fruits and nuts.
Add a quarter cup of oats to increase the consistency and staying power of your smoothie.
Not overpowering but may give your smoothie a slight nutty taste.
You can add any spices to your smoothie, and many have impressive antioxidant levels.
For example, try adding a teaspoon of turmeric or ginger to boost the anti-inflammatory properties.
Spices can quickly overpower a smoothie, so stick to small amounts of a single spice.
Start with a single teaspoons worth.
Honey and Maple Syrup
Smoothies are typically sweet from the fruit and do not need any additional sweeteners to taste good, but feel free to add a small amount of honey or maple syrup to provide additional sweetness.
Try to avoid turning your healthy smoothie into a dessert, though. A tablespoon or less of added sweeteners is usually sufficient.
Many in the smoothie world (and elsewhere) tout coconut oil as some kind of nutritional king, but these views don’t look at the big picture.
Here are the cliff notes for coconut oil in relation to your intake with smoothies:
Coconut oil is fat, and mostly saturated fat.
Even small amounts will give your smoothie a slight tropical twist.
If you want to know more about eating fat, read this.
Weight Gain Smoothie / High Calorie Smoothie
Weight gain smoothies are just high calorie smoothies. This mean that smoothies for weight gain:
Are not careful with fat calories.
Do not use low calorie condiments.
Are generally very sweet—added honey, syrup, etc.
Use seeds generously.
Add in higher calorie fruits—avocado, banana, dates, passion fruit, raisins.
To sum up, weight gain smoothies:
Stray away from protein and focus on high carbs and generous fat.
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Ingredients For Smoothies Should Have Variety
Of course, while there’s nothing wrong with having the same smoothie everyday if you really like it, having variety in your ingredients does have benefits:
You Won’t Get Bored
Regardless of your reason for drinking smoothies, you might not want to keep having the exact same one every day with the same ingredients. It can get boring and discourage you from continuing.
Switching up is easy:
Choose different fruits.
Choose a different liquid.
Change the consistency.
Add some greens.
It Helps To Add More Nutrients
Using more variety with your smoothies will also ensure you are adding as many vitamins and minerals as you can.
If you have the same strawberry banana smoothie every day, yes you get lots of potassium, antioxidants, and vitamin C, but what about the nutrients from greens, other fruits, nut butter, or herbs?
You can also experiment with your smoothies by switching up the ingredients you add to them.
If you love berries, why not try raspberries or blackberries, instead of strawberries or blueberries all the time?
Also try more exotic fruits, and add in more veggies to see what other combinations you can create.
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Basically, having variety with your smoothies keeps things interesting and provides the greatest nutritional diversity.
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Blending Your Smoothie
Lastly, let’s consider the most fundamental of all things smoothie world—how to blend it.
Of course, blending a smoothie is easy, you just add all the ingredients to your blender and press go!
In a nutshell, it really is that simple, but here are some reminder tips to make it go even more smoothly.
Make sure you have enough liquid – As mentioned, it’s a common mistake people make when first making smoothies. Without enough liquid things don’t work well.
Use frozen bananas instead of ice – If your smoothie is too watery and you want to make it thicker, try using more dense fruits and vegetables (and less fruits with a high water content).
Add yogurt to make it smooth and creamy – Get a thick and creamy smoothie with yogurt. There are dairy free alternatives to accomplish the same effect.
Thicken it up with nut butter – Yet another way to thicken up your smoothie. Also adds some healthy fat.
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How To Keep Smoothies From Separating
Smoothies are a product of foods with different components and densities, so if you leave them they have a tendency to separate because the heavier stuff sinks.
So the answer to how to keep smoothies from separating is:
Don’t leave it sat for too long.
Careful with water because the more water you use the faster it will separate—this includes the ice when it melts.
Soluble fibre is your friend.
Thick and creamy is your friend—banana, avocado, yoghurt.
Frozen fruit is also your friend.
You really should consider getting a blender.
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This How To Smoothie guide has hopefully taught you how smoothies are made and got you up and running with making smoothies. All that’s left now is to welcome you to the world of smoothie making!
I hope to see you by the pool!