Are you looking for a great way to start the day with energy, something light and easy to digest? Do you need more healthful options? Are you lactose intolerant or allergic to gluten? Are you too busy to make breakfast, or need a portable breakfast to take with you?
An ideal solution that meets all of the above criteria is a natural, raw-food smoothie! You’ll definitely have more energy to start the day by keeping your morning meal light. Bagels and toast (white or wheat) contain gluten that takes a while to digest. Jams, butter, or cream cheese used as spreads bring white sugar and trans fats into play. With smoothies, you’ll be using pure ingredients from Mother Nature’s pantry while enabling you to enjoy a completely satisfying-yet-nourishing breakfast that doesn’t weigh you down in any way. In addition to being gluten-free, raw food smoothies don’t require milk or yogurt, which makes them ideal for lactose-intolerant diets.
Smoothies also redefine “fast food.” With many of us paying attention to school and work schedules, there is nothing easier to prepare or consume, which makes them the definition of ease and convenience. For anyone who prefers waiting an hour or two before eating, you can fill a thermos or beverage container for on-the-go portability, and delight in sipping a delicious power breakfast all morning.
During weekends when sports activities have your family out the door at an early hour, raw food smoothies are a lifesaver and can provide all the necessary nutrients and flavors to satisfy young athletes. When a nutritional boost is needed, adding protein or even omega-3 fatty acids is as simple as adding a tablespoon of raw vegan protein powder or ground flaxseed.
Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, authors of Becoming Raw, recommend considering the hues of the ingredients. Foods closer together on the color spectrum often produce more attractive drinks, whereas favorite fruits randomly used may create less appealing colors. When using a blend of fruits and vegetables, green may be the more dominant color. That’s right—veggies. Smoothies have undergone a revolution in the new millennium, and I’m particularly enamored by green smoothies.
Fruit smoothies pack a nutritional boost, but green smoothies offer a wallop. Romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale are a few of the leafy veggies that blend nicely with fruit. Green smoothies are also a great introduction to raw foods. If they’re the only raw foods in your repertoire, you’ll still make a substantial contribution to your health.
Fruit smoothies have a tendency to be sweet due to their high fructose content. Adding greens results in smoothies that are not too bitter or too sweet, but fresh, creamy, and delicious. Kids love them, and so do people who typically shun green vegetables. Due to tough cellulose fibers, greens need to be chewed thoroughly. In a smoothie, the blender “chews” the greens for you, breaking down the cell walls and releasing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, protein, and even small amounts of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
You can improvise your own green smoothie by using your favorite ingredients. The basic formula for one (two-cup) serving is 2/3 cup of water, two cups of fruit, and one to two cups of greens. Put the 2/3 cup of water in the blender first to allow for easy blending. If you are using very watery fruits—grapes, mango, melon, or pineapple, for instance—you may not need as much water. Then add two cups of fresh or frozen fruit. (If you like, you can use the non-sweet “vegetable” fruits, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, or a combination.)
Finally, add one to two cups of coarsely chopped greens (remove tough stems if necessary). The greens can be light (celery or romaine lettuce), medium (spinach or Swiss chard), or dark (kale, collard greens, or dandelion greens). You can even include fresh herbs like parsley, mint, or basil. If your palate isn’t used to greens, use fewer of them, and be sure to include some of the lighter greens. Process all the ingredients on high speed until smooth, adding more water if needed.
If you need to slip in some extra calories during serious training or for children who are not big eaters, use a nut or seed milk such as almond, hemp, or coconut in place of water. Available at most large supermarkets, these nondairy options are easy to purchase and work well for anyone who is lactose intolerant.
To make a green smoothie, start with a good blender. A high speed model is ideal because it blends the greens, including tough stems, completely and allows you to make up to eight cups of smoothie. But a basic blender will also work fine—you’ll just need to remove tough stems, add a little more water, and work in batches if you’re making a large amount.
Raw foods are a great choice for health-conscious people on the go. Many health practitioners recommend that half of the food we eat be raw, and breakfast smoothies are a great place to start.
Jennifer Cornbleet, author of Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, graduated from the University of Chicago with her MAT in English. Currently Jennifer is the lead instructor for the teaching program at Living Light, a pioneer raw culinary arts center. You can learn more about Jennifer’s recipes, tips, and techniques at her blog, learnrawfood.com/blog.
Apple Banana Green Smoothie
Yield: 3 cups, 2 servings
1 cup water
2 apples, unpeeled and chopped
2 cups chopped spinach or Swiss chard, packed
1 cup chopped kale or collard greens, packed
Put all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until smooth. Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Will keep for 24 hours. Since apples and bananas are readily available, this smoothie is easy and affordable year round.
Per serving: calories—138, protein—4g, fa t—1g, carbohydrate—28g, fiber—6g, sodium—61 mg
Blueberry Green Smoothie
Yield: 2 1/2 cups, 1 serving
1/2 cup water
1 orange, peeled, sectioned, and seeded
1 1/4 cups (6 ounces) frozen blueberries or mixed berries
1 1/2 cups chopped spinach, Swiss chard, or kale, packed
Put all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until smooth. Serve immediately. This smoothie is great for kids because the blueberries make it a fun purple color.
Per serving: calories—288, protein—6g, fa t—2g, carbohydrate—57g, fiber—13g, sodium—71 mg
Honeydew Green Smoothie
Yield: 2 cups, 1 serving
1/2 medium honeydew melon, seeded
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
Scoop out the honeydew flesh and put it in a blender. Add the romaine and process on high speed until smooth. Serve immediately. This smoothie is bright, fresh, and vibrant in both color and taste.
Per serving: calories—249, protein—5g, fa t—1g, carbohydrate—55g, fiber—7g, sodium—124mg