Five Tips for Blending Delicious Smoothies That Are Really Good for You

Smoothies don't have to resemble a dessert to taste good.
Smoothies don't have to resemble a dessert to taste good.

We've all been there. You take a weekend road trip and a notable barbecue restaurant just happens to be on your way. You eat two pounds of brisket, get back in the car and as you pull into your destination city your friend announces a desire for Tex-Mex. After five shots of tequila and as many sour cream enchiladas, you go out for more drinks and then because you're plastered and it's late night, bad pizza happens. Despite the pepperoni, you're hungover the next morning, so you eat eggs and sausage tucked into a tortilla with a blanket of cheese, and then you repeat the previous day's atrocities until your vacation is complete.

Somehow, in just one weekend, you've replicated all the damage you normally endure during the entire holiday season. You've gained weight, you feel like taking a nap after sleeping for 10 hours, and you shuffle your feet and moan when you walk. You need to take corrective dietary measures but the idea of eating a salad kills your soul a little, and besides -- the last time you ate roughage with a fork for lunch, you were hungry 90 minutes later and pummeled the office snack machine. You'd have been better off had you just ordered a burger for lunch and now you want two for dinner.

Enter the smoothie, which can somehow facilitate the ingestion of a mountain of spinach, and also make you feel sated until dinnertime. While juicing is as popular as twerking these days, the practice eliminates the fiber from the vegetables and that's what helps you feel full. Smoothies have their own issues too, including a terrible name, but the pitfalls can easily be avoided if you know what to look for.

Cassie Green, who co-owns the Green Grocer on Greenville Avenue (so much green), worked with her chef to develop a line of smoothies that provide maximum nutrition with minimal calories. The goal was offer a meal replacement that doesn't leave a customer feeling sad about that burger they missed out on. Other recipes are more indulgent, but they all lean towards healthy.

Here are Green's tips for happy smoothie consumption. Commit them to memory whether you're making your own or ordering one at the store.

Watch your sugar content Green says less sugar and fewer sweeteners is always better, but admits you do have to balance sweetness to mask the flavor of many super foods. Unfortunately, a lot of smoothie makers take the sugar too far. Avoid recipes that employ fruit juice or other processed sweeteners and you'll keep the calories down.

Some shops even go as far as using sherbet as an ingredient, which is really caloric. At that point, "You might as well get an ice cream cone," says Green. Instead use as little as a teaspoon of honey, and you'll be good to go.

Embrace super foods Super foods pack a lot of nutrients into a tiny package. Spinach is a great one, because it's surprisingly flavor neutral. You can pack a blender with baby spinach leaves and you won't even know they're there, besides the color. Kale and collards are great too, as well as Goji berries and wild blueberries.

Maca powder, made from a root from South America, adds a lot of nutrition a teaspoon at a time, and raw cacoa and macha powder add energizing qualities and new flavors, too. Look to hemp, chia and other plant-based protein powders to add protein and help you feel full longer.

Cocoa adds the fragrance of chocolate without as many calories.
Cocoa adds the fragrance of chocolate without as many calories.

Don't put too much stuff in a single smoothie Now that your pantry looks like a shelf at Trader Joe's, don't go crazy or your smoothie will taste like a Franken-drink. "It's tempting to think you're Iron Chef of the Vitamix," says Green, but instead you should use just a few ingredients, sit down with your creation and evaluate. The simpler you keep things the better chance you have of blending up something with flavors you actually recognize. Go overboard and you'll create a vegetable and protein soup.   Use coconut milk You knew that hemp protein was going to taste like crap, even if you'd smoked it. Canned coconut milk is can help cover up unwanted flavors. It lends a creamy texture to drinks and adds healthy fats to your smoothies as well. Use coconut milk sparingly, though. Even healthy fats are still fat.

Buy in bulk and stock up your freezer You thought smoothies were expensive just because they were trendy, didn't you? If you try making them at home, you'll see ingredient costs can add up fast. To help, buy ingredients when they are on sale, cut them up and store them in your freezer. You'll save money and you'll also be more likely to pull out the blender. Face the truth and admit you're a lazy bastard. There's no way you'll go to go to your kitchen, break out a knife and dice fruits and vegetables while your stomach pesters you about the bacon-topped cheeseburger you could be eating instead. With a well-stocked freezer you have a chance of actually making a few of these a week.

And when you make a good one, you suddenly don't regret whatever meat and cheese combo you were coveting a few minutes before. Green notes a good smoothie should be cold and refreshing, and should taste enjoyable. Not to mention all the nutrition you can down in one fell swoop. "Just try and chew your way through a bunch of kale," she said, pointing out the benefits of smoothies. "You get fiber that you don't get from the juicing world."

You also get license to enjoy that next barbecue and Tex-Mex road trip with a little less guilt.

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