Summer is time for fresh fruit — and fruit can be a great base for smoothies.
These blended meals don’t require turning on the oven, or even a stove. On a hot summer day, they also help you cool down. In our hectic world, smoothies are quick, sweet and filling — comfort food that slides down easily.
In summer, fruit ripens to perfection: strawberries in June are followed by cherries, blueberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, blackberries, plums — and smoothies are a good way to use that bountiful fruit harvest.
Today, smoothie bars are popular. Coffee shops and health food store eateries offer smoothies. Because these fruit concoctions are deemed healthy, they’ve become a popular snack. But their offerings can be expensive, portion sizes too large and ingredients less than healthy — packing on calories, sugar and fat. For example, the 20-ounce Hulk Vanilla Smoothie from Smoothie King has a whopping 47 grams of added sugar.
Smoothies are a modern invention, relying on technology like blenders and freezers for their thick, shake-like consistency. These blended beverages began with Waring’s introduction of the “Blendor” (blender) in the 1940s. In the 1960s they were offered as healthy alternatives to milkshakes. It was in the 1990s, however, that the one-glass meals became popular.
When done right, smoothies can be an easy way to increase fruit intake and boost fiber consumption. When they replace junk-food snacks, they help with weight loss.
Health-conscious people are looking for fast, easy, inexpensive ways to get more fruit in their diet. Smoothies use the whole fruit, not just the juice, so they are a good source of fiber, which aids digestion, as well as vitamins, antioxidants and other essential nutrients.
However, Mary Corpening Barber, co-author of “Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment” (Chronicle Books), warns: “There can be a lot of hidden calories in smoothies.” That’s because large portions, added sugar and high-fat ingredients can turn your wholesome beverage into a thousand-calorie treat.
These liquid treats are digested faster, so they can leave you feeling hungry sooner. Chewing an apple or peach takes more time than gulping down a smoothie.
Sugar is abundant in commercially-made smoothies! Consuming too much sugar increases the propensity for diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
Creating your own frosty, fruity refreshers is relatively easy and cheap — and often a healthier option. Begin with a half-cup or so of liquid (fruit juice, yogurt, milk or water). Then add the fruit, and blend. For thickness, use frozen fruit or add crushed ice. Using chunks of frozen fruit instead of ice cubes keeps the flavor strong and undiluted. A banana helps to sweeten and thicken the smoothie; flavorings like fresh mint can add zip; some people like to add TVP or powdered milk to increase the protein as well as to add creaminess and texture. The combinations of fruit, dairy products (yogurt, milk, frozen yogurt, soy milk, etc.) and flavorings are endless — use your imagination. Just make sure you put the lid on the blender, and don’t use too much ice or you will freeze the blades!
For delicious, healthy smoothies:
¯ Use fruit in peak season — it really does make a difference in flavor.
¯ Use fruits like bananas, berries, peaches, plums to add sweetness.
¯ Freeze the fruit first — using frozen fruit in place of ice cubes does not dilute the flavor
¯ Use plain Greek yogurt or powdered milk to add creaminess.
¯ Avoid extra sugar, honey or maple syrup. Skip ice cream, frozen yogurt or high-sugar sherbets and sorbets.
¯ Be aware that many smoothie ingredients — like nut butters, fruit-flavored sauces, nondairy milks, even protein powder — often include added sugar, so use them sparingly.
¯ For a green smoothie, add a cup or two of fresh chopped greens like kale or spinach.
¯ Avoid oversized portions.
Using these tips, you can create your own smoothies from basic ingredients and your imagination. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Basic Berry Smoothie
1 cup Greek yogurt (plain, vanilla or berry)
2 cups berries of your choice (frozen if possible) plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup crushed ice
Place yogurt, berries and chunks of banana in blender. Blend until frothy. Add ice and blend a few more seconds.
Pour into glasses. Garnish with additional berries, if desired.
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.
Grape and Carrot Smoothie
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
16 seedless grapes, plus extra for garnish
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup crushed ice
Place yogurt, grapes, carrots and crushed ice in blender.
When smooth, pour into 2 tall glasses and serve. Garnish with additional grapes.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.