Smoothies - a nutritious summer delight

August 07, 2012|Lynn Little

Cool, refreshing and quick, a smoothie is great as a healthful snack, a light meal or dessert. Let your imagination be your guide to this easy-to-make, nearly foolproof, cold, blended beverage.

The basic ingredients are a small amount (about 1/2 cup) of liquid plus fruit, and other ingredients you could add, such as nuts, tofu or soft cheeses.

Use washed fresh or frozen fruit. The benefit of using frozen fruit in place of some of the ice to thicken your beverage is that it adds more nutrients, but it also bumps up the calories. With fresh fruit now available, you could plan to freeze some to have on hand for a future craving and save some money, too.

Berries are a snap to freeze. Wash them, spread in a single layer on a tray, freeze, and then scoop into a plastic bag for longer storage.

Unsweetened fruit also adds sweetness without adding a sweetener, which keeps the calories lower.

Have you ever looked at that bowl of ripening bananas and wondered what else you could make besides banana bread? Making smoothies is a great way to use fruit that is at its peak ripeness before it spoils.

Low-fat milk, either dairy or nondairy, and juices are all good choices for the liquid portion of the recipe. When choosing nondairy beverages, select those with added calcium to get the benefit of helping your bones. If you choose 100-percent juice, sugar is naturally present in the fruit used to make the juice. Choosing juice drinks, 'ades or fruit punches means added sugar.

For added flavor and nutrients, include plain yogurt. If you use fruit-flavored yogurt with added sugar, this will add more calories than plain yogurt. Using yogurt with live and active cultures offers some health benefits. Get a protein boost by using Greek yogurt or dried powdered milk.

For those looking to increase the protein with eggs, be food safe by using only pasteurized eggs or a pasteurized egg substitute.

For added antioxidant benefit, use green tea for part of the liquid. If you're looking to minimize calories, you can even use water.

Increase fiber by leaving skin on fruit, except for bananas. Other high-fiber additions include wheat germ, ground flaxseed or wheat bran.

Nuts and seeds along with nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter and sunflower seed butter, contribute protein, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Keep in mind that along with these great health benefits will also come more calories.

For variety, make green smoothies. Blend green, raw leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, avocados, parsley, broccoli and celery with fruit for natural sweetness.

Flavorings can add a new twist to smoothies. Experiment with extracts and spices such as pumpkin pie, cinnamon and nutmeg, or cocoa powder. A little bit can go a long way so start with a pinch or a few drops.

You'll bump up calories by adding chocolate, honey, maple or agave syrup and sugar. Use these in moderation.

Follow this link for smoothie recipes you can try.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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