Smoothie A Day: What I Learned from a Month of Different Smoothies
Happy March, my friends! I can’t believe we are in the last month of the first quarter of the year. I also can’t believe I’ve got just over a month to get my taxes done. GAH! Let’s not dwell on that thought because it is not a fun one, and I like to keep this blog as a place of positivity. We talk about life, health, home, and certainly NOT taxes here. Moving on… if you didn’t catch it, I am doing a new challenge each month this year. It all started when I decided to do a thrifted fashion challenge for January, and really enjoyed that it pushed me to think more carefully and ethically about shopping for clothing, and it helped me learn to be more creative with my outfits. The point of each of these monthly challenges is to push myself to be a better human being in some way. For the month of February, I decided I would create a new smoothie each day for breakfast. I was in such a rut of creating the same few on rotation, and really needed to find some new healthy recipes. Today I am going to share what I learned as well as a full list of the 29 smoothies I made. (You can find that at the bottom of this post!) This blog uses affiliate links.
Before we dive into my takeaways from this past month of smoothies, I want to give you a little background. Last fall, my mother in law sent me a book I had been eyeing, Body Love by Kelly Leveque. ,This book changed the way that I think about food and fueling my body. Kelly explains the glycemic index in really simple terms that completely made sense to me. She includes several recipes, including a variety of balanced smoothies, and also explains her process for putting together the right ingredients. I discovered when I followed her recipes, I stayed full all morning and never snacked late morning which had been my previous habit. Because this was my experience going into this challenge, I was able to focus on finding and creating smoothies that would keep me full and were filled with quality good-for-me ingredients. I trust this book and her process so much because it has given me results! I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a couple of years! (Granted, I did have a baby almost 2 years ago). I’ve still got some work to do, but I am confident and comfortable in my skin, even if there’s a little extra.
Now let’s get to some of the things I learned in looking for and trying new smoothies.
Not All Smoothies Are Healthy
You probably already know this one, but maybe you don’t. In our culture, the word “smoothie” is generally associated with healthy eating, but there are so many recipes out there that aren’t necessarily healthy. Take, for instance, this Food Network article featuring 50 smoothies. Number 3 is a strawberry shortcake recipe with 1 cup of crumbled pound cake. Last I checked, pound cake was filled with flour, sugar, butter, and not exactly what I consider a quality healthy ingredient. Crumbling it up and adding it to a smoothie doesn’t make it a health food! Several on their list also contain added sugar. You guys, fruit is sweet because it has natural sugars in it! If you really feel the need for more sweetness, try natural sources like local honey or real maple syrup or agave. Don’t add refined coarse sugar!
In my efforts to try new flavors and find new recipes, I decided to create an orange creamsicle smoothie. I googled it, and was surprised to discover how many were not filled with the best ingredients, but I did find this recipe by Lemon & Zest that was delicious, flavorful, and healthy. The only thing I would add is perhaps some MCT oil or avocado to get a little healthy fat in there. More about that next!
Healthy Fats are Gold
As I just mentioned, I would have added a little fat to that orange creamsicle smoothie. Why? Fat is what keeps you feeling full! The morning I had the creamsicle smoothie, I ended up grabbing some nuts for a snack. In Body Love, Kelly breaks down her formula for smoothies (She calls it the fab four: protein, fat, fiber, greens). Fat, as she explains, has many benefits including increased satiety, makes you feel calmer, curbs cravings, slows your digestion, maximizes ketosis, and hydrates cells (as a 41 year old woman with aging skin, I appreciate that last one!). Fat is clearly a power house when it comes to your body’s inner workings, but it also helps keep your hair and skin looking great and who doesn’t want that? Now that I know the benefits of fat, I try to include it in each of my smoothies, and have added it to several recipes since.
My favorite sources of healthy fats are nut butters, MCT oil, or avocado. Nut butters add a great warm nutty (duh!) flavor and texture, and work great in smoothies that emulate baked goods. Avocado is perfect for adding a silky texture and doesn’t have a ton of added flavor. I put it to my pina colada smoothie, and it really helped create a rich creamy consistency.
Although Variety is Great, We All Have Our Flavors
My goal when I set out to do this challenge was to find new flavors that I loved. While I did in fact find some that I loved, I learned that I really will always gravitate towards the same. For instance, I am not much of a chocolate person…. I am all about the vanilla. When I started making smoothies last fall, I stocked my pantry with all of the essentials, including vanilla and chocolate protein powder. I have not even made it halfway through the chocolate, and am on my 4th container of vanilla. Ha! Throughout the month of smoothies, I only made a couple that used chocolate protein powder. While I did push myself to experiment and tried new to me flavors, I tend to love the ones that remind me of baked goods. 🙂 Hello cinnamon pecan roll smoothie (recipe coming soon)! I definitely picked up several new recipes I will repeat, but I found some that I probably will never eat again because they just aren’t my thing.
Aside from Nutrition, Smoothies Can Offer Great Health Benefits
I am sure you’re well aware that herbs and spices offer so many medicinal benefits. I honestly never really thought about that in terms of eating… I’ve made myself turmeric tea, peppermint tea, etc, but it never occurred to me to add it to a smoothie until I tried Kelly’s Turmeric Pumpkin Spice recipe. I awoke one morning and I just felt disgusting and bloated and read her description of this one, touting turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties and I had to try. It legitimately worked like a charm! Because of my experience with this one, I created my own peach, ginger, and turmeric smoothie another morning when I woke feeling gross after eating vegan chili loaded with beans.
Fresh peppermint leaves can also be used to help aid digestive issues and help headaches, and ginger can help an upset stomach. My personal favorite spice is cinnamon, which helps lower blood sugar. I’ve used all of these in my smoothies in the past and they add great flavor plus benefits! You can find other spices that help other ailments here as well.
Eat 1.5 Hours Before Exercise, or Wait Until After
Once or twice there was a morning where I was running behind, had a smoothie and didn’t allow myself time to fully digest before going to workout. When you have to start doing burpees with a stomach full of smoothie, group exercise becomes less about the exercise and more about “oh dear, don’t let me lose my smoothie on the floor!” 1.5-2 hours before working out is my sweet spot for drinking a smoothie. Or, if I work out early in the morning which I do a few times a week, a couple hours after does the trick for me!
Get the Right Equipment & Supplies
Having the right equipment and supplies on hand is vital to creating healthy, filling smoothies! I absolutely LOVE my ninja for smoothie making. I’ve heard great things about the Vitamix, but it’s practically the same cost as our mortgage, and I’ve been happy with the Ninja. I actually just upgraded to a new model (I gave my old one to my neighbor), and am loving it so much! With my old one I had to hold the blend button while it worked, and on this one I just turn it on and walk away while it blends for 60 seconds. This is the new version I got which is on sale for $190 right now! We use ours at least twice a day (Wilder and I both start with smoothies, and Chris and Emmy have them on occasion) so it’s totally worth it to me. By comparison, the vitamix costs 3-4 times as much.
Straws are another essential, and of course, I like to use the sustainable version. We use these stainless steel straws, but I honestly wish I had bought some that were a little wider because sometimes raisins or large fruit chunks can get stuck in the straw. One day I might upgrade to these larger silicone straws. I actually bought Wilder these glass jars with silicone sleeves and straws for his smoothies after he bit holes in his other cups. It was really hard to find a cup that would work perfectly for a toddler smoothie, but we’ve been thrilled with these! By the way, it says they are currently unavailable, but you can buy the jars separately from the lids and straws.
- Vanilla plant protein powder – this link is my FAVORITE out of all that I have tried
- Chocolate plant protein powder
- Raw fiber
- Flax seed
- Chia seed
- MCT oil
- Natural nut butters- Almond, Peanut, Walnut, pecan, sunflower seed (make sure they are all purely nuts and no sugar, I found no sugar sunflower butter at Trader Joes)
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Oat Milk (unsweetened)
- Coconut milk (unsweetened)
- Frozen spinach or greens
- frozen berries
- frozen bananas
- Coconut oil
- Canned pumpkin
Now that you know everything you ever wanted to know about smoothies (or maybe not- feel free to ask me any questions!), let me share with you the full list of 29 smoothies I had for the month of February. I am going to link to each that I can, and I also will note the ones that will have a recipe coming). I’ll also share a little note about each with my thoughts.
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie – one of my favorite go tos before I started this challenge, and still today.
- Avocado Vanilla Lemon – Only available in Body Love; felt healthy and light, but I didn’t love the flavors.
- Cherry Cacao– I have loved cherries since I was little so a big yes for me!
- Caramel Apple Pie– what is not to love? Delicous!
- Orange Creamsicle– a delicious mix of flavors, just needs some fat.
- Pina Colada– my own recipe and a new favorite.
- Raspberry Coconut Bar– again my recipe and also a favorite (I love the baked goods inspired smoothies!)
- Butter Pecan– my own recipe, it was good but I am not much of a butter pecan girl.
- Pumpkin Turmeric Spice– great for combatting inflammation and tasted amazing! Only in Body Love.
- Almond Green– this is a go to for me, simple and tasty and filled with good stuff. Only in Body Love.
- Pumpkin Pie– if you like pumpkin pie, then you will like this! I do!
- Almond Butter and Raspberry Jam– like a pb&j but better in taste and nutrients!
- Almond Joy– this was my own recipe and I will be writing it for you because it was SO good!
- Chocolate Covered Strawberry– this was ok, but I don’t love chocolate strawberries. I chose it because it was Valentine’s Day and felt right. 😉 Only in Body Love.
- Blueberry Muffin– I love this one, but I’ve professed my love for baked goods flavor.
- Pecan Cinnamon Roll– my own recipe and a new favorite! The first one I made myself when the challenge was over, if that tells you anything!
- Green Sunrise Smoothie– my recipe filled with greens and citrus flavors, and it was tropical and sweet.
- Macuna Chai– I love chai and this had that chai spice flavor! A delicious combo of flavors. Only in Body Love.
- Pecan Pumpkin– my own concoction using leftover pumpkin, not my favorite.
- Blueberry Lemon Vanilla– my own recipe and a delicious combination.
- Taste of Georgia– my own recipe with peaches and pecan butter… I felt very meh about it.
- Vegan Cherry Cheesecake– my recipe, and so good! Will create a recipe for you!
- Oatmeal Cookie Dough– SO good! A new favorite I created and will write for you.
- Turmeric Mango Ginger Peach– my recipe to help my tummy and surprisingly SO good!
- Vitamin C Booster– my recipe, good and healthy! I had it to try to stop a cold from coming.
- Banana Bread– need I say more? YUM.
- Raspberry Mango– my own concoction and it was a great flavor combo.
- Mango Kale Madness– shocking how kale complements mango. I was surprised by how much I liked this one! Only in Body Love.
- Cherry Orange Vanilla– this was me trying to combine new flavors and it was really good!
Now out of all of these my favorites are blueberry muffin, oatmeal cookie dough, cinnamon pecan roll, almond joy, pina colada, raspberry coconut bar, and pumpkin pie. Told you I love those baked goods! However, there are several others I will repeat, and I will definitely keep that Peach Ginger Turmeric concoction around when my stomach is upset!
Phew! That was a lot of smoothies, and by the end of this challenge, I was not tired of smoothies, but tired of sharing a new one on my instagram stories each day. I am pretty sure we all were!!!! However, I am so glad that I did this so that I could really push myself to be more creative in the kitchen with mixing flavors, try new things, and discover the benefits of different spices in smoothies. By now, I have a great grasp on what to put in a smoothie to make it complete, satisfying, delicious, and good for me. Are you a smoothie drinker? What recipe sounds the best to you?