Smooth Moves

From breakfast to the office to the gym, smoothies can power you through your day:
Learn how to shake up your energy intake.

By Sheila Kamran

July 2005

You’ve been told over and over again that the key to well-being is consuming a healthy diet. But then…your 4:30 appointment runs into your 6:30 tee-off time…the boss tosses that rush report on your desk at 11 and wants it by the end of the day…your wife calls to say she’s stuck at the office, so can you please take Joey to soccer practice…and lunch or dinner (or breakfast, for that matter) goes right out the window. Unless, of course, you stop by the coffee truck or the fast food place. But that’s not a good idea, and you know it.

You do have another alternative: smoothies. These meals-on-the-go have come a long way since their origin in the ’80s, when healthy blender drinks were usually served up in the form of green mixtures of uncertain origin or lecithin-and-wheat-germ concoctions that tasted, for the most part, like ground-up chalk (but were enthusiastically touted as being “good for you”).

Today, the ubiquitous, ever-popular smoothie has come into its own with dozens of variations. And throwing together a smoothie sure beats waiting in line at a gourmet coffee shop for a latte on your way to work, besides being much healthier! What’s more, in this beach-weather season, the icy-velvet smoothie may well qualify as the perfect summer food.

Smoothies can satisfy the most sweet-toothed as well as the most health-conscious among us. If you count yourself among the latter and assume that a healthy lifestyle and treats that tempt the taste buds are mutually exclusive, think again. For anyone who’s striving to stay on the sunny side of the dietary highway, smoothies are a virtually effortless taste treat that can be highly nutritious as well.

Blender Heaven

Can’t tell a sauté pan from a spatula? No problem—you don’t need to be a cook or spend more than a few minutes in the kitchen to whip up a smoothie. All you need is a blender, some fruit or watery vegetables (plus any of a variety of intriguing add-ins, if you wish), ice and water, milk (dairy, soy or rice) or juice. It is possible to create fabulous smoothies—especially given the abundance of fruits and vegetables at hand during this time of year—that allow you to adhere faithfully to almost any eating plan you care to follow; the ingredients you use are limited only by your imagination.

For best results, the first constituent in your blender should be the fruit, followed by the liquid; if you’re using water, be sure to filter it or select a high-quality bottled water. Blend, add any other ingredients (such as protein powder or healthy oils) you may be using, then blend again—you can even use instant coffee crystals if you’ve just gotta have your java. Finally, add ice cubes one or two at a time (or, even better, crushed ice) until everything is well mixed. By the way, if you’re whipping up a round of smoothies for you and the kids, take advantage of the free kitchen help—children love to get involved in smoothie creation!

Color Your Blender Healthy

One big advantage of smoothies is that they allow you to get extra servings of those all-important fruits and vegetables, the ones the government now recommends you eat 4.5 cups of each and every day. Not only is produce packed with vitamins and minerals, but it also contains bountiful amounts of soluble fiber (the kind that lowers cholesterol) and enzymes, which ease digestion and help power hundreds of chemical reactions within the body.

The bright hues of plant-based foods represent the power of flavonoids, those plant chemicals now thought to provide a wealth of health benefits. Some rainbow-colored pieces of produce are more smoothie-friendly than others:

• Orange/yellow: mangoes, nectarines, papayas, peaches
• Blue/purple: blackberries, blueberries, grapes
• Red: cherries, cranberries, raspberries, red peppers, strawberries
• Green: honeydew melon, kale, kiwis

Drinking part of your daily produce straight from the blender gives you the nutrition you need in a delicious, easy-to-consume format.

You’ve Got (Protein) Options

An ever-expanding array of protein powder choices lets you tailor your smoothie to your schedule and your dietary goals.

Soy protein shakes are great for that extra boost of energy you need to get through a busy day—pick from the incredible variety of delectable flavors that are available on the market (none of that chalky stuff for you!). A protein-packed smoothie is an athlete’s best friend, providing energy, nutrients (including the electrolytes vital to healthy heart and nervous-system function) and hydration all in one easy-drinking package. Try adding two favorite smoothie throw-ins: wheat germ, a rich source of niacin and iron, and flaxseed oil, packed with omega-3 fatty acids and cancer-protective lignans. Tossing a high-quality liquid multivitamin into the blender is another way to optimize your smoothie’s nutrition output. (If you forego the ice, a mini blender will let you dispense with the thermos and make your smoothies on the spot no matter where you are.)

Protein powder derived from whey, the liquid that’s left over when cheese is made, is fast becoming a gym-rat fave. No wonder: Whey is replete with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which help stoke muscles with the fuel glycogen during exercise, and with amino acids that assist in building fast-twitch muscle fibers, the ones that make muscles grow after workouts. What’s more, other whey components help build immunity, which can take a real hit from all that running around you do every day.

More and more people are now cutting carbohydrates in their diet, and customizing a diet for life is easier with unsweetened protein powders that give you all the flavor you desire without sugar’s extra carbs. Just add a suitably low-carb sweetener and the tantalizing tastes of such low- carbohydrate fruit as strawberries, and voila!—a smoothie that fits your dietary plans to a T.

Lassi but not least: If you have a taste for exotic flavors, try your hand at making the traditional yogurt drink called lassi, which hails from the Indian subcontinent (where the temperature in summer soars to an impossible 100 degrees and above). No wonder lassis are enjoyed by most Indians as the ultimate refreshing summer drink. To give your lassi authenticity, use ingredients such as rose water, mint, pistachios (don’t worry, you can toss nuts into smoothies if you have a heavy-duty blender) and a dash of cinnamon or cardamom—you’ll feel like you’re down home in New Delhi (if you don’t do dairy, try a lassi made with soy yogurt instead). Prefer a salty, spicy lassi? Just add salt to taste, a dash of cayenne, a pinch of ginger powder and blend with crushed ice. For that finishing touch, add cilantro leaves as a garnish.

Besides being the most convenient meals you’ll never cook, smoothies allow your creativity free rein while making your taste buds very, very happy. (Who said you were completely lost in the kitchen?) So go ahead—improvise and come up with your own personalized set of smoothie recipes and you’ll always have a healthy repast at hand no matter what life throws at you.

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