What does springtime mean to you?
It's a simple question I recently asked my clients and they responded back with thoughts of enjoying the taste of farmers market fresh produce, homemade refreshing beverages, outdoor dining and soaking up the warm, sunny mornings and evening sunsets.
For me, spring conjures images of amazing seasonal fruits such as berries, mango and strawberries -- images of the way these can easily be whipped into delicious smoothies pop in my head every morning when I see the sun peeking out from my curtains -- and they're a convenient way to slurp up a dose of healthy fiber bright n' early before you head out for your day.
This time of the year, why not give your hot oatmeal a break and stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt and milk alternatives to create a fun morning wake-up call right in your own kitchen? Let's face it, when the weather gets warm, we're looking for any possible way to keep cool, aren't we?
Smoothies can be a healthy breakfast for you and your family or they can be calorie bombs. Many smoothie bars and packaged smoothies add in sugars and many unnecessary ingredients -- which can lead to a spike in your blood sugar and unexpected weight gain. So, my clients are always asking me what ingredients should be used to make a satisfying smoothie that's healthy and energizing. Here are a few elements you can toss into your smoothie to jump start your day.
Fruit and Vegetables
Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season such as berries and melons -- this way you can reap as many nutrients as possible. Bananas and avocados always add a nice creamy consistency while adding a hearty dose of fiber and healthy fat. Take a walk around your farmers market and toss in a few new ingredients to your smoothie each week; maybe it's watercress this week and fresh basil next week. Or jicama this week and blood oranges next week; your options are endless -- just be sure to keep your taste buds happy by trying mixing up your ingredients with new fruits and veggies each week.
Have you looked in the aisles of Whole Foods Market lately? It's amazing to see the vast array of alternative milks available; they each have such a distinct flavor and pair perfectly with fresh fruits and veggies in your smoothie. Try using different types of milk alternatives such as rice, hemp, coconut and almond as they can add extra protein and satisfying flavor to each sip. I love SoDelicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk; it's perfect for my smoothies and adds a nice touch without the added sugar or dairy.
Unsweetened Greek yogurt adds a creamy thickness to smoothies with a nice dose of protein; it can be used along with your milk alternative or alone as your main protein source. Be sure to read the labels of your yogurts as there can be hidden (added) sugars found in many brands so opt for unsweetened; you can always add a little honey later if your sweet tooth needs a treat. Chobani makes a beautifully thick Greek plain yogurt that I enjoy using in my smoothies.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts will add an amazing earthy flavor to your smoothie; they are high in protein and come with a nice supply of heart-healthy fats to help keep you full until lunchtime rolls around. Almonds, pecans and pistachios tend to grind down well in smoothies, as do cashews and peanuts. I also like to add in nut butters and these days you can find almost any kind of nut butter in your local or specialty food store. I enjoy Justin's Nut Butter -- it's a great brand and he makes a vast array of nut butters such as hazelnut and almond that are perfect for your smoothie if you don't have a handful of nuts lying around. Seeds are also a great add-in; chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds and sesame seeds work wonders in smoothies. They're filled with fiber, healthy fat and nutrients and add a nice crunch to your smoothie.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to creating your very own smoothie so don't be intimidated by all these fancy ingredients. If you want to keep it simple, go ahead and try peanut butter with a banana, strawberries and Greek yogurt or get creative with hemp milk, almond butter, mango, kale and chia seeds.
Take the pressure off your morning routine and set out your blender tonight before you go to bed so it's the first thing you see tomorrow in your kitchen. Toss in some of my suggestions above as a guide and add whatever comes to mind from fresh fruit and vegetables to coconut milk and macadamia nut butter.
There are no limits to what ingredients can be used in your smoothies -- why not try adding in some ripe avocado or fresh baby spinach? How about some coconut flakes or raw cacao? The options are endless.
So pull out your dusty blender, mix your favorite ingredients and blend away, all while thinking about what spring means to you.
Here is my favorite smoothie recipe that I make at least once a week for my clients: Cranberry Coconut Smoothie.