In praise of the smoothie

By Adrian Graham on 9 January 2017 — 5 mins read

A good smoothie is a delicious, sweet, and refreshing drink. Sure, it’s probably not something you’ll want to have at 6am on a freezing winter’s morning — although sometimes, I do (it helps to keep yourself wrapped up and warm). But for a lot of other occasions, especially as a convenient substitute for a meal, to rapidly loose weight, to get rid of that bloated feeling in your stomach, it ticks a lot of boxes.

Technically, most nutritionists will probably tell you that you should be eating your fruit whole: cutting it up into a fruit salad perhaps. In the laboratory, you can, apparently, eat less whole fruit before feeling satiated — but this does not take into account the fact that healthier smoothies have a significant amount added water.

Another beneficial effect of smoothies is the energy they provide. If you’re not drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, a decent smoothie is a close run second best thing in terms of energising you for the day ahead.

Once again, nutritionists will probably agree that a hot porridge makes an unbeatable breakfast. It will make you feel satiated for longer, and have a lower GI, because it releases energy slower and longer. Once again, technically yes, this is probably true, and I do enjoy porridge (either hot, or as a cold Bircher Muesli), but my real world experiences are different — because smoothies work really well in my lifestyle, as a convenience, as something to enjoy, and as a way to reduce my calorie intake — there’s a lot to be said for how a food makes you feel. Smoothies make me feel ‘light’ and energised: porridge often leaves me feeling bloated, and heavy.

The best healthy diet is the one you can be bothered to keep doing. It’s pointless putting yourself through the ultimate diet, if you don’t keep it up. This is where the smoothie wins, it’s incredibly convenient, versatile, easy to prepare, and clean / tidy up after you’re done.

There are downsides though. If you drink a smoothie fast you might not feel like you’ve had a fully balanced ‘proper’ meal (which, technically, you probably haven’t). Try to slow down, savour the taste of the ingredients — but, at least, it’s better to have a smoothie than a chocolate brioche bun.

Smoothies are, in my opinion, a great way to loose weight, de-bloat yourself, and generally feel great. I think you will feel the difference if you replace two meals a day (and eat a sensible, healthy meal, with a sensible portion size, for the third) in just three days.

Already converted — or do you still need convincing? Maybe you’re not sure about forking out so much money on a dedicated smoothie machine? People used to use food blenders to make smoothies — they were either not able to blend the ingredients properly into a liquid, or they cost a fortune. These days there are many dedicated smoothie makers. One great option is the £59 Nutribullet 600. Another excellent choice is the Nutri Ninja Blender — and there are other brands out there. Why do you need to spend twice the cost of a cheap blender, just to make smoothies? The answer is because you need a more powerful motor to pulverise the ingredients. You can do other things with these micro-blenders: turn nuts into nut flour, make a savoury sauce — but don’t buy one because of a feature you’ll never use. You could also opt for a larger, more powerful, and more expensive, Vitamix. It depends on your budget, and if you need the device for other things to justify the increased cost.

I usually blend enough smoothie mixture to fill a highball glass, that makes me feel sufficiently ‘full’. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, you might start off thinking you need two highball glasses worth of smoothie, to feel like you’ve had enough, and gradually move down to a single glass. Some people like thicker smoothies, other people prefer a more watery, juice-like, consistency — there’s no right or wrong. Another popular smoothie trick is to blend an extra cup, and fill a sealable on-the-go container, or an insulated Thermos flask, to consume later.

What about the ingredients? Everyone has their own favourites and it’s worth experimenting to discover new flavour combinations — what does, and doesn’t work. I tend to keep my smoothies simple, a small amount of water, a base fruit, a middle flavour and an accent flavour. For base fruits I tend to go with banana, middle tier flavours include apple and pears, and for the accents I normally use a berry (fresh or frozen), mostly frozen blueberries, or strawberries. It’s important to have a stock of ripe bananas (I like them just before they get the brown spots). You can make your own smoothie recipes: add regular milk, nut milk, or rice milk, if you like. Or try avocados, adding oats (best if you have a more powerful blender like a Vitamix to really crush the oats), or use a protein powder, to thicken the mixture. You can even make decadent smoothies with ice-cream, yoghurt, bananas, and cocoa powder, adding pitted dates to sweeten it if necessary. A very simple and delicious drink is water, bananas and vanilla essence (plus cocoa cocoa powder of you want the chocolate flavour).

The more powerful blenders can handle frozen fruit (which is very handy) and ice-cubes so you can make frappe-like drinks — an iced-coffee even. You can add kale, lettuce, and cucumber to your smoothies if you prefer a less sweet, even slightly bitter taste. You can use a blender to make home made gazpacho, cold yoghurt soup (with cucumber and a touch of salt). I’ve even enjoyed ‘hot smoothies’ using my Vitamix (one banana, a few spoonfuls of oats, vanilla essence and some hot water, not boiling, somewhere about 70 degrees centigrade). (Be careful with hot liquids in blenders, and only use blenders there are designed for hot liquids, ie: they have a soup-making function).

Enjoy your smoothies, but remember to be sensible. You can loose weight rapidly by substituting smoothies for specific meals, but don’t forget that your body requires a range of nutrition and food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) to be healthy.