In the 1930s, our lives (and breakfast options) were forever changed thanks to the invention of the blender. Smoothies became possible. And by the ’60s people were drinking their daily fruits and veggies.
Something went wrong between then and now. Americans got lost in a sea of processed foods, and 90 percent of the country is now deficient in key nutrients. Although we generally have easy access to food, a lot of us are at once stuffed and starved, having forgotten (or never learned) the basics of healthy eating.
Supplementing meals with healthy smoothies is one handy trick everyone can benefit from. In a single drink, you can pack in fiber, vitamins, and minerals from real foods—and even make it taste like dessert. Not to mention, you can do it on the cheap and in about five minutes if you play your cards right.
All it takes is a little knowledge about nutritious ingredients and a willingness to experiment. You don’t even necessarily need a blender. We’ll break it down for you.
Good-for-you smoothie ingredients
Here are some of the essential building blocks of a healthy smoothie.
Every smoothie needs a liquid base. Try to blend up strictly solid ingredients and you’ll end up with a glass of chunks rather than a creamy, drinkable beverage.
Generally, you’ll want to use 1 cup of liquid per 12-ounce smoothie.
Try any of these:
- Milk: Many people like to start with plain old milk for creaminess. This isn’t the only option, though—good news for those who are lactose-intolerant or sensitive to dairy.
- Yogurt: Though not a “liquid” per se, yogurt does the trick to make a thick and creamy smoothie. We especially love plain Greek yogurt because it adds a significant dose of protein.
- Nut milk: We’d be lost without milk alternatives. Almond milk is our go-to because of its mild, nutty flavor. It’s also got vitamins A, D, and E, along with a little bit of protein and beneficial fat.
- Hemp milk: Wanna experiment with a more distinctive taste? Try a non-dairy milk made with hemp seeds, which are rich in omega-3s.
- Soy milk: Stick with an organic variety of this diary alternative to ensure it’s made with non-GMO soy.
- Coconut water: When you want a smoothie that’s less like a milkshake and more like a refreshing, light drink, coconut water comes in handy. It’s mild enough not to overpower other ingredients, but also lends a subtle tropical flavor.
- Fruit juice: Fruit juice works, too. Try pure orange or pineapple (not made from concentrate), and feel free to cut it with water to make it less sweet.
- Water: If you don’t have any of the above on hand, H2O totally works!
Fruit is pretty much the star of the show when it comes to making a smoothie with a ton of fiber, vitamins, and sweet, crave-worthy flavor. You can’t really go wrong by using fresh fruit, but even the canned stuff (without added sugar) works. Frozen fruit, however, is the way to go if you want an ice-cold smoothie. Keeping berries and peeled, sliced bananas in the freezer is convenient, too. They’ll last a lot longer, and you’ll always have a stockpile of nutritious ingredients on hand.
For every cup of liquid, use 1 cup of fruit.
Here are some of our favorite fruits:
- Avocado (bonus: it also adds healthy fat!)
And here are some combos that taste like a dream together:
- Mixed Berries
Yup, you can also throw in green veggies for even more nutrients!
Don’t worry—if you add just a little bit of greens, you’ll barely notice the taste (our favorite is spinach, because it’s got a milder flavor). Generally, one handful is good for a single serving. As for kale, it’s a good idea to use less so the smoothie doesn’t come out too bitter. Play around a bit with greens to see which veggie-and-fruit combos taste the best to you.
We highly recommend these four, for the extra boost of iron, calcium, and vitamins K and C:
- Green peppers
- Swiss chard
A macronutrient essential for healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood, protein goes a long way in making a smoothie even more substantial and energizing—and it’ll help you get in your daily required dose.
Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per smoothie.
Try any of these options:
- Almond butter
- Beef gelatin–based protein powder
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Plant-based protein powder
- Whey-based protein powder
Want to super-boost your smoothie? Then throw in some of these nutrient-dense foods:
- Cacao powder: Aside from lending a chocolatey flavor, cacao boasts mood- and focus-boosting phytochemicals, cell-protective antioxidants, and magnesium.
- Chia seeds: Packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Coconut oil: A heart-healthy “good” fat that’s also waistline-friendly.
- Goji berries: These rare berries are extremely rich in antioxidants and amino acids.
- Hemp seeds: Full of healthy fat and essential omega fatty acids.
- Kale: Boasts protein, vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese—the list goes on!
- Maca powder: Derived from a powerful root, maca supports the body’s ability to adapt to stress and improves energy, vitality, and stamina.
- Wheatgrass: With iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, and vitamins A, C, and E, wheatgrass is good for immunity.
If you still want extra sweetness on top of the fruit, there are a few natural, healthy options to choose from. (Use sparingly, to taste—too much sugar of any kind can spike blood sugar and turn into fat.)
Herbs, spices, and other stir-ins can add next-level flavor to any smoothie. Start out with a little, and tweak to your taste.
- Almond extract
- Cayenne pepper
- Coconut flakes
- Vanilla extract
How to make a smoothie
And now, to the main event! You’ve got all your ingredients, but how exactly do you achieve true smoothie perfection?
Well, it starts with a high-speed blender. (If you don’t have one, don’t worry—scroll to the next section!)
Contrary to popular belief, there really aren’t hard and fast rules as far as the order in which ingredients should go into the blender. But in case you like working with guidelines, try this sequence:
- Other flavors
- Ice cubes (handful)
Once you’ve got everything in the blender, start it up at a low speed to avoid air bubbles, and to be sure the solid ingredients at the bottom get properly pulverized.
Then, gradually increase the speed to high. Be patient—most blenders may take a minute or two to make the mixture smooth.
Once it has a pretty even consistency, you’ll know it’s ready. Pour it into a glass.
Immediately rinse the blender well with warm water to keep the residue from sticking to it—it’ll make clean-up so much easier later.
Then, enjoy! It’s best not to let the smoothie rest for too long. It may become less frothy, and some ingredients, particularly greens, could start to separate.
How to make a smoothie without a blender
So you don’t have a blender—no problem. You can still get in on some of the smoothie action with a (hand-powered!) whisk and fruit powders:
- Acai: Derived from the Amazonian berry, acai powder is low-glycemic and rich in antioxidants, omega fatty acids, protein, and fiber.
- Camu: Another berry from the Amazon, camu is a richer source of vitamin C than oranges, plus it has potassium, calcium, protein, beta carotene, amino acids, and powerful phytochemicals.
- Goji: In powder form, you can still get this medicinal superfood in your smoothie without a blender.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate powder still has lots of antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium, and there are no seeds to pick out first!
Some solid ingredients that are difficult to mix or purée without a blade may be off limits—greens and whole seeds, for instance. But you can still incorporate ground seeds, powders, and liquid ingredients.
Here’s the formula
For every cup of liquid, add 1 tablespoon of fruit powder. Add about 1 tablespoon each of any other dry ingredients. Whisk ingredients vigorously in a medium bowl for at least one minute. Transfer to a glass and drink up!
It’s actually possible to use fresh fruit as long as it’s very, very ripe to the point that you can mash it with a fork. Bananas, mangoes, and berries are best—to about 1 tablespoon mashed fruit, add 1 cup of liquid gradually, whisking until it’s all combined. Add any other dry ingredients and finish hand-blending. Done and done.
Tip: A blender shaker bottle may be a useful investment if you don’t want to bother with a blender.
Need some more inspiration? Here are 10 of our absolute favorite recipes.
One of the most basic smoothies, but always a crowd-pleaser. Try it with 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 banana, and a handful of ice cubes. Easy!
Here’s a serving of vegetables and fruit that tastes like a sweet summertime shake. Coconut, dates, and orange are dreamy with carrot and banana.
Coconut milk is full of healthy fat and adds an ideal creamy texture. But chia seeds are the secret weapon that give this smoothie a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B, and antioxidants. Bonus: It seriously tastes like a pina colada.
Antioxidant blueberries are an unexpected but delicious complement to ginger, which can help digestion, boost immunity, improve brain function, and even help relieve pain.
This refreshing combo of blueberries (which have antioxidant, free-radical fighting power) and watermelon (a great source lycopene, another antioxidant) will give you an energy boost and leave your skin radiant. Bonus: taken regularly, powdered collagen helps combat wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Here’s how to put that pouch of pomegranate powder to good use! Combined with strawberry, it makes a fruity, sweet vitamin C–rich drink. The addition of hemp hearts, with all their essential amino acids, is particularly awesome for vegans!
A well-rounded drink with hemp and chia seeds for protein and fatty acids—plus bananas, blueberries, and a Medjool dates to cut the greens’ bitterness.
Refreshing cucumbers, mint leaves, and tart green apples make a digestion-friendly smoothie.
Maca and raspberries join forces to give the body a burst of energy and antioxidants.
No joke: we’ve come up with a smoothie that’s pretty close to a chocolate milkshake—except it’s totally dairy-free, energizing, and super healthy.
Now you’re all set! We dare you to drink a smoothie every day. With all the nutritious options available, you’ll never get bored—and your body will feel brand new.