More Experiments with Healthy Smoothies

Post Published on March 24, 2024.
Last Updated on March 24, 2024 by davemackey.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Six months ago I tried a diet called the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). It involved a drastic change in my diet and significantly restricted the foods I could consume. One of the staples of this new diet for me has been fruit/veggie smoothies – I’ve made and consumed literally hundreds of these smoothies.

I love fruit, so making fruit smoothies would be easy – but I wanted more nutritional value and variety in my smoothies so I added vegetables. This was initially quite challenging, I’m a fairly picky eater and the number of vegetables I enjoy is limited and a number of them are excluded by AIP.

I’ve made tremendous progress since then and wanted to share with everyone what I’m doing. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Caution

I’m not an expert on food preparation or safety. So far I don’t think my smoothies have made me sick but, do your own due diligence please. 🙂

The Equipment

One can get started making smoothies with a simple blender and some fruit and liquid – but this isn’t enough when you start making smoothies in bulk. Over the last six months I’ve built up my equipment to include:

  • Chest Freezer – Because of this I can store ingredients as well as smoothies in bulk. I generally make between 20 – 30 smoothies at a time.
  • Blender – I have using the Ninja Professional Blender 1000. It has a capacity of 9 cups (2100 ML, 72 oz).
  • Storage Containers
    • Mason Jars – You can buy 12x 16 oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars relatively inexpensively. I’ve purchased a total of 36.
    • Leak Proof Lids – While the mason jars come with lids these are two piece, metal, and better for canning. So I’ve also chosen to buy the one-piece leak-proof wide mouth storage lids which also come in packs of 12x.
    • Food Storage Containers – I cut up the avocados when they are ripe and then freeze them. I use one container per avocado as it makes it easy to know how much I’m adding to a smoothie batch.
      • I tried other ways previously – cutting them up at the time of smoothie making (constrains one’s schedule), blending and storing in larger containers (pain to measure), and chopping and storing in larger containers (still pain to measure).
      • For my purposes I purchased a number of Target’s Twist and Store Medium Round Food Storage Containers. They come in bundles of 3 and hold up to 2 cups.
      • In addition, I purchased Target’s Snap and Store Small Rectangle Food Storage Containers (bundles of 5, contain up to 3 cups) though I use these less often. Most frequently to store the mason lids and make them easier to move from storage to kitchen.
  • Measuring Implements – I primarily use 1/2 cup and 1 cup measuring utensils. I sometimes use 1 tsp and 1 tbsp measures.
  • Other Implements – I use a fairly large knife to cut avocados in two (going straight through the nut at the core) and a regular spoon to scoop the avocado out of it’s shell.

The Ingredients

It has taken a lot of experimentation but I’ve found that I can blend in a number of veggies I normally would balk at and still have a smoothie that tastes quite good.

I tend to use frozen ingredients and buy the Walmart Great Value brand.

Fruits

I’m regularly using:

  • Bananas, Sliced (16 oz) – $2.47 ($0.154/oz)
  • Red Raspberries, Whole (12 oz) – $3.84 ($0.32/oz)
  • Blackberries (16 oz) – $3.52 ($0.22/oz)
  • Blueberries (48 oz) – $7.24 ($0.151/oz)
  • Avocados
    • I tend to buy these fresh, from Walmart they are using <$0.90/ea.
    • I’m also trying the frozen diced avocados (10 oz, $2.14, $0.214/oz).

I haven’t had a chance to experiment (yet) with:

  • Peaches, Sliced (16 oz) – $2.86 ($0.179/oz)
  • Pineapple Chunks (16 oz) – $2.47 ($0.154/oz)
  • Strawberries (16 oz) – $2.24 ($0.14/oz)

Vegetables

I’m regularly using:

  • Broccoli Cuts (32 oz) – $2.28 ($0.71/oz)
    • I’ve also used Broccoli Florets but suspect they may contribute to a darker color for the smoothies which depending on other ingredients can appear disturbingly like something that exits the body rather than should be entering it.
  • Cauliflower (12 oz) – $1.16 ($0.97/oz)
  • Spinach, Chopped (12 oz) – $1.16 ($0.97/oz)
  • Carrots, Sliced (12 oz) – $0.98 ($0.82/oz)
    • I used fresh baby carrots for a while and then decided to see how sliced carrots went. They are fine but I just did a price comparison and the frozen are significantly more expensive, so I’ll switch back to baby carrots in the future. A 2 lb bag of baby-cut carrots costs $2.68 ($0.084/oz), that’s a huge savings!
  • Kale, Chopped (12 oz) – $1.57 ($0.131/oz)
  • Sweet Potatoes (10 oz) – $1.74 ($0.174/oz)
  • Butternut Squash (10 oz) – $1.92 ($0.192/oz)

I haven’t had a chance to experiment (yet) with:

  • Fine Green Beans (12 oz) – $1.97 ($0.164/oz)
  • Sweet Peas (32 oz) – $2.28 ($0.071/oz)
    • This isn’t entirely true, early on I was doing some of my more wild experiments and made myself sick, I suspect due to a non-AIP ingredient (peas being one of those I utilized). I have not yet taken the time to go back and test whether peas where that ingredient.

Smoothie Mixes

I’m eventually planning to move away from these but they have served as a great base for my smoothies thus far:

  • Great Value Red Fruit Smoothie (8 oz) – $2.16 ($0.27/oz)
  • Great Value Blue Fruit & Vegetable Smoothie (8 oz) – $2.16 ($0.27/oz)
    • I’ve moved away from using these for the same reason I’ve cut back on broccoli cuts – the darker color when combined with other colors can result in a less-than-appetizing appearance.
    • I also moved away from them because the amount of vegetables in them seems to be negligible, so not a huge advantage over the red, solely fruit smoothie.

Liquids

For a little while I used Coconut Milk but I didn’t see much nutritional value in it (am I wrong?) and it didn’t particularly do good things for the drink (and I think became lumpy if I microwaved the smoothie). These days I’m 100%:

  • Apple Juice, Great Value 100% (96 fl oz) – $2.84 (0.03/fl oz)

I tried experimenting with actual apples and do think that would be a better option but I need to experiment more with the amount of water one needs to add to make the smoothie sufficiently fluid. I’ll get around to it one of these days.

Other Ingredients

  • Honey, Nature Nate’s Georgia Honey (32 oz) – $14.26 ($0.446/oz)
    • I don’t have a particular commitment to Nature Nate’s Honey, I was just looking for something natural, available in bulk, and not crazy expensive.
    • I was initially trying to measure this out using tea/table spoons but the honey tends to stick to the measuring instrument so now I just squeeze a somewhat small/random amount into each batch.
    • Part of the reason I added this was for its anti-oxidization properties (to prevent the smoothies from going brown quite so fast). I also think it has some anti-bacterial properties, but not sure how much I’m adding makes a difference.
  • Cinnamon
    • I’m currently using Kroger’s Private Selection Cinnamon Ground (1.62 oz) simply because that was what we already had. I’ll probably look for something in larger bulk when it runs out, price on this is $3.99 ($2.46/oz.

I’ve tried, but need to understand better the nutritional value of:

  • Collagens
    • Spring Valley Collagen Peptides Type 1 & 3 Dietary Supplement (9 oz) – $12.48 ($1.39/oz)

I haven’t tried, but would like to, adding:

  • Maple Syrup, Pure (12.5 oz) – $7.98 ($0.638/fl oz)
  • Turmeric

The Goal

Initially I was trying to recreate something like Bolthouse Farms’ Fruit Juice Smoothies (52 fl oz; $6.48; $0.125/fl oz) or Naked Juice’s Green Machine (64 fl oz; $8.46; $0.132/fl oz) with their vast array of ingredients in a single serving.

I eventually discovered this is unnecessary (not to mention, difficult to accomplish). Instead one can use all the ingredients over many smoothies with each smoothie using only a few ingredients. This makes it much easier to balance out sweets/sours, chunky/smooth, fruit/veggie in any given smoothie.

The ultimate goal is to pack as much nutritional value into a smoothie while still making it something I’d want to drink (which isn’t easy!). I hope that others, especially more picky (err, I prefer “basic” or “steak and potatoes”) eaters like myself, will find inspiration / satisfaction in similar mixes.

Making a Smoothie

We’ve talked about equipment, ingredients, and the goal but how do we actually make a smoothie? That’s what I’ll cover here. When I’ve written about this topic previously I gave a number of specific recipes I’d tried. In this case I want to talk about how I find different foods group together and can be used to make up a general ratio of foods that taste good together.

Base Fluids

I start with a base of 3-3.5 fl. oz of apple juice. I’ve found out far too frequently that blending fruits/veggies doesn’t equal liquefying them and results refuse to leave the blender. You can always start off with less liquid and add it later if the mix is too thick. The thickness of the result depends heavily on the ingredients included.

The Sweets

Fruits overall are hard to overdo. Bananas, raspberries, and blackberries in particular have a dominant taste profile that helps subsume other, less pleasant tasting ingredients.

Blueberries are good too, though I imagine they may become flavor dominant with a slightly bitter taste if added in too great a quantity.

Avocados I haven’t tried adding more than 1x to each mix, but I think one could probably easily double this without negatively impacting flavor.

The Semi-Sweets

There are several vegetables which are almost as tasty as fruit – carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.

Carrots can become too dominant taste-wise if one overloads the smoothie on carrots, but that isn’t easy to do.

The Vegetables

Cauliflower is pretty bland but tends to leave small white chunks in the smoothie. This doesn’t bother me but may bother some. It’s usually a safe bet to add to almost any mix due to it’s low flavor profile.

I use broccoli cuts as a foundational ingredient in my smoothie mixes. Pretty much every smoothie I make has 1 cup of broccoli.

Surprisingly, I’ve found spinach to have a more intense flavor profile than kale, so I’ll usually try for 1/2 cup of spinach and 1 cup of kale per mix.

I use a smoothie mix with each blender mix and as I mentioned previously I eventually intend on removing the smoothie mix, it’s a simple combination of a few fruits I’m already using, I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Other Ingredients

I add honey and cinnamon to each batch. I’m a little concerned about the acidity of the honey (I’ve got GERD) but I find some seems to be fine.

Cinnamon is a strong flavor and can mask less pleasant flavors with even a relatively small addition.

Putting It All Together

How you mix and match the ingredients depends a bit on the capacity of your blender. As I mentioned, I’m using a Ninja with 72 oz’s of capacity, so I’m going to base my measurements off this:

  1. Liquid Base – 20 oz (Remaining capacity: 52 oz)
    1. I use apple juice, you could use water or another base, this will change the overall flavor of the smoothie, so you’ll need to experiment.
  2. Avocado (1x) – 5.4 oz (Remaining: 46.6 oz)
  3. Broccoli Cuts – 8 oz (Remaining: 38.6 oz)
  4. Kale – 8 oz (Remaining: 30 oz)
  5. Spinach – 4 oz (Remaining: 26 oz)
  6. Smoothie Mix – 8 oz (Remaining: 18 oz)
  7. Sweet Fruit (Primary) – 8 oz (Remaining: 10 oz)
  8. Sweet Fruit (Secondary) – 4 oz (Remaining: 6 oz)
  9. Semi-Sweet (Vegetable) – 8 oz (Remaining: -2 oz)
  10. Honey – 2-3 squeezes
  11. Cinnamon – 2-3 shakes

Okay, so I do end up going over capacity a little bit sometimes. 🙂

Conclusion

I think the result is pretty satisfactory. I’ll continue to experiment going forward to try and push more veggies and more diversity into the mix. I’d also like to look at more spices and some herbs into the mix (suggestions welcome).

The basic formula I’m using is:

Liquid Base (20 oz) + Vegetables (20 oz) + Semi-Sweet Vegetable (8 oz) + Fruits (20 oz) + Avocado (5.4 oz) + Honey + Cinnamon.

Each blender mix tends to fill ~3 mason jars, so on average I’ll do 8-10 blender mixes to make one batch of smoothies resulting in 24-30 “servings” (~14 oz).

Link to Previous Post: Experiments in Healthy Smoothies

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