Whipping up a smoothie can be one of the easiest paths to a tasty, healthful breakfast or snack, but it is also remarkably easy to make one that lacks both of those qualities.
If the proportions are off, a smoothie can wind up thin, bland or overly sweet, and laden with sugary calories - not the thick, creamy, refreshingly fruity, sustaining fuel you crave. My surefire strategy for ensuring the latter is threefold: Incorporate chunks of very ripe frozen banana; use milk as the primary liquid (adding just enough to get the ingredients blending smoothly); and include nuts, nut butter and/or seeds.
The frozen banana provides a thick frothiness, filling fiber and enough sweetness so you don't need added sugar. I used to think of this as a great way to use up bananas that happened to have gone too ripe for eating, but now I find the ingredient indispensable. These days I buy an extra bunch or two for the sole purpose of letting them over-ripen, so I always have a supply in my freezer.
I use low-fat milk as the liquid for the creaminess and wealth of nutrients it provides, without much saturated fat. One cup of milk has more protein than a large egg - and that protein goes a long way toward making a smoothie a more balanced, satisfying meal.
So does the addition of nuts, nut butter and/or seeds, which add a rich taste and texture, plus minerals, healthy fat and more fiber and protein. Nut butters keep the smoothie creamy, while whole nuts and seeds add crunchy bits of texture. Note that you can substitute a nut- or soy-based milk for the dairy milk if you choose; just make sure it is unsweetened, and keep in mind that nut milks don't provide much protein. (You will get some from the added nuts and seeds, anyway.)
From there, you can run with whatever fruits and flavors inspire you.
The accompanying recipe is bursting with fresh blueberries, and it has a fragrant hint of vanilla and texture from almonds and chia seed. It is a cool and creamy, perfectly sweet example of healthful smoothie satisfaction.
BLUEBERRY BANANA SMOOTHIE WITH CHIA
This stunning, berry-packed smoothie has the right nutritional balance to make it a sustaining breakfast or snack.
MAKE AHEAD: The banana needs to be frozen firm.
• 1 very ripe medium banana, cut into chunks and frozen until firm
• 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, stemmed as needed
• 3/4 cup low-fat milk (1 percent), plus more as needed (may substitute an unsweetened nut- or soy-based milk)
• 2 tablespoons unsalted sliced or slivered (skinless) almonds
• 1 tablespoon chia seed
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the banana, blueberries, milk, almonds, chia seed and vanilla extract in a blender; puree on high speed until well combined and thick, with some texture remaining from the chia and almonds.
Add more milk by the tablespoonful, and blend on high speed to incorporate, depending on the power of your blender and the thickness you prefer. Drink right away.
Nutrition | Per serving: 370 calories, 16 g protein, 56 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 33 g sugar