The holidays are finally behind us, and it’s time to get a start on the new year. Instead of making the traditional laundry list of New Year’s resolutions that most of us won’t keep beyond a few weeks, try creating a list of small manageable changes and set actionable and realistic goals. If improving health is on your list, here’s an easy change you can make to your diet that can make a big nutritional difference. Add smoothies. They’re wonderful for a meal replacement option for breakfast, to help you refuel after a grueling workout or as a nutrition boosting late afternoon snack.
To help inspire you, we asked a smoothie-making expert, Dana Angelo White, MS. RD, ATC, to weigh in on how to make a great smoothie, how to create a cost-saving freezer pantry and for a few tips to make smoothie making easier. If you’re not familiar with this smoothie making queen, Dana is the nutrition expert for Foodnetwork.com and one of the founding contributors behind its Healthy Eats blog. She is also the sports dietitian and associate clinical faculty in the department of Athletic Training and Sports Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. She also recently released her newest cookbook – Healthy, Quick & Easy Smoothies – 100 No Fuss Recipes Under 300 Calories You Can Make With 5 Ingredients.
Dana told us her cookbook evolved because, in reality, she makes a lot of smoothies at home for her family (she has three young daughters) and in her nutrition practice which focuses on athletes. She said, “Because I spend a lot of time making smoothies, I have really focused on what makes them work and what doesn’t, and it felt like it was time to compile and share all that information. Plus, smoothie making is fun. At home, I’ll create a recipe, ask the kids to taste it and guess the ingredients or at Quinnipiac I’ll host a smoothie making challenge for my students to get them using a variety of different ingredients.”
Here’s what we asked he to help you up your smoothie making game at home:
Why 300 calories and 5 ingredients?
I thought it was a scalable number that could fit into anyone’s healthy eating plan. For example, the Wild Blueberry Blast with Banana & Chia Seeds smoothie recipe (which she shares with us later) has 246 calories. In addition to the antioxidant-rich Wild Blueberries, the recipe features chia seeds and cottage cheese making it a high protein smoothie that is satisfyingly filling. If you don’t want to take in 300 calories at one time, she suggests that it’s easy to scale it back to reduce calorie intake. For example, for an after school snack for my kids I may give them half a serving and freeze the rest. However, if you’ve put in a long and strenuous workout and more calories and way to rebuild muscle, doubling the recipe and adding more calories may make more sense.
Why do you prefer smoothies over juicing?
Recently, juicing had a resurgence as a healthy way to eat fruits and veggies. However, when you juice, from a nutrition perspective you lose a lot of the good stuff like fiber because your extracting the juice and not eating the skin. When you blend a smoothie, you get all of that satisfying fiber and you can play with different textures and flavors.
What do you keep in your freezer pantry?
If you’re making smoothies, the freezer is where you’re going to start. I like to keep everything that goes into my smoothies in my freezer pantry because I want my smoothie ingredients to be as cold as possible. I don’t like to add a bunch of ice if I don’t have to, so having a staple of frozen ingredients ready makes for a more flavorful and chillier smoothie.
I always stock a variety of ingredients like frozen Wild Blueberries. Their sweet and tangy flavor are a great addition to any smoothie, and they’re full of antioxidants that can help you fight the damaging effects of aging as well as reduce the risk of certain diseases helping to minimize inflammation.
I also use my freezer to get more mileage out the fresh stuff I may have on hand. It helps me eliminate food waste and save money. For example, I’ll take just ripe bananas, place them in a bag and store them in the freezer to use later. I also buy nuts and seeds in bulk and to extend their life I bag and freeze them. Oiler nuts like walnuts may last between 6 to 12 months if you freeze them.
Can you provide us a few tips make smoothie making easier?
I do a lot of meal prep and believe it or not smoothies can be prepped in advance so that it’s easy to enjoy one every day. I create individual smoothie packets using resealable bags, which include frozen fruit, yogurt ice cubes (which I also make), seeds or whatever else I have on hand. This trick also allows you to tailor your bags to the tastes and likes of individual family members. Then, when it’s time to whip up your smoothie, toss the contents of your bag into your blender and add your liquid of choice. Bam, a delicious smoothie in less than 5 minutes. This tip is a huge time and money saver for me.
Another great tip is if you make a large batch of one particular smoothie recipe and want it to last more than one day, serve up the smoothie and then pour the rest into popsicle molds for a delicious afternoon snack. I’ve also started buying disposable yogurt tubes and filling them with smoothie goodness. They come out like thick ice pops and my kids really love them.
Finally, I like to pack smoothies in my kids’ lunches. I’ll make a smoothie bowl and freeze it and by the time lunch comes around it’s ready to enjoy. I also have designated sippy cups for smoothies for each of my family members that I can pack in their lunch boxes. Finally, I like to keep on hand reusable straws – there are so many amazing options nowadays from plastic to stainless steel. If you’re using reusable straws be sure to keep them clean. Today, most kits come with a thin cleaning brush (they look like smaller bottle brushes) or you can invest in a set of brushes.
For more of Dana’s tips check out page 14 of her new smoothie cookbook.
Tell us about the Wild Blueberry Blast Smoothie Recipe in your Cookbook?
This recipe is something that I make all the time and really wanted to share. In addition to the frozen Wild Blueberries, the secret ingredient is the cottage cheese, which gives this smoothie recipe a good protein boost. It also offers a delicious balance of flavors and an amazing color because of the Wild Blueberries. It’s one recipe that is really user friendly and can be a delicious and satisfying breakfast smoothie or a great post work out one to help rebuild muscle because the perfect ratio of carbs to proteins. In every recipe in the cookbook, I also provide a nutritional analysis and total sugar content overview, which includes both all natural and added sugars. This recipe features no added sugars.
If you’re eating for brain health, which recipes would you recommend?
Eating for brain health is something we all need to do. There a several brain boosting recipes included in my smoothie cookbook. The Wild Blueberry Blast Smoothie is one because both the Wild Blueberries and Chia Seeds are rich in antioxidants. Wild Blueberries have twice the antioxidant capacity of their tamer cousins, and 20 years of scientific research suggests that Wild Blueberries have the potential to improve memory, mood and cognitive function in older adults and prevent the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Most recently, research suggests Wild Blueberries have a significant positive effect on memory, concentration, and mood in children. It’s really a brain boosting berry for all ages.
I would also recommend incorporating tea, coffee, walnuts, and avocado into your smoothies. I feature these ingredients in many of the smoothies in the cookbook.
On page 15 of Dana’s cookbook, she outlines ingredients and their health boosting effects.
Where can I buy your book?
You can order my cookbook Healthy, Quick & Easy Smoothies – 100 no fuss recipes under 300 calories you can make with 5 ingredients on Amazon, via my website where I also offer signed copies and you can pick it up at Target, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble or at most other locations where books are sold.
Get started today with Dana’s Wild Blueberry Blast with Banana & Chia Seeds Smoothie.