Fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. Leafy green vegetables, in particular, are brimming with fibre, vitamins, minerals and plant-based substances shown to promote health and well-being. While chowing down on a large green salad several days a week is one way to fit greens into your diet, this meal choice is not a go-to for everyone. For those looking for a unique way to sneak these nutrition powerhouses into their diet, consider whipping up a green smoothie. Firstly, let us tell you why we love green smoothies:
- They are a great way to naturally boost your energy- making them a perfect pick-me-up for mid-morning or during that afternoon slump
- They are loaded with whole food fuel and fibre to keep you going all day long
- They are a fast and easy way to give your body what it needs (nutrients) when you’re in a rush or don’t have an appetite for a full meal
- As they are packed with phytonutrients, your immune system will get a nice boost to help it function optimally- extremely important as flu season is upon us!
Unlike juices, smoothies consist of the entire fruit and/or vegetable (we recommend including the skin and all) and therefore contain all of the plant fibre (what we like to call the good stuff). However, the blending process breaks the fibre apart and often makes the fruit and vegetables easier to digest. Because the fruit and vegetable fibre is preserved, blood sugar rises more evenly [in comparison to the blood sugar spikes commonly associated with drinking juice (which is typically high in sugar and contains very little/no fibre)]. Smoothies tend to be quite filling (because of the fibre), fast to make, and easy to tolerate (as far as getting greens in your diet goes). They can be great to drink first thing in the morning as your breakfast, as a snack throughout the day, or occasionally as a nutritious meal replacement.
To keep green smoothies from being a carb-heavy snack, consider investing in some good quality protein powder. Personally we find vanilla whey protein to be a tasty addition, but there is a huge variety of proteins available in today’s markets- consider trying soy, pea, or hemp protein if you’re looking for a dairy-free option.
There are lots of nutritious choices of greens that you can pick up at your local grocery store or farmer’s market; to name a few:
- You could enjoy popular greens like spinach, chard or bok choy, which are mild and tender (and ideal for green smoothies).
- You could try collard, turnip or mustard greens which are strong-flavoured and slightly bitter (not quite as palatable in smoothies).
- Or you may like kale, which lies somewhere in the middle of the flavour spectrum.
When purchasing greens, look for leaves that are perky, lively and deeply-coloured. Generally, small leaves will be mild, sweet and tender compared to larger leaves. When you bring your greens home, store them inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use them within a few days.
A Brief Nutrition Overview of Popular Greens:
Kale- this hearty green is a nutrition superstar. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, and has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable. It also supplies folate and potassium. Kale’s ruffle-edged leaves may range in colour from cream to purple to black depending on the variety.
Spinach- this well-known green is packed with vitamins A and C, as well as folate. Fresh spinach leaves are ideal additions to smoothies because of their mild flavour.
Cabbage- this cruciferous vegetable is a great source of vitamin C and a nourishing addition to a healthy diet. Available in red and green varieties, cabbage should be cooked when added to smoothies for palatability.
Red and Green Leaf and Romaine Lettuce- these lettuces are high in vitamin A and offer some folate. It is important to note that the darker the lettuce leaf, the more nutrition benefits it offers, making red leaf slightly more nutritious than green.
Iceberg Lettuce- this bland-tasting head lettuce is mostly water. It is not devoid of all nutrition, but it is pretty close. Interesting fact- iceberg lettuce is the country’s most popular leafy green.
Thinking about taking the plunge? Here are some other chlorophyll-filled ingredients we suggest using to make a killer green smoothie. Tip: we recommend adding at least 1 serving of fruit to increase the palatability [one serving is equal to 1 medium (baseball size) fruit; ½ cup diced, cooked, or canned fruit; or ½ cup fruit juice]:
- Snap or snow peas
- Fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil or mint
- Sprouts such as broccoli, alfalfa or bean
- Green apple or pear
- Green grapes
- Honeydew melon
- Banana – ok, I know this isn’t a green ingredient, but it’s a delicious addition which will not alter the green colour (unlike red produce… note: green + red = brown)
To get the ball rolling, here’s a tried and true green smoothie recipe we adore! Add all the ingredients to a blender, puree until smooth, and enjoy (getting in those greens has never been so easy):
- 4 large fresh mint sprigs
- 1 packed cup fresh spinach leaves
- ½ medium cucumber
- ½ medium pear
- ½ medium banana
- 1 scoop vanilla whey protein
- 6 ice cubes (Tip: make green tea ice cubes for added antioxidants)
- ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy beverage
Drinking green smoothies is a great opportunity to try some new foods and shake up your meal routine! We challenge you to give this meal idea a try- don’t forget to post your photos on Instagram! @macronutritioncoaching
Macros per Full Recipe
Protein: 25 g
Fat: 4.5 g
Carbohydrates: 33.5 g
Sugar: 17.5 g
Fibre: 5.5 g