July 23, 2017
Last week a company called Tropical Smoothie Cafe opened a new franchise not far from me. The chain currently has about 600 locations nationwide and is known for making real fruit smoothies along with toasted sandwiches, flatbreads, wraps, and salads. Needless to say the "real fruit smoothies" part caught my eye and I imagine you're thinking "that's healthy food, right?"
Well, sort of.
These days smoothies are pretty popular: smoothies SUPPOSEDLY "made with real fruit" are even available at places like Wawa and McDonald's, and companies like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Jamba Juice, and Smoothie King seem to be popping up all over the place all touting "healthy" smoothies. But if you look more closely at the ingredients lists of all these ostensibly healthy drinks you'll be surprised that there's actually very little whole food in any of these products, and even the products that do include whole FRUIT very rarely include much in the way of whole VEGETABLES (and I'm not even going to mention all the other sugary and/or downright weird added ingredients in a lot of these products...that's a whole separate blog!)
Did you know that every major world health organization (including THE World Health Organization!) recommends that we consume between 9 and 13 servings of fresh produce everyday yet only 2 or 3 of those servings should be fruit?
Now I’m not even going to say a word about how many servings of produce most people in this country really do eat on a daily basis (I'm sure you can imagine that's a seriously deep rabbit hole: very few people even come CLOSE to the 9-13 serving mark!) So for now let’s just consider why we need more veggies than fruit in our lives. Turns out almost all the vitamins and minerals available in the fruit kingdom are available in the vegetable kingdom but not the other way around. Plus fruits are, of course, naturally sweet so the more fruit we eat the more fruit we want because by eating fruit (especially alone, or at least unaccompanied by whole-food sources of protein and fat) we're effectively reinforcing our "sweet teeth."
So if you're somebody who's interested in drinking smoothies that are actually good for you, what are your options?
Good news #1: there are LOTS of excellent blenders on the market (for more info on my top picks check out all the Things I Like.)
Good news #2: I've been teaching Smoothie-making classes regularly for a couple of years now (check out the VIDEOS tab above for some sneak peaks then click here for information on my next class.)
And Good News #3: although I'm not a huge advocate of complete-meal-in-a-glass smoothies* if you're interested in making a whole-food smoothie that's a lot closer to a completely balanced snack then any commercial smoothie yet tastes deceptively like an old fashioned strawberry milkshake, here's a variation on my own homemade almond milk I bet you'll really enjoy!
JESSICA’S STRAWBERRY ALMOND MILK
(NOTE: I do kinda wing this recipe so my measurements aren't completely precise...perhaps the best thing would be for you to start with this recipe and figure out what you like best!)
Toss a couple of raw cashews into an 8 oz measuring cup then fill the rest of the cup with raw almonds. In a bowl combine the nuts and enough filtered water to cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (I usually refrigerate overnight…this way the nuts really get soft and the end product will be much creamier and even frothy!)
In the morning drain and rinse the nuts then place in a GOOD blender (I use the Vitamix) along with another 3 ¼ cups of cold filtered water, 15-20 fresh strawberries (rinsed, hulled, and chopped), a pinch of salt (I prefer Kosher), and a splash of vanilla extract (I use Trader Joe's Alcohol-Free).
IF YOU LIKE, you can also add a sweetener of choice to taste (I think this recipe tastes perfectly sweet all by itself but I have pretty finely tuned sweet-tastebuds.) Occasionally I’ll use 1 scoop of Trader Joe's Pure Stevia Extract (the serving scoop is inside the jar and I believe it holds 1/16 tsp...looks a bit like a coke spoon LOL!) but you can also use a tablespoon of maple syrup, raw local honey, or even date sugar (nothing more than finely ground whole dates.)
Blend until it reaches your desired consistency. You can serve immediately but I prefer to chill for a couple of hours and let the flavors really blend. IF YOU LIKE you can strain the mixture by pouring/pushing through a cheesecoth laid in a fine mesh sieve (this is what I have occasionally done) or a filtration bag…if you have any solids leftover you can discard.
Makes about 5 cups…store leftover "milk" in the fridge in a leakproof container (I LOVE Jaxx Shaker Cups) and shake before using...keeps for 3-5 days.
*Come on out to my next Smoothie 101 and learn more about that plus lots more relevant info like how to make sure your smoothies taste best by selecting veggies and fruits from the various taste categories, which veggies and fruits should always be purchased organic, how to store various veggies and fruits so they'll stay as fresh as possible for as long as possible, etc.