Today I am sharing some Smoothie FAQs for you…
I proudly consider myself a smoothie pro at this point in my food career. Smoothies are one of the first recipes that I really loved creating and sharing here on the blog. And then I of course spent many months creating and taste-testing smoothies and trying out new techniques and ingredients while writing my book 365 Vegan Smoothies. Seriously, if you want some in depth tips and tricks and ingredient info – basically everything about smoothies – snag a copy of that book. Oh and did I mention it has 365 recipes? You won’t get bored!
You have smoothie questions…
So today I wanted to update an old post. My Smoothie FAQ’s. These are all the frequently asked questions I have received over the years in regards to smoothies. And please if you have any more, send them my way and I will do my best to add to this list! Plus, one of my fave Blueberry Acai smoothie recipes at the end of this post…
Good ol’ Google search for some smoothie question fun…
..And just to be clear, smoothies are (usually) not “bad for you,” they certainly could make you poop (fiber, guys…) and in my opinion a good smoothie beats a classic milkshake any day! Because vegan milkshakes to me, can be made as healthy smoothies, so. I get to more of your burning smoothie questions below!..
Q: Are Fruit Smoothies Good For Me?
A: Yes! But sort’ve. But so much yes! So ‘fruit smoothies’ come in all shapes and sizes. The average fruit smoothie is incredibly healthy. Packed with antioxidants, fiber, minerals, hydration and phytochemicals. However, things can take a downturn in healthfulness for two main reasons:
1. You or the ‘smoothie shop’ adds in a lot of ice cream, sherbet or sorbet. Some of the big smoothie chains use frozen yogurt, ice cream, sherbet and more to make their smoothies sweet and frosty. Those things are not ‘bad’ for you (I don’t really believe in good or bad foods) but they will add a ton of empty calories, sugar and not really add any good stuff.
In fact, since two scoops of sorbet will make your smoothie less healthy because it takes the place of a lot of good alternatives – like just adding more fruit, nuts, seeds, liquid. As someone who used to work at a big smoothie shop, I definitely can see how a smoothie made using two giant scoops of ice cream could get a bad reputation. Easily solved at home or on the go – nix the ice cream/sorbet and just add more fruit!
2. The other reason a smoothie could be less than healthy is simply if you are adding too many carbs and not balancing things out with healthy fats and fiber. For example, if you are making a smoothie with mostly fruit juice and just a bit of whole fruit and no fats or protein to balance things out, you could end up with just a very high carb drink. Not bad, just not as healthy as it could be.
So yes, there have been a few news articles that say smoothies are not healthy. But a smoothie is all about what you put into it! Fill it with healthy ingredients and you’ll come out on top. Plants, whole foods like nuts and seeds, superfoods, yes please.
Q: How to Add Healthy Fats?
A: Easy! Avocado, peanut butter, almond butter, sun butter, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut, Brazil nuts, walnuts… you get the idea, yes?
Q: How do I Get My Smoothie to a Thick Texture?
A: Tools and ingredient tricks! First off, having a high-speed blender is key to crafting the creamiest, smoothest smoothie. One that has the possibility for being both perfectly blended AND thick and creamy.
As for ingredients, you want to have 1) enough healthy fats to give your smoothie some body. 2) Use a higher ratio of frozen ingredients to fresh. So using frozen bananas instead of fresh will really help. Using less liquid and more frozen ingredients will also help. Keeping the temperature cool enough to hold some body and that signature swirl at the bottom of your blender.
When all else fails, add a handful of ice. It might water down the flavor a bit, but it will aide in keeping things thick.
My favorite ingredients for thick and frosty, almost ice cream like texture are…
Frozen bananas and frozen melon. Yup! Frozen melon (watermelon, cantaloupe and more) are my super secret ingredient for getting a unique and lovable texture. And watermelon actually works really well in a variety of smoothies because of it’s somewhat neutral sweet flavor. And frozen bananas are basically the gold standard for creamy, thick smoothie texture.
One more ingredient that helps: Medjool Dates! I find that little bit of sticky, fiber-rich date adds some body to my thick smoothies.
Q: When Should I Freeze Bananas for Smoothies?
A: Almost black speckled… My preference is to freeze them when they are nice and ripe, but not too black-speckled or ‘mushy’ yet. Maybe one or two black spots. I don’t like them too ripe because although they have more sweetness, the texture gets a bit mushy and the flavor ripens up too to where to banana flavor becomes very pronounced.
Q: Do I Have to Add Ice?
A: Nope! Ice is almost always optional in a smoothie. The function of ice is to cool off your blend a bit and add some frostiness. This can be especially helpful if the majority of your ingredients are NOT frozen. Such as using a lot of fresh fruit or veggies. When I do green smoothies with mostly room temperature or non-frozen ingredients I will always add a bit of ice for that cool chill and a bit of frostiness.
The only time you need to be careful with ice is if it is making your smoothie too frosty and even too thick – like a slushie. Or if it is watering down the flavors too much.
A fun trick is to make coconut water or fruit juice – or vegan milk – ice cubes! This lets you keep the ice part, but not lose any flavor.
Q: Why is Ice a GREAT Add?
A: I actually love using a lot of ice when I use a vegan protein powder that is sweetened. You can easily use some protein powder, milk or water and a big scoop of ice for a frosty, flavorful smoothie. Ice can also dilute some of the intense sweetness of some of the protein powders these days.
Q: When Should I Eat a Smoothie?
A: Anytime! Really. Unless you are about to swim ten miles or run a marathon, a smoothie is usually a great meal or snack for any hour.
I love smoothies for lunch. But I also love them at breakfast. Sometimes I have an odd craving for a big topping-loaded smoothie bowl for dinner! Or even as an after-dinner treat.
You do want to make sure your smoothie isn’t making you feel bloated – watch your serving size if that is a problem for you. And you also want to make sure you don’t get cold from it! In the dead of winter, right before going out to shovel snow… probably not the best smoothie time. But in general, smoothies are an anytime treat/snack/meal/sip!
Q: I Need a Recipe for a Dessert Smoothie! Any Recs?
A: So many.. I think a rich and creamy chocolate smoothie is probably the most popular dessert smoothie. I have a killer recipe in my book too.. The “i heart chocolate shake, pg 225” But almond butter banana with cinnamon is also nice. Or even something with crushed cookies blended in or cacao or chocolate chips. Using a lot of frozen bananas is usually a great idea to make your smoothie creamy and sweet. Medjool dates are another great natural sweetener.
Q: Should I Add Protein Powder?
A: Maybe! Adding a protein, superfood or functional powder to your smoothie is totally up to you. It will alter the flavor and texture – so keep that in mind. In general the ‘plain’ or non-flavored varieties are the safest if you don’t want your smoothie interrupted too much. But there are plenty of flavored varieties to try. Chocolate, vanilla, berry, peanut butter and many more. I tend to choose vanilla most often because it usually works well in banana-based smoothies. But chocolate can be fun too. Adding protein or superfood powders is a great way to easily turn your smoothie up a notch – nutritionally – and really make your smoothie a meal!
I love adding protein to my smoothies by adding a scoop of pumpkin seeds or walnuts or peanut butter.
One of my favorite smoothies: Simple Chocolate Protein Shake.
Q: What About Toppings?
A: Go for it. Toppings can be added to any smoothie. I like them because you get a bit of texture and chew action. Chewing can actually help digestion since it initiates the digestive process to “chew” something. You could add a few fresh fruit pieces or slices, nuts, seeds, granola or even crushed cookies!
My absolute favorite smoothie topping is sprouted spicy pumpkin seeds. I love that touch of salt and savoriness paired with my sweet smoothie.
Adding an overflow of toppings, including nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and even frozen fruit is how you can create a “smoothie bowl.”
Q: How Do You Make a Green Smoothie Taste Good?
A: Easy! Ok, not super easy, but yes it can be done! So when crafting a green smoothie, you want to think about what tastes and textures you usually like. If you usually like sweetish smoothies, go for sweet green flavors. Add in green grapes, sliced apple, pear, citrus, dates. Any fruit that is sweet, but will not mess with the color too much. I am all about my green smoothies keeping their lovely bright green color!
If you really just love creamy smoothies. Add things like avocado, nuts, seeds, creamy plant milk and more. All my fave plant milks here in my Plant Milk Review.
For me, just a touch of sweetness really helps a green smoothie. A few Medjool dates. Or a handful of green grapes. Or using half orange juice in place of plant milk. These are all ideas for you to play with. Or you can try this sweet green recipe here. I also have plenty of sweet green smoothies in both 365 Vegan Smoothies and FVMeals.
Q: What Are Some Unique Ingredients to Try?
A: I love unique ingredients! Try chia seeds, rolled oats, lemon or lime zest, spices like cinnamon or cayenne, sea salt to contrast sweet flavors, matcha green tea, frozen melon (my fave), pitaya (pink!!), coconut meat, frozen cherries, hemp seeds, avocado, silken tofu, raw ginger, molasses… Those are just off the top of my head. It’s fun to put tiny accents on old fave recipes. What are some of your oddball smoothie ingredients???
Q: Smoothies Make Me Cold, Can You Help?
A: Yes! Smoothies can effect your warmth comfort level pretty quickly. A large frosty smoothie can actually make you feel cold! Which is exactly why smoothies taste extra good on a hot day. But if the chill factor isn’t for you, you can easily use less frozen ingredients in your smoothie and omit any ice.
So an example of a non-frozen smoothie might be: almond milk, walnuts, fresh blueberries, fresh banana. Easy.
And if you really just can’t do the smoothie chill – maybe in winter – you can get into blending up hot soups! My fave is this sweet potato soup.
And if you really want to enjoy a smoothie on a cold day, simply don’t add as many frozen ingredients – OR – hop into a warm bubble bath after your smoothie! A bath might sound silly, but seriously, that is something I have done a lot because it feels so good to warm up after being chilled off with a smoothie.
Q: How Long Will a Smoothie Last in the Fridge?
A: If you want to make a smoothie and eat it later, I would advise a few things. Use less frozen ingredient and no ice. Basically, the water in ice and frozen fruit tends to melt and you get a separated, water mess.
So the best make-ahead smoothies are usually minimally frosty and have a higher fat content and are very well blended. It is also a good idea to use less fiber. What I mean by that is that a great make-ahead smoothie might contain plant milk, nut butter, coconut, Medjool Dates, protein powder… Something that will be creamy and rich rather than fruity and frosty.
I usually drink my smoothies right away, but if I do make it ahead, I will drink it within 24 hours.
Q: Are Smoothies Good for Weight Loss?
A: Possibly, I think smoothies can definitely help you lose weight if you are trying to do so. They pack FIBER and loads of nutrient dense foods like veggies, nuts, seeds, plant milk. And that fiber will help keep you feel full longer. Along with fiber, I always like to add healthy fats to my smoothies.
Eating more plants in general is a great tool for weight loss.
But like all wellness habits, maintaining a healthy weight stems from a variety of things. What you eat, how much you move, how you deal with stress, how much sleep you are getting and how your mental health is. Above all, your weight should be about feeling your best from the inside out. And if smoothies fit into your healthy lifestyle to get you there – absolutely embrace them. I personally think everyone would benefit from adding vegan smoothies to their daily routine.
Q: Are Smoothies Better Than Juicing?
A: Depends. I will always argue that smoothies are a healthier daily habit than juicing simply because you are getting that fiber that you want to feel satisfied. You are also getting a balance of fats, protein and carbs – not just mostly carbs as you do with juice.
However! I am a huge fan of juicing. Especially juicing veggies. Vegetables like celery, cucumber, beets, ginger, even kale can be juiced. I have yet to find a celery smoothie on the market, but you can easily eat an entire bunch of celery in one chug with celery juice.
So it really depends on what your goals are. If you just want to eat a large number of veggies/fruits very quickly and don’t care much for the fiber, then juicing is great. But for a more well-rounded meal, smoothies to me, are king.
I think that adding both to your life is a great move!
Q: Do I Need to Use Organic Fruit + Veggies?
A: No. You certainly do not have to use organic, but I would advise it when buying any of the ‘dirty dozen’ items of produce. Fruits and veggies where the skin is consumed. Berries, apples, peaches, leafy greens. You can get away with non-organic bananas and avocados and citrus, but really organic is not just great for us, it is a great option for the planet. So I like to always try to buy organic because of that reason.
Organic does tend to be more expensive, so choose it in moderation if need be. And if you do buy non-organic produce, – and even if you do – a fruit and veggie spray is a great way to boost the rinse before you consume your items. Obviously you cannot ‘wash’ frozen fruit though.
Don’t let non-organic keep you from choosing a smoothie over something less healthy though!
Q: Smoothies Make Me Feel Bloated, How Do I Help That?
A: A few things… First off, try reducing the quantity that you drink. I know some people like GIANT blends that fill the entire blender and drinking that much in one sitting might make you feel a big stuffed.
Second, you can try blending for a longer period of time to get more air out of the blend. A higher speed can break up air bubbles in the blend. Using a bit more liquid could also help that.
But really, my number one aide for when I feel like a smoothie might make me bloated is to consume it with something I can chew. Something small! Don’t overload on food and a giant smoothie, but just something light on the side. A side of avocado toast, or almond butter toast. Granola or seeds or nuts on top. For me, that usually helps.
Are you new to smoothies?? Your digestive system might just be reacting to the amount of fiber you are consuming at once. It takes time for your digestive system to adjust to lots of fruits and veggies and even hydration – if that’s not usually your thing.
I hear this a lot when people go vegan or start consuming a lot of big salads, legumes and veggies. It can take some time for your digestive system to get used to a lot of fiber.
There are so many factors that go into digestion. If you are feeling a bit off or bloated after eating – definitely talk to your doctor and ask for some help!
Q: What is the Healthiest Smoothie you Can Make?
A: The smoothie that you actually love and make again and again! Seriously, finding a smoothie you love and actually making it is your best bet. Obviously make sure your fave recipe has good-for-you qualities.
For me, the healthiest smoothies are all about balance and color! Those pigments are where the phytochemicals lie, so bringing color to your smoothie is so important. Using the skin and seeds of fruits (like easily done in berries) is one of the healthiest fruits you can use. As for veggies, pigments of course are still important, but you want to keep things delicious – so again balance.
You want to balance fats with carbs with a protein. And by balance I mean, have at least a little bit of all three. Healthy fats is a key one because your smoothie will satisfy your hunger longer and not cause a sugar/carb rush.
Some of my fave healthy ingredients include: wild blueberries, acai, bananas, nuts and seeds, nut butters, spinach and kale, matcha, cacao powder, plant-milks, acai and pitaya.
So whether you are building a sweet green veggie + fruit smoothie or crafting a rich and creamy wild blueberry shake, make sure you love it and use as many whole plant foods as you can, and try for a bit of protein and healthy fats in addition to carbs.
For fat, I love nuts and seeds.
For protein, I love pea or soy based milks. You can also supplement with protein powders.
And that smoothie recipe I promised…
Blueberry Acai Smoothie
- 1 cup non-dairy milk, plain
- 1 frozen acai smoothie pack, unsweetened
- 1 cup wild blueberries, frozen
- 5-10 Brazil nuts or walnuts
- 1-2 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 frozen banana
- ice, optional for texture
- Add the plant milk, dates and nuts to a blender. Blend until smooth.Add in the acai, berries and banana. Add optional ice. Blend until creamy.Serve!
nutrition estimate | per serving
And here are a bunch of my archived questions….
Q: Why do you use coconut water ice cubes?
A: I love to substitute plain old tap water ice cubes with coconut water ice cubes. I always have some on hand in my freezer – plus making cw cubes is a great way to use up the last sips of leftover cw bottles and tetra paks. Why do I do it? Well I adore coconut water for the mild flavor and the nutritional benefits – so I try to add it in anywhere I can. Coconut water ice cubes is a smart smoothie tip to sneak coconut water into you smoothie glass without simply watering it down. You don’t have to use the coconut water cubes – but if you have some around, they mesh well in virtually any smoothie recipe! See my Coconut water ice cubes post here.
Q: What’s the difference between non-dairy milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc) for smoothies?
A: I love my good old standby of soymilk. I specifically like vanilla soymilk in fruit smoothies. Soy Dream is a delicious brand. But my next choice for a non-dairy creamy beverage is hemp milk. I adore hemp milk – but quite frankly I don’t always have it on hand. Next up would be almond milk. And lastly I’d try rice milk. But rice milk is probably my least favorite milk to use in smoothies – simply because it lacks a rich creaminess in its texture.
Q: Why do you specify fresh vs frozen fruit?
A: Simple, it’s all about taste and texture. Fresh fruit is incredibly delicate and full of flavor! But it really doesn’t hold up on its own if you want a thick, frosty smoothie.
I usually combine a little bit of fresh fruit (for fresh bold fruit flavor) with a nice boost of frozen fruit for texture and a milder fruit flavor. Fresh fruit usually has a bolder flavor which can be very appealing. And as I say in my 20 smoothie tips, always add fresh fruit last in the blending process, so that you don’t over-mush the taste and texture of it.
Q: What’s the difference in sweeteners for smoothies?
A: Some options include Medjool Dates, agave, maple syrup and of course ingredients like bananas, fruit juice and other sweet fruits. Typically a fruit smoothie will have enough sweetness all on it’s own!
Q: Why do you add in little bits of random ingredients?
A: Sometimes I’ll add in a splash of lemon juice, a grind of ginger, a sprinkle of cayenne etc. But these are the little touches that make smoothies personal and unique – and cravable! No, you don’t have to add the little accents of cayenne, cashews, flax seeds, coconut or grind of ginger to your smoothie – but if you have the ingredients and want to be adventurous, go for it. And creativity is the key. You can easily make tiny modifications to my recipes based on your own tastes and cravings. I like to simply act as inspiration for your own smoothie and blender adventures.
Q: Raw nuts in a smoothie? Why?
A: I love adding a handful of raw nuts to some of my smoothies. It adds healthy fats, texture, body and nutrients. Basically, they help make things rich and creamy!
Q: What do I do if I don’t have a juicer for the fresh juice ingredients?
A: You can always use store bought juice – just try to buy high quality brands – preferably juice that is not from concentrate. But a juicer is also a great long term investment for your kitchen and health.
Q: What is this stuff… chai tea concentrate, coconut water, coconut water ice cubes, spirulina?
A: Here ya go…
- *Chai Tea Concentrate is a sweetened chai tea beverage in concentrated form. You can’t drink it on it’s own – but it is great for making soy chi lattes and adding to recipes and smoothies. If you can’t find this ingredient, use deeply brewed chai tea with a bit of liquid sweetener as a substitute.
- *Vanilla Soy Chai Beverage is specifically a drink from Bolthouse Farms. I buy it at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, simply use 1 part soy milk to 1 part chai concentrate as a substitution. A dash of vanilla extract would be helpful too – or use vanilla soymilk.
- *Cashew Juice is a unique beverage I buy from the ONE brand. They are mostly known for their coconut water – but the cashew juice is a trip! It’s tangy and sweet and has a long list of (unconfirmed) health benefits. Find it at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it – sub apple juice w/ a bit of lemon juice. More here.
- *Coconut Water see here.
- *Coconut Water Ice Cubes see here.
- *Spirulina is a green superfood powder. Learn more about it in this spirulina facts post. My Green Powder Taste Test here.
- *Aloe Juice is just what it sounds like – juice made from the aloe plant. It is not sweet and slightly bitter/sour. Add a tiny bit to your smoothie for some easy aloe benefits (aloe’s health claims are vast – though mostly unverified)
- *Probiotics see here.
- *Hemp Milk is a nondairy beverage that is gaining popularity for its high protein content as well as the high quality of the protein. Hemp, like soy, provides a complete protein – as well as a whole slew of other nutrients. More hemp info here and a hemp smoothie.
Q: What blending/juicing equipment do you use?
A: Meet my Orange X Citrus juicer here. Meet my SuperAngel Juicer here. I also did a Blender comparison review here: Blendtec vs. Vitamix vs. Oster fusion. And my Juicing 101 post is filled with tips! Update: I use + love my Vitamix right now. KitchenAid has an awesome PRO blender too.
Common Ingredient Substitutions.
Sometimes you don’t have fresh mango. Or you have 3 bags of strawberries, but no blueberries. I know, I’ve been there. Here are a few ingredient subs that are suitable for my smoothie recipes. note: some flavor profiles may be altered, so if you are subbing ingredients – use your palate to guide you.
Original Ingredient —- Approved Substitution
note: a two way arrow means
- Frozen Papaya —- Frozen Peaches or Mango
- Frozen Blueberries —-Frozen berries of any kind
- Frozen Strawberries—-Frozen raspberries or frozen peaches
- Frozen Mango—-Frozen Papaya or Pineapple
- Frozen Banana—-Possibly frozen Mango or a fresh banana w/ added ice cubes
- Frozen Raspberries—-Frozen strawberries
- Frozen Pineapple—-frozen peaches or mango plus some lemon juice for zestiness
- Fresh Kiwi—-fresh pineapple or fresh raspberries (both are nice and zesty)
- Fresh Peaches—-fresh apricots or nectarines. Possibly fresh strawberries or a banana
- Fresh Strawberries—-fresh raspberries
- Fresh Blueberries—-fresh blackberries or fresh banana
- Fresh ripe Banana—-hard to sub a fresh banana – they truly are a smoothie’s best friend.
General Substitutions Rule for Fruit:
Sub fruits with similar tastes and textures. Take the zestiness, creaminess, sweetness, seediness and sourness into account when finding a suitable sub.
most fresh ingredients cn be subbed with the frozen version of the same ingredient, say frozen strawberries for fresh strawberries – just take care to add a bit more liquid so the consistency doesn’t get too icy and thick. And on that same note, you can sometimes substitute a fresh ingredient instead of a frozen one. Say fresh blueberries for frozen blueberries-just be sure to add less liquid and a bit more ice.
Other Smoothie Substitutions:
- Soy Milk —- Hemp, Almond, Rice, Grain, Soy Milks can all be used interchangeably
- Nut Butters — Almond Butter/Peanut butter/Seed Butters can all be used interchangeably
- Apple Cider Vinegar —- lemon juice, tart apple juice or white vinegar (or omit if pref’d)
- Coconut Water ice cubes —- regular water ice cubes
- Chai Concentrate — same amount of chilled black or chai tea plus 1 tablespoon agave syrup per cup of liquid
- Vanilla Chai Milk Beverage — for 2 parts VCMB sub 1 part vanilla soy milk and 1 part chai concentrate
- Agave Syrup —- Maple Syrup and Agave Syrup can be used interchangeably … or sub ½ a banana or sweet apple cider for extra sweetness
- Cahsew Juice —- 5 parts apple juice to 1 part lemon juice
Any more??? Let me know your substitution questions in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.
Be sure to check out my 20 Smoothie Tips to help you blend like a Pro! for some great all purpose smoothie advice***
updated 2019 | orig post June 2010