The BasicsTo make a basic smoothie you will need fruit (frozen and/or fresh), a liquid to blend the fruit with, and blender. I use a Magic Bullet and I LOVE it. They don't pay me to say that or anything ;) But if they wanted to that would be great lol I love the Magic Bullet Blender because it's so easy to use. My regular blender is a lot harder to clean, and I have to transfer the smoothie from the blender to a cup...anyone who knows me will tell you that is just asking for a spill ;) With the Magic Bullet you are blending your smoothie in the cup. I can make multiple smoothies of different flavors really quickly and easily. I've also found that I don't have to use as much liquid to get everything to blend up. I like my smoothies to be really thick (like a milkshake), so being able to use less liquid is a good thing. If you don't want super thick smoothies you can use mostly fresh fruit (as opposed to all frozen fruit). If you want something in between you can use fresh fruit and a little ice (this will change the texture to something like an Icee).
If you are just getting into making smoothies you probably want to know what to put in them. Before you can really answer that you need to know why you are making the smoothie. Is it going to be a meal replacement so you can drink your breakfast on the go? Is it going to be a light snack? Are you trying to find a way to get more fruits and veggies in your diet? Are you trying to eat fewer calories and lose weight? Are you trying to maintain your current weight or gain weight? Everyone has different dietary issues to take into consideration, so there isn't one easy answer for what should be in the perfect smoothie.
Smoothies as a Mini MealIf you are making a smoothie to replace a meal you need to make sure that it's a balanced meal! My morning smoothies fall into this category. I use frozen fruit, baby spinach and 2% (lactose free) milk in pretty much every smoothie I make in the morning. I swear you cannot taste the spinach in the smoothies! My three year old and almost five year old drink them without even realizing they are getting a nice serving of leafy greens ;)
When I was trying to lose weight I used 1% milk or almond milk in my smoothies, but now I need more calories to maintain my current weight. Changing the milk I use was an easy/healthy way to get additional calories into my diet. Now...although I call my morning smoothie my "breakfast" it isn't one of three meals I have in a day....it's one of five to six meals I have in a day. I like to have a smoothie before I workout because anything heavier makes me feel weighed down and a little queasy while I'm working out. After I workout I have a second "breakfast" (usually eggs, whole wheat toast & yogurt with fruit), plus lunch, another snack, dinner, and a bedtime snack.
Smoothies for Snack TimeIf you are making a smoothie as a light snack you might want to opt for 1% milk, soy milk or almond milk. If you want a zero calorie liquid to blend your smoothie with I would recommend tea. Green tea or mint tea make really refreshing smoothies, and they have added health benefits (mint tea is good for digestion and green tea has antioxidants). I would avoid using store bought fruit juices or flavored yogurts in your smoothies, as they often contain added sugar and empty calories. Make sure you check the labels so that you know exactly what you are adding!
Heavy Duty Smoothies
If you're trying to put on weight or maintain your current weight you might want to add protein powder to your smoothies. I haven't gotten to this point yet, but I think I will be soon. If you are choosing a protein powder for your smoothies make sure you compare labels. They make low calorie, low carb, and all sorts of other varieties. Choose the one that best fits your personal needs.
So What Are YOUR Needs?
To figure out how many calories you should be consuming each day you need to know your BMR (basal metabolic rate). You can use the Harris Benedict Equation to calculate your BMR:
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 X weight in pounds) + (12.7 X height in inches) -- (6.8 X age in years).
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 X weight in pounds) + (4.7 X height in inches) -- (4.7 X age in years).
Now multiply your BMR by your activity factor:
Sedentary (little to no exercise) = BMR X 1.2
Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 times a week) = BMR X 1.375
Moderately active (exercise 3-5 times a week) = BMR X 1.55
Very active (exercise 6-7 times a week) = BMR X 1.725
Extra active (exercise 7 times a week more than once a day) = BMR X 1.9
This will give you the total number of calories that you need to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to lose weight you should subtract 300-500 calories per day. It's not a good idea to cut your calories more than this. If you don't get enough calories your body will actually hold on to fat and cannibalize your lean muscle mass. You want to get rid of that fat and hold on to that muscle. The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories your body will burn (even when you are sleeping!).
When I was trying to lose weight I was eating around 1700-1800 calories a day. As I've lost fat and gained lean muscle mass the amount of calories I need has increased. Now that I am not trying to lose weight I need 2000-2200 calories a day. I try to eat six times a day, so those calories are pretty evenly spread out between those six meals.
I'm not a huge fan of counting calories as a long term solution to managing your weight. If you are trying to lose weight I think it's a great way to see where you are vs. where you need to be. Track your calories during a "normal" day and see where you are. Then track your calories for two weeks of clean eating (making sure that you are eating the calories you need without going too far over or under). After that two weeks you should have a good handle on what you should eat and how much you should eat, and counting calories shouldn't be something you need to do to stay on track.
Click on the links above each picture for the recipe :)
***I am not a doctor, nutrition specialist, or personal trainer. Basically, I am not an expert. If an expert is advising you on your diet and/or exercise please follow their advice!