When I want a smoothie, it's rare that I look up a recipe to make one. Instead, I follow a basic formula that's worked for me time and time again. As long as I make sure to include ingredients that will make my morning beverage satisfying enough to keep me from getting hungry before lunch, I know I can use just about anything I like.
According to Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition, I'm onto something. She says, "a well balanced smoothie contains fiber rich fruit, veggies, protein, and healthy fats." And there are a ton of great ingredients that fit into all those categories. "The protein and healthy fats can come from a variety of ingredients," she explains, "such as Greek yogurt, milk, nut butters, chia seeds, and hemp seeds." Fiber-rich fruits like berries and apples are also great options to include, as are leafy greens and vegetables that are easy to camouflage, like cauliflower and cucumbers.
Whipping up a smoothie from scratch is also way faster than using a recipe, because you don't have to go looking for one whenever you have a smoothie craving. You can simply pop all the ingredients you want to use into a blender, give it a whirl, and dig in. If this sounds like the way you want to start making smoothies, here's exactly how to do it.
There is a specific ratio you should try to follow to guarantee that your smoothie is satisfying.
Pine says that for a basic 16-ounce smoothie you'll want to use 1 cup of fruit, 3/4 cup liquid, 1/2 cup of a protein source, 1 cup of leafy vegetables (or 1/2 cup of non-leafy vegetables), and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a healthy fat source. You can add spices like turmeric or herbs like mint in whatever amount you like. The only thing she says you might want to minimize or avoid are ingredients with a lot of added sugar, which is the case for some brands of yogurt, nut butter, and protein powder (just be sure to take another look at the ingredients list before you check out). And she says to use sweeteners like honey and agave in moderation, because there's already a lot of sugar in your fruit, and your final product may otherwise turn into a total sugar bomb. If that's what you want, go for it, but if you want a smoothie that will keep you full an energized until lunch, it's a good tip to keep in mind.
And these are all the ways I put the ratio into action.
For this story, I went ahead and used the formula to make four smoothies with completely different ingredients—two vegetarian, two vegan. They all turned out pretty delicious and I didn't have to look at a single recipe to come up with them. I followed my tastes and here's what I ended up with.
The first was a tropical vegan number.
Using 1 cup frozen mango, 2 tablespoons frozen avocado, 1/2 cup of silken tofu, 3/4 cup of orange juice, and 1/2 cup cauliflower, I was able to make a tasty nourishing treat. If you've never used silken tofu before, now's the time to try it out in a smoothie. It's super soft, and it doesn't really have a flavor, so it blends in well with its supporting ingredients, and it gives the smoothie a light, pudding-like texture. I also tried to use frozen fruits and veggies whenever possible, because I didn't have to add any ice to ensure my final product was chilled. The cauliflower worked perfectly in the smoothie because its mild flavor was easily overpowered by the mango and the orange juice.
The second tasted like cherry pie, and was packed with protein.
This one was definitely not vegan but it was oh-so delicious. I used 1 cup of cherries, 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 cup of spinach. I opted for fresh spinach over frozen, because I find that when it comes to leafy greens, they are better incorporated into the smoothie when they're fresh. Here, the green spinach makes for a green smoothie, because the red colors overpowered the green, but I'll show you how to make one in a bit.
The third was another vegan option, this time using chickpeas as the protein source.
Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City-area, tells SELF that legumes are one of her new favorite things to add to smoothies, because they're relatively flavorless, but they add a bunch of protein and fiber. I took her tip and used it to make a peanut butter and jelly smoothie with 1/2 cup of blueberries, 1/2 cup of strawberries, 1 tablespoon of oats, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of chickpeas, 3/4 cup of almond milk, and 1 cup of spinach. You couldn't taste the chickpeas, but the PB and J flavor really came through.
The final smoothie was green and refreshing.
To make a smoothie that is actually green in color, you need to make sure that none of the other ingredients you're using will overpower the green ingredients. So for this, I stuck with fruits that have white flesh, like apples and bananas. I used 1/2 cup apple, 1/2 cup banana, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup kale, 1/2 cup cucumber, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, and 3/4 cup orange juice. The result was bright green and super tasty—in fact, it was my favorite of the bunch.
As long as you keep that basic ratio in mind, you can make the smoothie of your dreams a reality in no time.