Sometimes I just throw a bunch of fruit and liquid into the blender and hope it comes out as a tasty smoothie. While always drinkable, some concoctions are better than others. Tonight I threw together ½ of a frozen banana, ½ of an apple, ½ cup of frozen raspberries, a little orange juice, 2 cups of baby spinach and stevia powder for my daughter. Despite its mucky-brown color, it tasted pretty good.

I drink smoothies primarily at breakfast, or to get extra servings of vegetables and fruit into my kids. I like to add whey or hemp protein – a complete, raw protein source – especially after strength training or a very long workout. For whey protein – I look for whey protein isolate as the first, or only, ingredient along with stevia as a sweetener. I like Jay Robb’s (despite the cheesy label featuring him in an open Hawaiian shirt) and Whey Factor. I have also used Whole Foods’ 365 brand.  I usually buy vanilla because you can always flavor it with chocolate – but if you buy chocolate, you are stuck.

Hemp protein provides less protein per serving than whey, but it is a rare complete vegan protein – meaning it supplies all the amino acids your body needs. It adds a bit of an earthy flavor to smoothies, it isn’t entirely unpleasant, but be prepared. It also speckles them with brown flecks —  again, be prepared. Hemp contains just about as many calories as whey per serving and is a staple of vegan bodybuilders and athletes. Four tablespoons of EFA Gold Hemp Protein contains 14 g of fiber and 11 g of protein with 130 calories.  Hemp protein is easily digested and readily available to muscles, much like whey.  

When I pay attention and actually have all the right ingredients on hand, I try to make one of these smoothies – because they are extra yummy.

Banana Butter

In a blender, whir together 1 frozen banana, 2 tbsp. of almond or cashew butter, 1 cup of almond milk (or hemp milk, or soy milk, or cow’s milk). Add a couple of ice cubes for extra coldness. You can add protein powder if you like, but it tastes like ice cream. At least, that’s what I tell myself.  (350 to 400 calories, depending on the milk you use – protein powder increases the calorie count, so keep that in mind).

Strawberries and Greens

Blend together 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of milk (choose any type), 1 cup of baby spinach, 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries and 1 frozen bananas. Again, either whey or hemp protein blends in, but I usually give this one to my kids, so I’m just happy they get the greens.

Papaya Smoothie

Whip together ½ of a frozen banana, 1 date (for sweetness), ½ cup water and 3-4 ice cubes, ½ cup papaya, ½ cup pineapple, 1 tbsp. of flaxseed meal and 1 tbsp. of hemp protein. You could add a tbsp. of coconut oil – the health benefits of which are impressive, but not 100 percent proven. Coconut oil is high in calories and saturated fats, but the medium chain type which are apparently not damaging to your health as the type found in animal products. I haven’t fully jumped on the coconut oil train, but am not a complete naysayer either.  It does add a pleasant tropical taste to this smoothie.

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