A mother drinks a smoothie through a straw with her daughter.
Looking for a surefire way to get your kids to eat vegetables? Try adding a handful of spinach or kale to a smoothie—they won’t even know it’s there! (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s quick and easy. It’s breakfast in a frosty glass. It’s lunch in a chilled cup.

Behold the smoothie—the all-encompassing, go-to item for nutrition, fluid, fiber, vitamins, minerals, calcium, carbohydrates and protein.

All this, in one meal.

Think about it: The Mediterranean diet—recognized as the ideal meal plan, regardless of a person’s body type and fitness level—places utmost importance on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts and legumes.

Most of these can easily be mixed into a smoothie. It’s truly the most efficient way to consume some of the five portions of fruits and vegetables that dietitians and nutritionists recommend we eat each day.

It’s also a great alternative to processed snacks or candy bars, as it provides a refreshing treat to fill your body with everything needed between meals.

Any good smoothie should contain many of the nutrients we need—vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats, and fluids.

“Smoothies are a great way to get a complete meal in a glass and stay hydrated if you do it right,” said Irene Franowicz, RD, a certified diabetes educator with Spectrum Health and instructor from Eating the Mediterranean Way. “Stay away from these high-glycemic smoothies that are mostly fruit and sugar, and you won’t get the crash in blood sugar after.”

To get started, simply take a quick survey of your refrigerator, dust off your blender and start picking your favorite flavors.

Adding berries and fresh baby spinach will make for a higher-fiber, lower-glycemic smoothie, Franowicz said. It’s also an ideal snack before and after workouts.

“Make sure to have a protein source like Greek yogurt, protein powder or even raw almonds blended into your smoothie to increase the staying power,” Franowicz said.

Supercharge it

Smoothies provide a sneaky way to eat more vegetables.

Raw vegetables contain more nutrients than the cooked versions because heat destroys some key compounds. Increasing the number of fresh fruits and vegetables in a smoothie is a great way to replace all the processed foods in your diet.

You can easily add beneficial ingredients that supercharge your pre-and post-workout.

Add beets, for instance, to increase your body’s intake of oxygen, or add coconut water to naturally replace electrolytes.

Blender goodness

Making a smoothie? It’s this easy: Place all your ingredients in a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. Each serving should be about 12 ounces.

How much could you realistically have on a daily basis? Tufts University suggests the following formula: Take your present weight in pounds—it doesn’t necessarily have to be your ideal body weight—and divide it in half.

The resulting number gives you the amount, in fluid ounces, that you can consume daily. If you’re 160 pounds, for example, you can consume about 80 ounces per day.

Here are some delicious recipes to get you started:

Berry Blast

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 frozen banana
  • Add a handful of spinach
  • 1 cup mixture of frozen strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

Creamy Carrot

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Green Goodness

  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice

For an extra power-packed recovery drink, simply add one or two tablespoons of protein powder. You can also add protein by spooning in some yogurt, tofu, and buttermilk or soy milk.

For another nutrition boost, add a Carnation Instant Breakfast packet, and add a handful of baby spinach or Chia seeds—a good plant source of protein for muscle strength and recovery. (It’s a subtle taste; you won’t even know it’s in there.)

If you have lactose intolerance, try using tofu in place of yogurt. Tofu adds a great creamy texture, without adding any lactose. It takes on the flavor of whatever you’ve added and it provides some important soy protein, iron, fiber, and calcium.

Cool tricks

If you use frozen fruit in your smoothie you’ll get a richer, fruitier taste than if you had simply added crushed ice. Also, use fresh, frozen whole strawberries or sliced peaches or raspberries, rather than the frozen fruit that comes in a box.

If your bananas are starting to turn brown, put them in the freezer for future use. It’ll make your smoothie frostier when you add them.

To save time, blend up a double portion of a smoothie and then divide it in half, so you can enjoy one half now and one half for breakfast the next day. If you’re partial to super-fresh smoothies, all you have to do is place the mixture in the blender again and add a few new items to freshen the batch.

Any leftovers can be frozen as fruit pops for a quick and easy snack.

Do’s and don’ts

So there you have it. A smoothie can be the healthiest go-to option for your busiest day, but only if you pack it full of the good stuff.

Baby spinach is a good plant source of protein for muscle strength and recovery. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Baby spinach is a good plant source of folate, iron, and beta-carotene. Protein powders and nuts, help in muscle strength and recovery. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

If you’re trying to decide which items to add, here’s a helpful list of the do’s and don’ts:
Do include:

  • Chia seeds and chia seed gel
  • Flax seeds and oil
  • Fresh or frozen fruit including bananas, berries, mango or pineapple
  • Fresh juice
  • Fresh sprouts
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables including spinach, baby kale, beets, carrots or avocado
  • Fresh, filtered water
  • Herbs and spices (cinnamon, ginger, mint, nutmeg, tumeric, cardamom, all spice)
  • High-quality protein powders
  • Local, organic honey
  • Oatmeal
  • Regular milk, powdered milk, almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk
  • Raw nuts and nut butter
  • Superfoods (aloe vera, cacao, goji berries, maca, spirulina)
  • Tea
  • Various coconut products (butter, oil, flakes)
  • Yogurt (organic, Greek)

Don’t include:

  • Cheap protein powders
  • Cool Whip or whip cream
  • Cream soda
  • Ice cream and sherbet
  • Most bottled water
  • Non-organic peanut butter
  • Sugar as a sweetener
  • Sugar-laden fruit juices