I’m in two minds about smoothies.
On the one hand, they contain a boatload of nutritious ingredients and can be prepared in a flash — that’s great.
On the other, they can lead to rushed breakfasts and mindless eating, and can thus be a marker of a hectic lifestyle. I mean, who hasn’t slurped their smoothie in the car or in front of their computer?
Not only is mindless eating “un-Mediterranean,” it can also cause digestive upset and make meals less satisfying (and when we’re not satisfied, we tend to want to eat more). Nonetheless, I will share my smoothie recipe with you if you promise me you’ll sit down at a table (not a desk or car seat), sip it slowly and savor its flavors, aromas, color, texture. Yes, you can find those 5 minutes!
What’s great about this breakfast is that it’s quick and easy to prepare and provides pretty much everything the body needs:
- A substantial serving of high-quality protein, which keeps you full until lunch and helps stabilize blood glucose levels and mood
- Healthy plant and animal fats, ditto re. satiety and mood
- Fiber to help regulate bowel function and feed your gut bacteria (more mood benefits!)
- Probiotics, those very bacteria, which play countless beneficial roles in our bodies (mood-enhancement, anyone?)
- Anti-inflammatory compounds in berries, fermented dairy, nut butter and avocado (yes, that too — inflammation is linked to depression)
- Calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and also highly satiating — another reason this meal will keep you going for hours
- Hydration (water isn’t the only fluid that provides hydration; anything that contains water — in this recipe, yogurt and berries, as well as added water & ice cubes — will hydrate you)
Lastly, did I mention it’s delicious? Creamy, tangy, fruity — a delight for the taste buds. And, unlike so many commercial drinking yogurts, this smoothie is free from artificial colorings and flavorings (unless you count vanilla or almond extracts — which you’re welcome to omit if you prefer) and added sugar. If you’re not used to the tartness of unsweetened yogurt, you can start out by adding a smidgen of maple syrup or non-glycemic sweeteners like stevia or erythritol and wean yourself off them over time.
It’s versatile, too: You can vary kefirs (people eating vegan diets can use cashew kefir, for example; and if you’re lactose-intolerant you can use lactose-free kefir), fruits (stick to the low-glycemic ones that don’t spike your blood sugar: all berries, peaches and apricots) and fats (I alternate between avocado, almond butter and walnut or olive oil). These are all classically Mediterranean ingredients.
As for the protein portion of this meal, I know — protein powder is not a classically Mediterranean ingredient, but given that many of us do better when we consume more protein (most adults need 25-30 g/meal), it can be helpful to have a stock of unflavored, unsweetened protein powder you can easily add to smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, overnight oats, chia pudding, etc. And if you’re a whole-food purist, you can replace it with Greek yogurt (though you’ll need to add a little more water as it’ll be quite thick.)
If your mornings are crazy-busy you can prepare this the night before, pour it into a leak-proof container (Mason jar or protein-shaker bottle), store it in the fridge and grab it on your way out the door the next morning. And if you’re tired and depleted by health issues or other life challenges, you’ll love how little time and energy this recipe takes.
- 5 oz raspberries, frozen equivalent to about 1 cup. Can be replaced with 5 oz frozen strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen peaches, nectarines, apricots.
- ¼ large, ripe avocado can be replaced with 3 tbsp chopped walnuts, 1½ tbsp nut butter or 1¼ tbsp oil (olive, walnut, hazelnut or almond)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract optional; I use vanilla with berries; when I use stone fruit like peaches, nectarines or apricots, I add a few drops almond extract)
- pinch freshly grated lemon zest optional
- ½ cup water more or less, to achieve desired consistency
- ¼ cup kefir plain, whole
- 3-4 ice cubes optional
- 1-2 tsp maple syrup optional
- 1 serving protein powder my favorite is AGN Roots' whey protein isolate from grass-fed Irish cows; my favorite plant-based protein powder is Wilderness Poets' hemp protein powder
- If using frozen berries, place these in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to defrost.
- Combine berries, avocado (or nut butter, walnuts or oil -- whichever using), vanilla extract, lemon zest (if using), ½ cup water, kefir and ice cubes (if desired; if not, use a whole cup[ of water) in a high-powered blender. Seal lid tightly and process for about a minute until you obtain a smooth, creamy liquid.
- Add whey protein powder and process for another 2-3 seconds -- just enough time to blend it with the smoothie. (Blending whey protein powder for more than a few seconds produces a lot of foam that's hard to drink.)
- Pour into serving glass if drinking right-away or transfer to a protein blender bottle or food thermos if you're traveling. If you make this in advance, keep refrigerated; do not store for more than 12 hours.