Strawberry, banana, chocolate – blend, sip and enjoy for good health! A smoothie can be an almost perfect meal in minutes. You can blend the fruits and vegetables of your choice with protein and healthy fats, and even drink it on your way to work. Smoothies are the ultimate convenience food for a quick, nutritious meal. They are perfect for days when you don’t feel like cooking but want a tasty, balanced meal or snack. The the best thing about smoothies is that they are so versatile. You can customize them to your food preferences, dietary restrictions, or the ingredients you have in your fridge or cupboard. And you can design them to address anything from blood purification, to anti-inflammation, to promoting greater energy, and more. The terms “protein shake” and smoothies are often used interchangeably, and when you use the right ingredients they can provide the perfect stable energy you need. But smoothies can also become blood sugar-spiking concoctions if you load on the fruit. Making a perfect smoothie doesn’t require a lot of skill, but there is an art to making a drink that tastes yummy and is nutritious. Here are 10 tips for the ultimate smoothie: 1. Start with a great base: Whole organic milk or yogurt, goat milk, or unsweetened hemp milk or almond milk, avocado or organic kefir are all great. 2. Choose an unsweetened protein: Whey protein boosts serotonin levels and raises glutathione, a detoxifying compound in the body. Make sure it’s either cross-filtered or ion-exchange. Or you can pour in raw milk or goat milk instead of using a protein powder. Hemp and pea proteins are newer options, and offer fiber that is highly digestible. Avoid soy protein isolates. They are highly processed foods which are usually genetically modified. Read the labels for any protein powders, and avoid any with artificial sweeteners or chemical preservatives. Look for the fewest ingredients possible. 3. Add fruit, but don’t go overboard. Piling on the fruit will create a very sweet smoothie that can spike your blood sugar. Stick to 1-2 fruits per smoothie. Choose fruits in season, such as apples and pears in the fall, or peaches, nectarines and berries in summer. Blueberries, strawberries or any seasonable berries are delicious and low in sugar. You can also buy organic berries to keep in your freezer and add to your smoothie. Add a half a banana to create a creamy texture, and try pineapple to relieve aching joints. 4. Add greens for chlorophyll. You can use a green powder, or throw in a small handful of spinach, kale or Swiss chard. Parsley, cilantro and mint are excellent blood purifiers and make the smoothie taste fresh and invigorating. 5. Spice & sweeten. Customize your smoothie to your taste by adding your favorite spices and herbs. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg add wonderful flavor. Vanilla, peppermint and almond extracts all add subtle nuances that can bump your smoothie from ho-hum to delicious. If your smoothie isn’t sweet enough, add Stevia (you can even find Stevia flavored with hazelnut and vanilla). Maple syrup is delicious and natural, and there are many kinds of honey that provide vitamins as well as sweetness. You can also blend in a few dates for natural thickness and sweetness. 6. Liquid luxury: Most people think of water to increase the liquid (especially if you used yogurt or kefir as a base), but you can add leftover tea or coffee instead. Simply pour any leftover coffee or tea from your pot into a jar and store it in your fridge so you always have a tasty liquid to blend into your smoothie. Try matching coffee with cacao powder for a mocha smoothie, or green tea with pineapple and ginger for a refreshing and energizing lift. You can also experiment with coconut water, which adds flavor and electrolytes, or antioxidant-rich pomegranate, dark cherry, or blueberry juice. Be careful not to add too much, as it can spike your blood sugar. 7. Go nuts…and seeds or oils: Add a small handful of sesame seeds (look for black sesame seeds to boost antioxidants) or hemp seeds. Or add a spoonful of hemp, flax or coconut oil, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. Adding these oils will increase the energy-stabilizing, satiating, and (believe it or not) weight loss effects of your smoothie. 8. Super-food it: To make a powerhouse smoothie, you can add chia seeds, maca powder, matcha powder, goji berries, cacoa nibs or powder, camu camu, lucuma powder, spirulina, or any number of superfoods. Some of them can be a little pricy, but you only need a spoonful at a time, so a little goes a long way. 9. Blend in the right order. Add ingredients in the order of how smooth you want it. For example, kale is not great when it’s chunky, so put it in first with the liquid and blend until smooth. Fresh strawberries can become mushy, so add them at the last minute and blend gently. If you’re adding ice, add it at the last minute so you don’t over-blend it into water. 10. Customize it: The temperature and consistency make a big difference. Bananas and strawberries blend better when frozen than when fresh. Experiment with fresh verses frozen fruit, and try adding a little ice to find the temperature that works best for you. Also experiment with the consistency. If you like a milkshake-like consistency, add nut butters, more banana, or oats. To thin your smoothie, add more liquid. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s easy to get into a smoothie rut, so switch it up. Challenge yourself to buy a new ingredient each time you visit your health food store, and incorporate it into your smoothie. You can also get inspiration from your favorite desserts by recreating them into your favorite smoothie. Chocolate cream pie, anyone?