Since a few of you asked for smoothie recipes, I thought I'd do a post about Smoothies. I have a some hints about techniques and some "tricks" I use to make my shakes fulfilling AND filling.

First off I want to mention that my shakes are either my breakfast, or a tide-me-over-so-I-don't-eat-my-arm tool. Therefore I do try to get as much fluffy bang for my calorie buck as physically possible. In other words...low cal, but very filling. My shakes NEVER exceed 350 cals, period. Usually they are under 250 or even less,  before I add the toppings (infinite possibilities there), and they are enormous. I can give you some ideas if you want to beef up your shakes but my shakes are pretty much huge fluffy containers of air, ice and poofy protein. Often they are like two shakes rather than one- they are that voluminous.

I'll make my morning/breakfast smoothie and stick it in the freezer while I have a pre-shake green drink that is really more of a juice (recipe another time) - and my coffee. If I have time, I'll eat one of the smoothies with a spoon out of a bowl- with a topping and some nut butter. If I'm running out the door for a class, then the shakes go with me in a couple of to-go containers in a cooler and they get consumed before and after my workout, depending on my hunger level. They fill me up and satisfy me. They wouldn't do the same for everyone- so modify as you see fit!

Don't get scared but my shakes usually contain some or all of the following:
  • Water
  • Protein powder
  • Thickening Gums
  • Stevia
  • Sugar-Free Fat-Free Pudding (just a sprinkle)
------------------Everything below is totally optional----------------------
  • Fruit or even veggies (Kale, red bell pepper)
  • Nut Butter (optional, and often used as a topping on a spoon)
  • Flavor Extract (a few drops)
  • Crystal Light (a samll sprinkle)
  • Sugar-Free Torani Syrup
  • Ice- usually almost as much volume as water
  • extras like cooked, then frozen wheatberries, or cacao nibs
You could make a perfectly fabulous shake with half the ingredients listed above, so do not feel that it is necessary to use all of it. This has just been what works for me.

Water and ice

I use a lot of both- this is what gives me the volume. I'd say I use about 2 cups of water and a good handful of ice cubes. This makes about 2 fluffy, air-filled shakes. To make them more dense and creamy, cut back on both ice and water. Hint: If it gets too icy, add a bit more guar gum and perhaps a tiny bit of xanthan (see below).

Many people like to use a different liquid... some thoughts: milk, soy milk, almond milk, kefir, yogurt, greek yogurt, buttermilk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk. Skies-the-limits.

Protein Powder

Truth be known I'm a protein powder hussy. I don't have a particular favorite and I buy whatever is on sale.  My only requirement is for it to be low in carbs as I'd rather eat my carbs elsewhere (hello popcorn or fruit!). I usually have on hand at any given time: Vanilla Whey, Vanilla Soy, Chocolate Whey, Chocolate Soy, A flavored Whey (like chocolate peanut butter etc).

I love the HMR powder I used years ago.  I also like Jay Robb whey (thanks Heabs for the packets!) as it's nice and fluffy. Also Skinny Mini is a favorite and happens to be soy chocolate. Many people opt to go au natural and skip the powders. I buy them  because I've got it ingrained in my head that they are a good source of protein (they supposedly have all of the amino acids and other goodies that the experts recommend for muscle recovery etc) and they do fluff up really nicely.

There are a zillion types of protein powders out there- Heabs also sent me some Rice Protein and while it's good in oats and warm things, I didn't love it in the shake. Also, there's hemp protein, brazil nut protein, the list goes on and on. Peruse the health food store for ideas.


I am a huge fan of xanthan gum (XG) and guar gum (GG) for getting the right consistency of the shakes. In my experience, XG makes shakes thicker and GG makes it creamier. But it is the synergistic effect of adding the two together that makes the magic occur. Now, you should check out the links to Wikepedia that I provided so you can familiarize yourself with these gums. They originate from sugars in some way, and sometimes cause GI upset, though that's never been a problem for me. They are used in millions of products- next time you're at the store- try reading some labels (ice creams, salad dressings, powders, the works)- I think you'll be surprised how prevalent they are! Some of you may opt out at this point- that's ok!

Basically you need very little XG and twice the amount of GG. Again, this is my experience. And I don't measure them! I just sprinkle and shake. However once I measured out of curiosity and it was about 1/4 tsp of XG and 1/2 tsp of GG for one GINORMOUS shake or two normal sized shakes. A WORD OF CAUTION: There is a point of no-return with the XG however- if you add too much, it becomes a gelatinous blob and must go down the sink- OR can be saved by diluting the heck out of it and doubling the amount. Trust me folks- there's a lot of trial and error, but it's worth it in my opinion.

If you cannot or do not want to use the gums, your best bet is adding a frozen banana.


I'm currently on the fence about Stevia. After years of despising the taste and using Splenda, I finally grew to like the powdered stevia I found at Trader Joe's. However, I know there's controversy about it (as with EVERYTHING)...and it is sooooo sweet. Some people add absolutely no sweeteners to their shakes. Often the fruit provides enough sweetness.

Truth be known, I don't use much fruit inside my shakes anymore as I'd rather use it as a topping or eat it later in the day with yogurt.  However, frozen rhubarb - while a bit tart - makes for a fluffy, thicker shake and I use it in all of my "fruity" shakes. I buy fresh organic rhubarb and cut it up and stick it in the freezer, where I will take a huge handful for each shake. You can use any kind of fruit- but I recommend that it is cut up and frozen.

If you do use frozen bananas, cut back on the gums or the smoothie will get too thick. In fact one of the BEST, life-changing recipes floating in the Blogosphere is Banana soft serve "ice cream" made by just putting frozen nannerz in a food processor for like 4 minutes, scraping it down- til it magically becomes "ICE CREAM"- amazing. There are some carby wondrous properties that bananas inherently possess - this is what helps them make smoothies so fabulous.

Nut Butters

The only nut butters strong enough to impart flavor when incorporated into a smoothie (ie you can actualy taste it) are peanut and sunflower.  Personally, I now only consume nut butters on the spoon with which I'm eating my smoothie.

Puddings, Extracts, Evil Flavorings with terrible chemicals

I am trying to approach this with some balance. I use VERY little of each of these items-- we're talking a sprinkle or a few drops- they really do add flavor and for me, they make a difference. In a perfect world, I would use alternative flavorings. For example, instead of the Crystal Light I might try Pom juice, concentrated Cranberry or Blueberry juice. When I run out of the chocolate pudding, I'll use a cocoa or carob powder. However, sugar-free pudding flavors like Cheesecake, Butterscotch, and Pistachio are a bit harder to replace- not to mention Banana Cream! I'm not too concerned about the extracts. I use so little and they really do add flavor. For me, it works. Almond extract works great to enhance a peanut butter flavor.

Torani Syrups:

I am going to relinquish my massive Torani Collection as I run out. Really I am. As I use so little of it every time, that might occur when I'm 87. If you have any of these, you will probably want to use them, but if you don't have them- please don't start.

Extras, not including toppings:

OK here's where it can get interesting. In my opinion the extras can make or break the shake. I LOVE to have a little bit of "chew" in my shake. And cooked, frozen wheat berries (or oat groats or spelt berries- any cooked large-sized grain)- fits the bill. Also, Cacao nibs are super yummy and crunchy for very few calories. However- VITAMIX PEOPLE...Do not obliterate these guys on high speed or you will not be able to get the fun crunch/chew factor. Chia seeds can also be added but as many of you know, you can't really taste them- they get lost in the mix. You can add flax seeds and other things too. Sadly, I find that nuts get lost in the mix too- unless you chop them and stir them gently in. I'd save them for the topping in your bowl.

A word about the magic of Ice Cube Trays-

For all of those kids out there like me with an old-school fridge, ice cube trays rock the house. You can freeze anything and everything, and if it's Smoothie-friendly- all the better. I've frozen canned pumpkin and made pumpkin pie smoothies (with pumkin pie spice, vanilla powder etc). You can freeze every kind of milk in trays:  coconut, soy, almond.  I even freeze regular milk and have done so for YEARS, as my Mom did before me. Use your imagination and if you're headed out of town and those liquids would otherwise be tossed, why not freeze them and give them a new lease on life?

OK. I'm exhausted from hearing myself babble on about smoothies. Now I want to hear YOUR thoughts and brilliant ideas.

Oh, before I go, here's my favorite standard, every-day, go-to shake:

The PB&J Smoothie:

  • 1-2 cups water or other liquid
  • scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp GG
  • 1/4 tsp XG
  • few drops almond extract
  • scant splash Sugarfree Torani (crack) Peanut Butter syrup
  • sprinkle vanilla sugar-free fat free pudding
  • handful rhubarb mixed berries to taste: strawberries mainly, plus sprinkle of raspberries, blue- and blackberries
  • 1/2 to 1 T (or more) of Peanut Butter
  • sprinkle of Crystal Light in Raspberry Ice flavor to taste
  • 1+ cup of ice.

Let it bring you back to the days when you wore knee socks and opened up your Scooby-Doo Lunch Pail after Mrs. Abbott dismissed you for lunch...mmmm....Enjoy and let me know what you think!



Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

Haha - I've seen that smoothie recipe before, but I think you left out the pudding part. Bet that does thicken up the mix - I should try the agar agar again.

So glad you wrote an entire post about your smoothie knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! I get so many questions about the gums - now I can just link to this post.

Internet woes - I feel your pain my friend. :(

Deb said...

Oh heabs, don't worry. I wasn't holding out the great pudding secret... Honestly I forget to use it about 70% of the time! And it's just a sprinkle. As I said , it'll be cocoa powder after it's used up! Oohh or perhaps cacao powder!

dancingaroundthekitchen said...

Because I subscribe to the everything in moderation approach, I love that you throw in some of the "bad" things! My personal fave is a banana, frozen strawberries and Light Lemonade. I know I should just use water and a little lemon juice, but sometimes it is just easier.

Oh that and as a treat I will make a tropical smoothie with froz pineapple, mango, papaya and deit sprite. It is so yummy!

Deb said...

Dancing: great idea with the lemons/lemonade- must make it kinda zesty. Love your Tropical smoothie. I sometimes add sparkling water to mine for a change-up- the diet sprite you use is the same idea :-)

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

What a fabulous post...I enjoyed your gums report, too. I was just doing some reading that guar gum is actually found within the legume family which makes it related to peas and soy and all things beans. This was on a food allergy board so every food can tie into another food type of thing geneaologically speaking. Ok this is way too deep for a comment. Nice post, I am enjoying your blog, courtesy of HEAB linking you once.

Deb said...

Hi Averie! Thanks for continuing to read! :-)

And also for your useful info on Guar gum- I hope that doesn't mean it's bad for people with soy intolerances? It seems to be used in a lot of hypoallergenic baked goods according to the website of the brand I happen to have on hand now.

All I know is that the gums make the difference for me. I know they don't put them in at smoothie shops, but many of the protein powders already have them in them (oops, guess I should have mentioned that in the post, but forgot- doh! :-) )

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Well I am on allergy yahoogroup boards where there are extremely soy-sensitive people so this is way over and beyond 99% of the population. But since guar gum is derived from a legume (guar bean) and since soy beans are also legumes, there is a distant relation in the food chain family. Both legume derivatives in this case. Which is why it follows that super reactive people to soy cannot tolerate guar gum(or XG for that matter either).

If there is anything that's true with food manufacturing it's that 1. food manufactures lie or 2. they don't even understand the complex relationship of the ingredients so that's why people with food allergies must read, read, read the labels. And of course trial and error.

I just read your whole post in detail BTW, excellent post.

BTW do you do these in a Vitamix (I have one) ? I cannot get banana soft serve btw to work in my Vitamix, and I dont have a food processor.

Thanks for the great info!

Deb said...

Averie- You are right- I've heard banana soft serve does not feel the love for the Vitamix! Needs a food processor, and a little patience.

Re. which blender(s) I use...until I got my Vmix a few months back I was just using my little baby Back-To-Basics blender believe it or not! (see a Tale of Two Blenders in my blog archive). Now it depends. Usually it's the vitamix but not always. And I have a Kitchen Aid blender that also has a food processor attachment (love that two-for-one usefulness)but I only use that if I'm without my Vmix.

Thanks again for the allergy info. I am very fortunate not to need to worry about that stuff (yet?!) :-D


Deb said...

Averie- You are right- I've heard banana soft serve does not feel the love for the Vitamix! Needs a food processor, and a little patience.

Re. which blender(s) I use...until I got my Vmix a few months back I was just using my little baby Back-To-Basics blender believe it or not! (see a Tale of Two Blenders in my blog archive). Now it depends. Usually it's the vitamix but not always. And I have a Kitchen Aid blender that also has a food processor attachment (love that two-for-one usefulness)but I only use that if I'm without my Vmix.

Thanks again for the allergy info. I am very fortunate not to need to worry about that stuff (yet?!) :-D


Thinspired said...

So much good stuff in here, I am bookmarking it! Again with the gums, probably stuff I'll wait to try until we are "home." I do love frozen (RIPE) bananas in my smoothies and whey protein powder.

I notice you typically have yours in a bowl? Like a soup? That's pretty cool, actually. Less like a beverag, more like a meal!

Have you ever done a post that's sort of "a day in the life" (foodwise)? That would be neat.

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Thinny- Yes, definitely in a bowl. Makes me feel more "normal"...there's that word again! I have toppings and nut butters on a spoon like everyone who has oats does. Works for me.

haven't done a day in the life yet. I can barely get out a post every other day! Maybe some time soon! Thanks for the comment!

Allie (Protein Girl) said...

Jello and Torani? For shame girl! Hahaha! Where's the trans-fat Cool-Whip too? Come to think of it...sounds a lot like my cupboard. Have you ever tried TruWhip? It's an all natural cool whip topping.

I haven't tried xanthan gum yet (since crazy me bought the 12 pack of guar gum - enough for 4 lifetimes). Is it worth it? What's the difference between the two as far as thickening goes?

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Allie- welcome!

Trans-fat, unpronounceable chemicals- yeah, 'fraid so. I didn't even mention my FAVORITE addition is Carnation Malt powder! :-)

Yes, XG is soooo worth it b/c it has a synergistic effect with GG. The XG makes it thicker while the GG makes it creamier. Honest. Wouldn't lie about something sooooo important!!

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

Great info! Thanks! I'm bookmarking this post! And I will get my blender out of the garage... :)

hillary biscay said...

wow! love the frozen-cube-of-whatever trick! why didn't i think of that?! i am so going to freeze up some pumpkin tomorrow...just got some gluten-free graham cracker crumbs and i think this should be a good combo. thank you!

Lindsey said...

Hi there, I been a lurker around here for a while (I know Jen over at Girl Heroes and popped over here a while back) and I wanted to say thanks for all the great recipes and tips. I had your protein muffin this morning and am cooking sweet potatoes as we speak so I can make the sweet potato pie smoothie later. I even bough rhubarb today which is something new for me. I was wondering two things...where do you get your cocoa nibs? and how do you cook wheat berries before you freeze them? This sounds interesting to me. Thanks again

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Hi Lindsey! Glad you are finding this helpful. It means a lot to me! Re. your questions:
1. Wheatberries- you can also use rye berries, oat groats, any unprocessed grain: yes cook them first. Then drain them, put them in a baggies & into the freezer.
2. Cacao nibs- I've had no trouble finding them at health food stores. Often they are with the "raw" foods. Good luck!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Ps lindseY- sorry I didn't read your Qvery well: you cook any of those wheatberry type grains in boiling water until either "al dente" or soft, according to your taste & preference. Usually it's about 20' or so.

Kim Starbucks said...

I LOVE reading your blog! I am new to smoothies and just got a Blendtec. Mine are icy! I use the blendtec and run it like 4-5 times and they are icy. I use almond or coconut milk, protein powder, ice and the gums. Maybe I am using too much ice? I want mine to be creamy.

Would you suggest a Vitamix or any advice because your pics look so fluffy and delicious like soft serve!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Hi Kim!

Welcome and thanks for reading. Your Blend-tec should be absolutely fine! Re. your icy shakes. I find that if I add a little more guar, it gets more creamy and less icy. (but be careful, if you add too much, it becomes a gummy mess). As you mentioned, you might have to lower the amount of ice. And/or up the amount of liquid. Also you might want to add a sprinkle of sugarfree/fatfree pudding mix (so many flavors)to get it more creamy. Make sure that when you run it, you run it for a decent amount of time- at least a minute per run- then it seems to whip air into the mix. Good luck and report back!

Anonymous said...

hi Deb,

i'm brand new to your site and on the weight loss quest!! i love your blog and would love any and all posts about what you eat during an average day (sorry if you've already blogged this, also my cal count has to hover around 1200-1300) and i think i may try the smoothies for breakfast and lunch or snack because even though i eat very healthy, eating during the day seems to unleash The Beast for me, too :( i have an average blender that i'm praying works for me for these recipes :) i want something as low cal but filling as possible and always the focus on CHOCOLATE (i have a chocolate whey protein) and i'm wondering 2 things: how long should i blend this in my blender and then do i let it sit in the freezer? Also would adding peanut flour (been reading your blog about that!)be a stupid thing to do to get the peanut butter taste (to go with my chocolate!) or should i get the Torani Syrup? i'm thinking a PB/choc shake with a few berries might be just the thing. Dunno what the calories would be though!
Thanks! :) (PS would love more recipes!)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Hi Anon-
I don't like to post my eats (and quite frankly have never done so) because this isn't a 'what-I-ate' blog.

You mention that you eat 'very healthy' yet the beast of hunger plagues you. Perhaps you aren't eating enough? Or enough fat? or enough protein? A nutritionist can help you determine how 'healthy' your diet is or is not.

I am with you on the smoothies though as it IS what I do for MY breakfasts almost exclusively. Your 'average blender should be FINE! In fact, I often prefer my little blender over my Vitamix. I recommend blending it for at least a minute and maybe more- with lots of ice for fluff factor (the gums help make it fluffier and less icy). And yes, put it in the freezer if you have time and stir/scrape it every 15 minutes or so. Peanut flour is a fabulous way to make your shake more peanutty. I use BOTH peanut flour and the syrup on a daily basis. Re more recipes: you can look under my "Buzz words" category on the right side of this page under "Smoothies" or "Smoothie saturday/sunday" etc to get more ideas. I agree I haven't posted a recipe in a thousand years, as I haven't really created anything new except for a green smoothie that would make most people barf :-)

So I hope that helps- I do recommend getting an RD to check out your diet though, just to be safe. Let me know how you get along!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

PS for anon- I should mention that i never just blend my smoothies one time only for a set period of time. i blend. stop. shake. check the consistency. then blend again. I repeat this process probably 4 times. But then again I really like my shakes to be very thick and creamy. Less picky people can probably just run it once and call it good :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your replies, Deb. oh btw, sorry i forgot to post my name which is Susie! i understand and sorry i asked for the daily blow by blow of what you eat, i've NEVER done portion control in my life before and started doing it last June and on my own lost 3 sizes but i have 30lbs or SO left to go that are sloooow coming off! i guess a basic day for me (if you wouldn't mind MY blow by blow :) is an egg + white with diced tomatoes and spinach with sprinkling(i mean sprinkling!) of cheese and a piece or 2 of whole grain toast with coconut oil instead of butter. Lunch would be a protein bar (yea they do nothing for me, either) OR nonfat yogurt sweetened with stevia with blueberries, walnuts, almonds, some whey protein mixed in (i probably eat too large of a portion of this yogurt concoction but i adore it). dinner will be either a large veggie stir fry (all sorts of veggies) with a large chicken breast OR a large chicken breast with a huge bowl of multi-greens salad with beets and green beans and 2T dressing. nightly snack is usually non fat milk with dark cocoa powder and stevia and (guilty pleasure) a bit of those flavored hazelnut creamers. and maybe an orange or apple or grapes thrown in the mix in the day somewhere. i dont really eat packaged food or eat out or eat junk (i went from eating 1/2 lb bag of M&M's almost daily!!) and i'm only able to exercise 40 minutes a day on treadmill (have chronic fatigue syndrome) but man it's STILL hard to lose weight! :( The Beast to ME: doesn't mean i'm not full. i can be STUFFED and still want to eat (ie emotional) i HATE IT :( thanks so much for listening and TY so much for your blog, i love it ;)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

hey Susie- First of all, CONGRATS on your weight loss so far! That's awesome. I might just add one other thing: my last 20ish pounds came off after I began resistance training for real. Given your CFS, I recommend you get medical clearance and then, I'd highly recommend a qualified personal trainer to show you good form so that you benefit and don't get injured. Good for you for doing your 40 minutes with a debilitating disease such as CFS! Good luck and please report back!

JR said...

Thanks for such a great guide! I was wondering if you could post some pictures of the smoothies you end up having to pour down the sink and why. My smoothies look nothing like any of yours. I'm having trouble figuring out the right ratio of gums to water to ice since I never know what I added too much of. What does too much xanthan look like vs. too much guar? Thanks!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Hi JR- I haven't had to throw any smoothies away for a long time. The only time is if it's too thick that it becomes really gross. Or if it's too slimy. What is the problem you are having specifically and perhaps I can give you suggestions. Btw I'll be closing the comments section of all my posts as I'm blogging over at www. so you can actually find the same (or improved) posts there.

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