Monday Medical: Power of going green with smoothies |

Monday Medical: Power of going green with smoothies

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today

Monday Medical

If your go-to smoothie is made of yogurt and strawberries, then you may be missing out.

Smoothies can be an easy, delicious way to load up on vegetables, with a dose of protein and healthy fats, for good measure.

Cara Marrs and Laura Stout, both registered dietician nutritionists with Yampa Valley Medical Center, give their recommendations for building the ultimate smoothie.

• Don't be afraid to go green. Baby spinach is a good vegetable to try first, but don't hesitate to make your smoothie with kale or other dark, leafy greens, which are "nutritional powerhouses," according to Marrs. "Just by adding those, you're getting vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, folate and lots of fiber, for virtually no calories."

Any green can work, from arugula to chard, and most of the time, you won't even taste it. Avocado is another good choice, as it adds a creaminess and nutrition, without changing the flavor.

If the color green is off-putting, try to see it in a new light.

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"Think of the green color as springtime," Stout said. "You have to keep an open mind to the color green, because it is beautiful."

• Do start small. When you start adding vegetables to your smoothies, Stout recommends trying a handful or two of baby spinach.

"As you get more comfortable adding greens, start reducing the fruit and adding more green," she said.

• Do try vegetables that aren't green. Beets, either cooked or raw, are a good addition. Marrs recommends pairing them with a bit of cacao powder in smoothies. And since they aren't green, beets work well for skeptical children who don't like the idea eating their vegetables, much less drinking them.

• Don't limit yourself when it comes to choosing a type of fruit.

"Most people think strawberries and bananas, which is great, but there are a lot of other options," Marrs said. Try frozen berries in winter, or peaches and melons in summer.

• Do add protein. A protein can give a smoothie staying power, which is great for those times you want a smoothie to serve as a quick breakfast. Nut butters and nuts are a great choice — Marrs' son loves a PB&J smoothie, which she makes with almond milk, nut butter, berries and half a banana. And there are a variety of protein powders, including hemp, pea, whey and goat milk — just avoid powders with extra sugars.

• Do try adding seeds. Chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds all add healthy fats and fiber and blend up easily.

• Don't use liquids with added sugar, such as fruit juice. Instead, try unsweetened coconut or almond milk, regular milk or water with a handful of almonds. Add enough liquid to reach about three-quarters of the way up the vegetables; if it's too thick, add more.

• Do make sure your smoothie fits your needs. Whether you're having a snack or refueling after a hard workout, everybody's body is different — be wary of packing in too many calories or not taking in enough.

• Do make your smoothie with real foods.

"You can make a great smoothie with mostly ingredients that are in your refrigerator," Marrs said. "The key is we're talking about real food, and that's what you should put in your smoothie."

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

If you go

What: Real Food: Smoothies and Juicing

When: noon to 1 p.m. March 16

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center

Presenters: Dr. Charlie Petersen, Cara Marrs, RDN, and Laura Stout, RDN


Smoothie sampler

The Beginners’ Green Smoothie (Serves two to three)

Blend together two handfuls of baby spinach or three stalks of kale, one pear, one banana, 1/2 cup pineapple or mango, 1/2 avocado, almond milk or coconut milk or water with a few almonds and ice

The Gingersnap (Serves two)

Blend together two pears, fresh ginger to taste, four leaves of kale, one orange, water and ice

The Farmers Market (Serves two to three)

Blend together two carrots, four leaves of Rainbow Chard or collard greens, 1/2 yellow squash, two red apples, one yellow bell pepper, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 a red or yellow beet, Chia or flax seeds, water and ice

Recipes from Laura Stout, RDN