Whether you are desperate for the energy to finish off those last few weeks of school, zapped from a day at the pool, or pushing through long hours at your summer job, you need a boost! When it’s hot and you’re tired, there’s really no better way to start the day than with a smoothie.

But smoothies can be tricky.

Are they delicious? Uh, yes! And they can also be super healthy and a great way to get protein and vitamins and fiber, and lots of the good stuff you need to help energize you for a busy day.

But smoothies can also be loaded with things we don’t really need, like extra sugar and empty calories. “Empty calories” is a way to describe food that doesn’t really have much, if any, nutritional value. The goal is for our food to do double duty: it should be delicious and provide the nutrients we need. But, unfortunately, some smoothies don’t make the mark, because they’re loaded with extra sugar or faux-fruit in the form of sorbet or bottled fruit juice.

One great way to make your smoothies a bit more nutrient-dense (that’s the opposite of having empty calories!) is to combine fruits and veggies as the bulk of your smoothie.

According to choosemyplate.gov, guys and gals between 9 and 18 years old should have between 2 and 3 cups of veggies per day. Your dinner plate should be filled with lots of veggies, but smoothies are another easy way to make sure you reach that goal.

The easiest and least “yuck” way to incorporate veggies into your smoothie is to add a big handful of raw spinach. It is neutral in flavor, which means your smoothie will taste like the fruits you pair it with – and not like soup!

What’s even better is that spinach is a superfood! It provides iron, vitamin C, magnesium, and even calcium and protein. That means if you follow a plant-forward diet, you can count on your smoothie for a portion of your protein intake for the day.

Spinach can be paired with any fruit, so try combos like:

  • mango and peach
  • pineapple, raspberry, and ginger
  • blueberries and bananas
  • broccoli and grapes (just kidding!)

If you want a little bit of added sweetness, consider blending in a pitted date, which is naturally very sweet. (Dates are fruits that grow on trees in the Middle East, and they are naturally very, very sweet and sticky.)

If you start with frozen fruit, your smoothie will be a little thick, so you’ll need some liquid to loosen it up a bit. Often, folks add bottled juice to their smoothies, but if your fruit is flavorful and sweet, you can use a few splashes of water to get everything moving without it being bland.

From there, you can add all sorts of things, like low-fat yogurt, no-sugar-added peanut butter, ground flax seeds, or flavoring ingredients, like fresh mint or a squeeze of lemon juice. If you’re adventurous, you can even add more veggies, like avocado!

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