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A touch of green boosts smoothie’s healthy edge

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    A smoothie turned green with spinach and spirulina powder also has the sweet taste of papaya, mango and banana, providing a many-tiered boost of nutrition.

My energy level hits a low point in the afternoon, after work. I get home, my husband and I play a round of "pass the kids" and then I try to muster up enough energy to make it through baby entertaining, grading papers, making dinner, cleaning up and bedtime.

If I don’t have a plan together about what I should fuel myself with before I walk in the door, I will turn to the fastest-filling carbs I can find. That usually means chocolate granola or candy stashed in the back of the cupboard.

I never listen to diet advice that says to keep cut veggies ready in the fridge for a snack. I can’t live with a diet that expects me to be satisfied, at my weakest moment of the day, with cucumbers. Even if I eat a piece of fruit, I already know I’m going to be looking around for something else in five minutes.

Green smoothies are my compromise. I get some quick sugar, some nutrition and a little staying power until dinner.

After years of making smoothies three to five times a week, I’ve got a few tips for successful green-smoothie blending.

» Spinach in your smoothie is an easy way to add vege­tables to your diet, as they have virtually no taste when paired with strong-flavored fruits. Kale works, too, but it’s tougher and will need more blending. I like to double up with green powders such as spirulina. Some green powders taste horrible but are plenty healthy, and you may need to work up to a full dose. Try out sample packs first.

» If you add green powders, do not make your smoothie milk-based (dairy, soy or nut). Even though I generally like a creamy smoothie, the taste becomes muddy. Think stronger acidity to balance out the earthiness of the greens. Add some lemon, orange or lilikoi; if you need more liquid for blending, add water.

» Temperature and texture are almost as important to the green smoothie as taste. Blend it long enough to remove the grittiness of the leaves, but not so long that it becomes a frothy juice. The fluffy texture can be off-putting. The best way to keep the smoothie cold is to use frozen fruit, but ice is serviceable in a pinch. If you’re lucky, the smoothie will turn out like sorbet.


2 cups young spinach leaves, loosely packed
1 teaspoon spirulina powder or up to 2 tablespoons other green powder (optional)
1/2 papaya, seeded and peeled (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup mango, cubed
1 apple banana, or half of a regular banana
1-1/2 cup ice
1 cup cold water
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Honey or other sweetener, to taste (optional)

Load up blender with all ingredients, making sure spinach is on bottom.

Blend at low speed first, gradually increasing to high speed to purée everything, about 45 seconds. Stop, stir and blend again as needed. Serves 2.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including optional sweetener): 180 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 24 g sugar, 8 g protein


Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at

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