It’s all in the blend

[attach]3658[/attach]It’s mid-afternoon. Lunch is long gone and dinner seems a long way off. It’s the time most of us take a coffee or tea break and we probably down a cookie or other sweet baked goodie with it.

It’s 8 o’clock and you’re watching TV. Wouldn’t some popcorn or peanuts taste good about now?

Better yet, when the energy is low or the tummy is craving a snack, how about a smoothie?

A smoothie is healthy, and because it’s made with real fruit it’s full of fibre and vitamins. It fills the void and can actually make you feel good. And because there is no single way to make a smoothie, you can make a different concoction each time.

The idea is to blend one or more fruits with liquid at high speed in order to create a thick, richly flavoured drink. Best of all, it feels like a real indulgence but doesn’t have to be loaded with calories.

A true smoothie should contain whole fruit and a liquid to blend this in. After that, the rest is up to you. The liquid could be water or juice, yogurt or soy milk or regular milk. Soy milk is popular because of recent evidence of the health benefits of soy consumption. And while many of us find soy milk less than appealing, adding it to fruit in a smoothie makes it creamy and delicious.

Another healthy addition is a teaspoon of ground flax meal, which provides lots of minerals and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid.

One trick that ensures a drink that’s as rich as a milkshake with a quarter of the calories is to freeze the fruit. For example, when bananas start to get soft, cut them into pieces and freeze.

You can also buy bags of frozen fruit pieces. The sweetness in the fruit can be brought out by adding a little honey to the mixture. And I like to add fruit juice as well as low-fat yogurt. Apricot juice works really well, but so does plain old orange juice. Want to go really tropical? Try mango juice as the base. It’s delicious.

[attach]3659[/attach]Once you’ve tried these creamy drinks, you’ll never go back to unhealthy snacks. So take out your blender or processor and try some recipes. Here are three great ones to get you started:

Tropical Trio

1⁄2 cup pieces of pineapple (fresh or frozen)
1⁄2 banana, (fresh or frozen)
1⁄2 cup frozen mango pieces (fresh or frozen)
1⁄2 cup low fat yogurt (optional, but it makes it creamier)
1⁄2 cup pineapple juice or water
1 tbsp. honey

Blend until very smooth. Add a little more juice if required. Pour and enjoy with a thick straw.

Health Blend

1 cup frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1⁄2 banana cut into pieces (fresh or frozen)
1⁄4 cup soy milk
3⁄4 cup strawberry or cranberry juice
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. wheat germ

Blend the first five ingredients until smooth. Add the wheat germ and blend for another 15 seconds. Serve.

Cold-combating Concoction

1 whole orange cut into pieces and frozen
1⁄2 cup melon pieces (I pull these out of the frozen fruit blend)
1⁄2 cup pineapple pieces
3⁄4 cup orange juice
1⁄2 cup low fat yogurt
1 tbsp. honey

Blend these together and serve. Note that you can add some Echinacea to the blend for extra flu-fighting power.