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Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

68 Comments 04 May 2011

Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

May is Celiac Awareness Month!  And what better way to celebrate than by joining a blogging event called 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living created by Diane at The WHOLE Gang.  I’m excited about participating, because I remember the struggle of my first few months of living gluten-free, and that memory inspires me to help newbies as they transition to their gluten-free lives.

When I was first diagnosed with gluten-intolerance I did not have a fraction of the resources and gluten-free products that are available today.  So if you are newly diagnosed, be so thankful!  You have choices! (Both good and bad!)

I can remember walking down each aisle of the grocery store thinking that my life had come to an end.  I had no idea what to eat.  Not only were all of my favorite foods off limits, but I found out that there were hidden glutens that tainted even my favorite sauces and salad dressings.  How was I going to live through this?

Smoothies were my salvation, and today they continue to be one — sometimes two — of my go-to meals each day.  Smoothies helped ease me into the gluten-free lifestyle, because they provided stability to my diet when everything seemed so uncertain and scary.  While I was still learning what foods contained gluten and how how to read ingredient labels, I had a simple meal that was convenient, nutritious, and safe.

Most blenders can make a smoothie.  I used an old Oster for a year until I upgraded to the Vitamix.  It took a little arm wrestling, but my ingredients eventually blended together.  But, oh how I love my Vitamix.  It’s a bit of an investment, but with a ten-year warranty and blade that can pulverize a fork in seconds (whoops), I am confident that it’s worth every penny.  Making a smoothie effortlessly in 30 seconds or less with quick, easy cleanup is more than worth it to me.

Smoothies can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be.  I use the following basic formula to make easy, nutritious, gluten-free smoothies:

Liquid + Protein + Fat + Fruit = Delicious, Healthy Smoothie

The liquid helps to make your smoothie creamy, the protein and fat will give your smoothie staying power, and the fruit provides necessary carbohydrates and flavor, flavor, flavor!

1. First choose your liquid.  If you are newly diagnosed, you may have also found out that you allergic to a host of other allergens including dairy.  Have no fear!  There are many dairy-free milk options!  (When I was first diagnosed I could not tolerate dairy.  But once my gluten-damage intestines healed I could enjoy dairy again.)  Be sure to look for the gluten-free label on all milk products.

Liquids:

  • Almond Milk
  • Hazelnut Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Soy Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • Cow’s Milk
  • Yogurt

You can also choose watery fruits like grapes and oranges to provide the liquid base, but the smoothie won’t be as creamy.

2.  Next choose your protein.  Some people skip this step, opting for a pure fruit smoothie, but protein is incredibly important for muscle recovery, sustained energy, and satiety.  You will get some protein from milk and nut milk, but in my experience, it’s not enough.  If your first response is, “But I hate protein powders,” you just haven’t tried the right ones.  Protein powders should not taste like chalk.  Find a powder that tastes good without added sugar that meets your dietary needs and fits your budget.  And of course, read the labels.  Not all protein powders are gluten-free.

Protein:

  • Chocolate Protein Powder (current whey protein favorite – Energy First Chocolate Whey)
  • Vanilla Protein Powder (current vegetarian favorite made with brown rice and pea proteins – Nutribody)
  • Fitness Labs Whey Fit Protein Powder (most economical whey with a great taste – ordered from Nutrition Express)
  • Hemp Seeds (vegetarian option that’s new to me which I’m really enjoying)
  • Spirulina (sea vegetable with the highest protein concentration)

3.  Then choose your fat.  Do not skip this key nutrient because you think you want a fat-free smoothie.  Your body needs fat in order to function and in order for it to let go of its extra body fat.  If you don’t eat healthy fats, your body will cling to the fat that it has.  No, thank you.  (Again, read all labels carefully for gluten-containing ingredients or warnings of possible cross-contamination.)

Fats:

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts)
  • Nut butters (peanut butter and almond butter are my favorites)
  • SunButter (for those with nut allergies)
  • Avocado

4.  And now the fun begins, choosing your fruits!  The options and combinations are endless!  You can buy bags of frozen fruit for convenience-sake, or freeze your own fresh fruit.  In the summer, when fresh fruit is on the verge of not looking so fresh, I slice and freeze it for smoothies.  When the bananas start to speckle, I break them into thirds and toss them in the freezer.

Fruit:

  • Strawberries
  • Berries – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, marion berries
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches, nectarines, apricots
  • Mangos
  • Apples, pears, grapes

Those are the four basic steps for creating a smoothie, and once you’ve found a few favorite combinations as your staples, you can rely on them for a quick, satisfying meal while you’re trying to figure out how to pack a gluten-free lunch or bake a gluten-free birthday cake.

When you’re ready to go beyond the basics, play around with adding some super foods, spices, and other interesting ingredients.

Sweeteners:

  • Raw dates
  • Extra banana or pineapple
  • Stevia

Super Foods:

  • Chia Seeds
  • Acai
  • Maca Powder
  • Spirulina

Spices and Other Flavors:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom (my new favorite)
  • Coconut shreds
  • Carob Powder (without barley malt)
  • Raw cacao
  • Vanilla (Simply Organic is always gluten-free)
  • Ask yourself, “What would taste good in a pie?” and toss it in.

You could even add some greens.  There are three nutrient-rich greens that are almost unrecognizable by even the most discerning palates when hidden in a smoothie.

The Husband could never eat two fistfuls of spinach in one sitting, but he sure can drink them down!

Greens:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard

 

Here are a few of my favorite smoothies:

Berry Cardamom Smoothie


Cherry Carob Smoothie


Green Mango Coconut Smoothie

Berry Pomegranate Smoothie
Basic Chocolate Banana
Chocolate Strawberry and Banana

And here are two other favorite smoothies created by blogger friends:
Vanilla Chai Banana Smoothie by Brittany of Real Sustenance
Green Creamsicle Smoothie by Hallie of Daily Bites

I leave you with my newest, simple smoothie and my best wishes for a happy, healthy gluten-free transition.

Peach Smoothie
By Heather

1 c. almond milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (Nutribody)
½ banana
1 c. organic peach slices
1 T. hemp seeds (optional)

Keep visiting The Whole Gang for links to each day’s 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living post, or check here daily, and I’ll add a link to each post. By the end of the month, I hope you’ll feel comfortable with your new diet and encouraged by wonderful tips from those who have walked the journey before you.

Links to 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living posts:

Newbies, what questions do you have about the gluten-free diet?

Veterans, please post your favorite easy gluten-free tip in the comment section below.

 

Your Comments

68 Comments so far

  1. Awesome post, Heather! I could drink smoothies for every meal (some days I have!) and all of your recipes look amazing. Thanks for linking up my recipe. :)

    • Heather says:

      When I made your Green Creamsicle it was the first time I’d ever tried avocado in a smoothie. I could not believe how incredibly rich it was! So great to meet you last weekend!

  2. Great post. I wish I had known about smoothies or had a blender that made them as well as our Vitamix does. That would have helped me so much in the beginning. It helps a lot now too!

    Thank you for sharing and being a part of the 30 Days!

  3. I love my vitamix, too. Love the anatomy of a smoothie post!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Cheryl! We couldn’t live without our Vitamix! From smoothies to soups, dressings, salsas, that thing is in constant motion!

  4. Wow, what a great template for making smoothies. This guideline definitely makes for a smooth transition! Great post!
    Melissa

  5. Alta says:

    Great post, Heather. I actually came into smoothies late in the game – after I’d been gluten-free for a year or so. I have an Oster blender – it’s as nice as the “cheaper” blenders come, but it does take some coaxing for it to blend everything smoothly. Hoping to get a Vitamix soon! I now have smoothies several times a week. I am SO craving that cherry carob smoothie – can’t wait until cherry season now! This morning, I made a super-thick smoothie – a smaller, thicker Real Sustenance’s banana chai smoothie, plus a small cooked sweet potato. Topped with a bit of grain-free granola and eaten with a spoon. Yum!

  6. Fantastic post, Heather! If your write-up alone didn’t convince folks to go with smoothies, all those luscious photos sure would! :-) The creaminess was super important to me early on, but now I usually just use a banana to provide that without any milk (dairy or non-dairy). I think our tastes change over time, and now I use whatever I have on hand (and rarely any added “sweeteners” like dates) and it always works out. As I was cleaning out the fridge before the Expo, arugula was the only green I had on hand so I had some peppery tasting smoothies for a few days. ;-) I love them all though!

    So great to meet you in person at the Expo. You’re even more delightful and beautiful than I imagined! Loved your mom, too. She’s so sweet. :-)

    xo,
    Shirley

    • Heather says:

      Oh, your comment made me so tingly and happy!!! I told my mom that you were like the mom to the bloggers, and I’m so happy to be in your big family! :)

      Love the idea of arugula. I’m wondering how that would taste with Alta’s sweet potato idea.

      Big hugs!

  7. Iris says:

    Love this post! Especially your points about including fat and protein. If the smoothie is going to be your meal, especially your breakfast, you definitely need both of those! And I never thought to use spirulina in a smoothie, but makes sense. I used to drink it in my orange juice as a kid, so why not a smoothie?

    • Heather says:

      Thanks so much, Iris! I loved your post as well. Those first few days are so hard, and I love how you focused on keeping things simple one meal at a time.

  8. Such a great post! I have to admit I have never been a smoothie drinker, I always thought it would be better to eat my calories than to drink them. Having said that, I made one for my hubby the other day and drank some and was suprisingly full. Hmmm, maybe I will become a convert after all. Love the line in your post about thinking what flavor would like to see in a pie…ah, the ideas!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Carol! I usually save a few nuts to munch on while drinking my smoothies. I think I feel more satisfied when I actually chew something too.

      Hugs to you!

  9. Oh my goodness Heather! This is an EXCELLENT post on how to make smoothies!!

    I only started doing smoothies during D-Tox January, but I quickly got addicted to them. I often have them for two meals a day as well (I make two pitchers every night so they are ready to go the next day).

    I always add nuts for my added protein and fat, usually walnuts or Brazil nuts and I also add either broccoli or cauliflower (on top of the greens…if you put enough fruit in there, you can’t taste it!), my kids love them and they are extremely filling so I know they carry my boys well throughout the morning at school. :-D

    And girl, I hear ya on the fork, only mine was a spoon, LOL!

    • Heather says:

      Oh, broccoli! That scares me, but if your kids drink it, I should be able to, right?

      Do your smoothies separate at all when you make them the night before?

      • My kids do drink it, I promise! The key is to taste the smoothie before serving, that way if it’s still a little bit “too green” you can always throw in another apple or a banana to hide the flavor…works every time! :-D

        Yes, the smoothies do separate a little bit but I just grab my wooden spoon and stir it up and its as good as fresh.

        • Heather says:

          Excellent! Will give blending ahead a try. I do feel guilty blending at 5:30am when others don’t have to be up yet…well, kind of guilty. I’m mostly jealous.

  10. Hi Heather!

    What a great post — with all the bases covered. You show us all how to make a nutritious and yummy smoothie in a snap. Thanks for including the info on the vegetarian protein powder — a great idea for the veg community (especially if you’re allergic to nuts). :) Tina.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Tina! I’m not a full-fledged vegetarian, but I’m finding that I crave vegetarian meals so much more than meat. I’m loving that rice/pea protein powder.

  11. This is brilliant! You created a smoothie template! I love all of the ideas that you came up with too, Heather! This is exactly what I need to sort of spur me out of my smoothie rut that I tend to get into. Sometimes, I just get so used to adding the same things. But your latest creation has me sooo craving one right now! I am totally wanting that Peach smoothie!! It is funny how some of my biggest health nut friends also totally get into ruts with their smoothie making too. You just forget all of the awesome things you can add! This was a wonderful post for this event! Seriously!!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Kim! I’m really enjoying reading the comments and getting even more great ideas…sweet potato, arugula, broccoli…all things I need to try next!

      Great to meet you last weekend! :)

  12. Ricki says:

    Fabulous! I love smoothies and this now gives me endless options. . . can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow ;)

  13. Maggie says:

    What a fantastic breakdown Heather! Thank you so much for this, I loved reading it. I need to add some fats to my morning smoothie. I think I’ll try avocado tomorrow! I love the fork whoops :) I agree that a good blender is so worth the money. I use mine at least twice a day.

  14. Debi says:

    Wonderful post and pictures, Heather! Now I’m craving a smoothie!

  15. Gigi says:

    I’ll take a green mango coconut, please! What a gorgeous color!! This is an excellent post on smoothies, and I am passing this link on to several friends right now!!

    GREAT post!!

    xoxo,
    Gigi

  16. Love smoothies! I am still using my regular blender or a stick blender to make them–I really covet a Blendtec or Vitamix though. I haven’t thought of adding fat to my smoothies so love that new tip. I’ll be whipping up some of your favorites in my kitchen from now on.

  17. Mom says:

    So you put a fork through the vitamix too??? Thanks for the new smoothie recipes.Great timeing as we approach the warm weather.

  18. Hi Heather! Don’t you wish we would have had a VitaMix at the Expo?? I thought about packing mine but I didn’t want to check any bags at O’Hare. :)

    Fabulous post!! I am going to try some of your combos. They look great. I just bought some SoDelicious and can’t wait to open it up.

    It was wonderful meeting you! You are such a gem. Look forward to our developing friendship!

    Big hugs,
    Amy

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Amy! You were truly an inspiration to me at the Expo. With recipes like yours, who needs sugar? Seriously. I have some great pictures of you in action during your presentation that I need to send to you!

  19. I love your format for building a smoothie! It reminds me of those bar customization companies that are popping up.

    So awesome to meet you!!

  20. Kate says:

    I am definitely going to bookmark this post for future reference. I am currently gluten, dairy and fruit free (along with anything full of carbs) but there is a lot of good info in this post- and in the comments -that I could use for when I get rid of this candidiasis issue.

    I have not used protein powders in the past because I can’t do dairy (there goes whey powder) and I don’t like soy products. I am glad to know that there is another option out there.

    Some of the add in ingredients I never knew about. However, some you didn’t mention that I have used- coconut oil and kefir.

    I can’t wait till I am able to try some of those recipes. I have always been a ‘who needs a recipe for a smoothie’ gal, but then I saw your recipes and changed my mind!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for commenting, Kate! I used to make all of my smoothies with kefir when I was making it at home. I forgot about that! Hang in there. It’s so hard to be limited in what you can eat, and I’m hoping you’re finding hidden gems that you never would have known about had you not started your current diet. Good luck and good health!

  21. Laureen says:

    Oh my, i love smoothies but I’ve been stuck in such a rut with yogurt and fruit…well, except for my Strawberry Tea Smoothie that I linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, which is how I found you :)
    I’ve yet to try a green Smoothie but your Island Paradise one sounds so good, I’ve already added the ingredients to my shopping list and then I come across this page with all the great info…must bookmark so I can try your other recipes!

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Laureen! I love the idea of your Strawberry Tea Smoothie. I’ve never thought about using tea as the liquid base. I need to try this!

  22. Hey Heather,
    Love all the smoothie recipes! Sometimes I find it easier to order a smoothie at a restaurant than to worry about cross contamination with gluten in the items on the menu. I wanted to point out that some of Udo’s oils have wheat germ oil and shouldn’t be consumed by celiacs or those with gluten allergy. I discovered this after spending $20 on one of the oil blends!
    Thanks again for the great recipes!
    Elizabeth

  23. Michelle says:

    What a blessing! Sitting here sipping my smoothie, as I’ve been told by my dr to go 100% gluten-free just last wk and don’t know what else to eat! and as I’m surfing the web, looking for g-free blogs, I stumble across yours! Thanks for the wonderful info, encouragement, smoothie recipes and links to other newbie-helpful sites! ;)

  24. Julie says:

    Newly diagnosed and overwhelmed. When using chia seeds in a smoothie do you need to soak them overnight or just use them as they come in the bag?

    • Heather says:

      Julie, I’ve been there!! And I completely understand. Just use the chia seeds right out of the bag. I do like to soak them for a few minutes in whatever liquid I’m about to use for my smoothie. I typically pour my liquid (almond milk) into the vitamix, add the chia seeds, and do something like a few dishes. Within a few minutes the seeds have started to gel. Let me know if you have further questions. Starting out can be rough, but there’s a huge online support group out here for you!

  25. Kathy says:

    Hi Heather,
    I was wondering how and why you prefer
    “Energy First” protein powder. I need a protein supplement in my diet. There are so many protein powders out there! I do not know which one is the best. Why do you like this one? Is there a “natural” or unflavored protein powder than you can recommend?
    Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for your comment. I wrote this post years ago before going vegan. I liked Energy First as an athlete, because of the whey protein. I also liked the flavor and how well it mixed into liquids. Now that I’m vegan I use Sun Warrior protein powder. It’s plant based and tastes really good. It does have more of a chalky texture, but when blending with other fruits and veggies you won’t notice it. Good luck!


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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, friend, fitness fanatic, foodie, high raw vegan, child of the King, and Mama Cat. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. And now I have another challenge ahead...I'm moving to New York City! I look forward to Living Raw Vegan in the City and sharing my experience with you.

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