Smoothie Bars 101: How To Choose Your Smoothie

Smoothie bars seem to be ubiquitous these days. If you live in New York City or its surrounding boroughs, you likely already have a go-to smoothie bar in your neighborhood. Smoothies weren’t always so popular. In fact, there was a time when they didn’t even exist. Quelle surprise! How sad to think of a time when you couldn’t be throwing back delicious, frosty concoctions of blended fruits and veggies.  

The smoothie’s history begins with the inception of the blender. Blenders were first marketed and sold to soda fountains, ice cream shops, and restaurants to make milkshakes in. In the mid- mid 1960’s blenders finally made their way to the beaches of California, where refreshing and frozen treats were served up to vacationers and beach bums alike. The first popular smoothies were made using orange juice, strawberries, and ice. As vegetarianism spread in the United States during the late 60s and early 70s, smoothies began to pop up on menus around the country. Today’s smoothie would be unrecognizable by those Cali beach goers of the 60s. Now they are a healthy food option loved by many.

These days smoothies come in a variety of concoctions. Your local smoothie bar probably has a bevy of options to choose from; the menu can be downright overwhelming. Smoothie bars are great spots to grab a healthy snack or meal, but which one should you choose? There are so many delicious combinations and ingredients to explore. At Pure Green, we have too many favorites to name! We’re here to help, though, if you’ve been struggling to navigate your smoothie bar. Welcome to Smoothie Bars 101.

Start With A Liquid Base

Your smoothie won’t be able to blend properly without some liquid added to the mix. Some aficionados stick to pure water as their liquid base, as it doesn’t alter the flavor profile of their ingredients. Others like to use different kinds of milk, juice, or even coconut water. Regular cow’s milk offers an extra source of protein. If you’re lactose intolerant or dairy-free, you can choose from almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, macadamia milk, cashew milk, or coconut milk. Almond and soy milk can be readily found, as can coconut milk. Coconut milk comes in both cartons and cans. It also adds a delicious creaminess to your smoothie. Its cousin coconut water provides a boost of hydration and electrolytes. It is a perfect addition to a post-workout recovery smoothie. Juice is another option for a liquid base, but you should only use juice that is 100% juice and has no added sugar. You still want your smoothie to be healthy and nutritious.

Get Your Protein

Protein in any smoothie is a key component— especially, if you’re drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement. There are so many great sources of protein to choose from, though! Let’s start with protein powders. The most common kind of protein powder is whey. Whey is a complete protein that comes from milk. It’s easily digestible, unless you are lactose intolerant of course. Casein is another protein that’s found in milk. It’s absorbed into the body more slowly than whey, so it keeps you feeling full longer.  

If you’re dairy free, there are a number of plant-based protein powder options available. Soy is a great choice for vegans or anybody looking to get protein in their plant friendly diet. Brown rice is another alternative. Yes, they make protein powder out of brown rice! It’s easily digestible too, so it’s perfect for those with a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy and dairy products. Another great plant-based and easily digestible protein powder option is pea. Pea protein might sound strange but it’s a great alternative and is quite fluffy in texture.

Of course, one of the most popular vegan proteins is hemp. No we’re not talking about ganja or the weed you smoke. Hemp powder comes from hemp seeds and is a good source of protein. Plus, it boasts anti-inflammatory properties, loads of fiber, and essential omega-6 fatty acids. Plant-based proteins aren’t complete proteins on their own, though, so make sure you combine them or choose a special protein powder that has added the necessary nutrients to make it complete.

Protein powders aren’t your only option for getting protein into your smoothie. There are whole foods you can add into your smoothie that will give you the protein your body needs. Nut butters are a great source of protein. Peanut butter is the classic choice, but experiment with almond, cashew, and macadamia butters. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter will yield 8 grams of protein. If you eat dairy, greek yogurt is a wonderful option. 1 cup of plain greek yogurt will give you about 20 grams of protein. As an alternative to yogurt, a ½ cup of cottage cheese will yield 14 grams of protein. Feeling a bit adventurous? Throw a raw egg into your smoothie. It will give you 6 grams of protein.

Don’t Forget Your Fruits & Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of the smoothie. Smoothie bars are bursting with a bevy of fruits and vegetables to add to your smoothie. There are so many delicious and nutritious options. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Blueberries— bursting with antioxidants

  • Mango— full of vitamins C and A and adds natural sweetness

  • Acai— potent source of antioxidants

  • Coconut— brimming with healthy fats

  • Spinach— loaded with vitamins A, K, and calcium

  • Kale— jam-packed with iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K

  • Banana— chockablock with potassium and adds natural sweetness

  • Pineapple— bursting with vitamin C, manganese, and powerful enzymes like bromelain

  • Strawberries— full of antioxidants and vitamin C

  • Raspberries— major source of antioxidants

  • Avocado— laden with healthy fats like the omegas, folate, and vitamin E

  • Cucumber— boasts anti-inflammatory properties, rich in vitamin B5

  • Peach— loaded with beta carotene and vitamins C, A, K, and E

  • Cherry— brimming with antioxidants

  • Apple—  great source of antioxidants and vitamin C

  • Blackberries— chock full of antioxidants and vitamin C

  • Beets— jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, B, and C

  • Pitaya— aka dragon fruit, potent source of vitamin C and antioxidants

  • Parsley— boasts folic acid and vitamins A, C, and K

Add Some Special Extras

You can pretty much go crazy with adding special ingredients and boosters to your smoothies. Try chia seeds for extra protein and some omega-3 fatty acids. Cacao adds a natural chocolatey flavor and an extra dose of powerful antioxidants. Throw in some bee pollen for some more protein, amino acids, vitamin B-complex, and folic acid. Suffer from allergies? Bee pollen is also provides excellent allergy relief. Maca root powder is another wonderful addition to any smoothie. It’s perfect for anyone looking to balance their hormones as well as increase their energy levels and stamina. Maca is known to improve memory, focus, and even boost fertility. Need to jolt yourself out of an afternoon energy slump? Add in matcha! It’s a potent green tea powder that’s full of caffeine and antioxidants. See what your smoothie bar offers and pick something that suits what your body and mind needs! You can always ask the person working behind the counter for their expert advice if you’re feeling unsure.

Be Your Own Smoothie Bar

You don’t always have to leave the house and head to a smoothie bar to drink the benefits of a delicious smoothie. If you don’t have a smoothie bar nearby or are simply looking to blend your own at home, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite DIY smoothie recipes. They all yield one serving and follow the same simple instructions: Add all ingredients to your blender and blend. How easy is that? Feel free to customize these recipes in any way you see fit! Experiment with adding in different extras. A little bee pollen here, a scoop of cacao there. You can really make these recipes your own.

The Ultimate Green Smoothie


½ banana

½ cup spinach

½ cup kale

¼ cup parsley

½ cucumber

½ green apple

½ cup coconut water

1 scoop of plant-based protein powder

Berry Nice Smoothie


½ cup milk of your choice

½ cup plain greek yogurt or cottage cheese

1 3.5 oz packet of frozen unsweetened acai berry puree

½ cup blueberries

½ cup strawberries

½ cup raspberries

½ cup blackberries

Tropical Twist Smoothie


½ cup coconut milk

1 cup plain greek yogurt

⅔ cup chopped pineapple

⅔ cup diced mango

½ banana

Nutter Butter Smoothie


2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

½ cup milk of your choice

1 banana

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 teaspoon maca powder

Peaches N’ Cream


1 peach

½ cup coconut milk

½ cup plain greek yogurt or cottage cheese

½ banana

PB & J Smoothie


⅔ cup strawberries

½ cup blueberries

2 tablespoons peanut butter

½ banana

½ cup milk of your choice

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon maca powder

Mango Matcha Smoothie

1 teaspoon matcha

½ cup milk of your choice

½ cup plain greek yogurt

½ banana

1 cup diced mango

Megan Partridge