I love smoothies. We’re not just talking love as in how you might love chocolate ice cream or that particular shade of eye shadow. We are talking, I can’t not have smoothies in a week without beginning to crave mango, berries, and spinach. In fact, my love for green smoothies has become so well known amongst my friends that I received this text from a friend the other day:
Obviously I pointed them towards simplegreensmoothies.com. I’ve been drinking green smoothies since 2015 and SGS became my point of reference not long after. I wrote more about how much SGS meant to me when I was first starting out on my smoothies journey (cliched I know) in this post here (link to identity post). The bit you can’t see one the message was that I confessed to a cardinal smoothie-lover sin…
I CANNOT STAND BANANAS!
Okay, that’s a bit strong. Give me a just under-ripe, slightly green banana and I will happily munch on it. But put one in my smoothie and we are no longer friends. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who feels that way either so, with a spirit of opening up the smoothie world to more people, I thought I would share my favourite veggies and fruits for that creamy/smoothie consistency.
Before we go any further, I love smoothies because they make me feel good. They wake me up in the morning as my first breakfast without requiring much effort. They pack a good amount of vitamins, minerals, and other good things into one place. If you’re vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian/dairy-free, making smoothies yourself means you have an easy snack, first breakfast, etc that fits your choice of diet without much brain effort. Most of all, they taste amazing and put a smile on my face. Trust me, when it is 7.05am and I’ve got to face the bus to work, anything that puts a smile on my face is more than welcome.
Or just read this post here where I talk about how green smoothies are tied up with different parts of my identity.
The Pros of Bananas
So before I start to offer up alternatives to the much-beloved banana, I feel I should suggest a few reasons I think people like bananas. I do not want to hate on bananas as I know a lot of people love them raw, baked, blended, or as ‘nice cream’. So here are a few of the pros, according to other people:
- They are relatively cheap. You can pick up an individual banana for as little as 30p so if you’re the type of person to pick up a whole bunch it could be less than £3.00. A lot less than a punnet of strawberries or grapes, and they will go a lot further.
- Apparently they make smoothies really creamy. Isn’t that the goal with smoothies – to get the perfect creamy texture? So if a fruit automatically offers that, it seems natural to use it.
- Bananas are apparently a more filling fruit. Based on my experience of snacking on a banana compared to strawberries, I’d agree with this one. If you want your smoothie to be a snack, it would make sense to include a banana in it.
- All fruit is nourishing so it makes sense that bananas are too. They’re frequently recommended for walkers and runners as a good source of energy and also have various nutrients that are good for us. Yes, bananas are healthy.
- According to the majority of smoothie drinkers, bananas are also a great way to neutrally sweeten smoothies. While this doesn’t work for me – I can’t taste anything but the banana – it does mean you can cut out on other forms of sweetener. Although sugar isn’t bad (there is sugar in bananas), using fruit to sweeten is probably better for you than adding a spoonful of caster sugar or syrup. (Having said that, I am not averse to adding icing sugar or honey to a chocolate shake as I use 100% cacao powder. That stuff is dark!)
So now that I have explained why I think people add bananas to smoothies, it is time to bring in the alternatives. So for each of the pros I listed, I’m going to suggest a different fruit or vegetable that I think does the same job. There are other ingredients you can use, such as almond/cashew/peanut butter, yogurt, oats, honey, that would achieve the same result but as banana is a fruit, I am focusing on fruit and veggies.
One word: FROZEN!
I will confess that in regards to being less waste, this is my biggest weak spot as it comes in plastic bags. But today I’m not talking about waste. We’ll save that for another day. When it comes to saving money on fruit and veg for your smoothies, I am a total frozen convert. 99% of my fruits and plants are brought frozen and then defrost overnight in the blender cup with whatever liquid I will blend them in. The other option is to buy more native fruit and veg that are grown in the UK. I’ve successfully used peaches, apples, and pears in smoothies along with berries. It simply depends on whether you are happy to eat seasonally, which can be tricky for smoothie-friendly fruit, or if you want the convenience of eating whatever you like when you like.
In regards to cheap frozen fruit and veg alternative to bananas, you can try the following:
- Peas (yes, really)
- Cauliflower (this is one of my favourites)
If you are after that really thick and creamy texture, there is only one alternative that will truly provide it: the avocado. However, avocados are 1) expensive (even when frozen) and 2) apparently environmentally damaging due to the high demand for them. Neither of those are good things so here are a few other alternatives that will help you on the way to that smoothie texture we all want:
- Cauliflower (don’t ask me how but it does add a certain creaminess 🤷🏻♀️)
- Peas (but go easy on them because they have a really strong taste and you don’t want a pea smoothie)
This is the hardest one to find and I really want to cop out and just say oats. Partly that’s because I love an oaty smoothie for breakfast. However, this is a blog post about fruit and veg so I will do my best…
Banana is a unique fruit because it manages to be creamy and filling. Not many other fruit or veg can make that claim. A lot of our favourite smoothie fruits aren’t particularly super-flying either. They tend to be things like berries and mangos, which while being juicy aren’t all that filling. So we’re going to think outside the box, and a little bit closer to home with some native fruit. For example, apples and pears are both fairly filling as fruit go. They aren’t an obvious choice for blending but if you are willing to be patient, they will eventually become creamy enough to drink.
The other option is my smoothie veg superhero: cauliflower. So far it has made every category. You can also pair it with broccoli if you would like a more filling alternative to spinach. (Just be aware of the stronger taste!) The stalks on both of these vegetables make it a thicker and more filling smoothie.
From the hardest to the easiest… all fruit and veg will nourish you in one way or another. Just because bananas might be off the menu because you dislike them for whatever reason, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on nourishing fruit and veg. If you think it will work in a smoothie, then go for it!
Sometimes we need to sweeten our smoothies. Firstly, if you enjoy a green smoothie then you don’t want to be tasting spinach or kale as you drink. Secondly, if you are inclined to add 100% cacao/cocoa powder, oats, turmeric, or another extra with a strong taste then you will need something to sweeten the smoothie. Unsurprisingly, this is very much the job of fruit and particularly berries or stone fruit. They have a natural sweetness that will help to mask more bitter or unwanted flavours. These are just some of my favourites:
- Cherries (especially with chocolate. Black Forest Gateau anyone?)
The trick is to go for something with a mild taste that isn’t noticeable, i.e. mango, or to pair the sweetening fruit with the other flavours, like cherries and chocolate. At the end of the day, it is largely a matter of personal taste. That is why I don’t like bananas and it might be the reason you don’t like mangoes.
God Gave Us All the Green Plants
Amidst all of this, it is important that bananas are still a really good and healthy ingredient for your smoothies. These suggestions are for people who dislike or are bored of having bananas in their smoothies.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the gardenGenesis 2v16 , ESV
God gave us bananas and cauliflowers and mangoes and peas as food to nourish us. However, the fact that He made it taste so good and that it features so much in celebrations suggests that He probably wants us to enjoy it too. So while this post was called “Hate Bananas?”, I don’t want you to hate this smiley yellow fruit. If you don’t like it, then use an alternative that you do enjoy. If we need to eat and drink to survive, then we might as well eat and drink what we enjoy.