Most every smoothie recipe you’ll see these days includes bananas, and while I’m not trying to hate on the yellow fruit most everyone seems to love, I say it’s time we think outside the box and use something else instead, don’t you?
I realize that bananas offer that creamy, frosty flavor to smoothies that seems irreplaceable, but I’m sorry – I don’t always want that banana flavor in my smoothies, not to mention the excess sugar. I eat a very low sugar, low fructose diet for medical and personal reasons, so bananas are rarely on my grocery list at all. Thankfully, I’ve been able to make thick, incredibly creamy, super-sweet smoothies for almost eight years without any bananas needed whatsoever.
While bananas are a great source of potassium and Vitamin B6, you don’t need them to be healthy, nor do you need them to make a healthy smoothie. Try some of my tips using bananas for a lower sugar, more glycemic-friendly smoothie that’s a great twist on the typical smoothie recipes you may normally drink. And then if you still want to use your bananas, feel free, but try to think outside the smoothie box a bit more to see what creative, tasty things you can come up with!
1. Frozen Cucumbers
Before you completely think I’m crazy, hear me out on this one. I love to freeze cubes of cucumbers and use them in place of frozen bananas for several reasons. For one, they actually become sweeter as they freeze and since cucumbers are a fruit that’s also rich in potassium, not to mention Vitamin C and silica for your skin, they’re a perfect healthy replacement. Cucumbers also help soothe the gut and increase digestive function in a gentle way, much like bananas do. They’re also perfect for cooling the body down, which is great right after a workout. I use about one cup of frozen cucumber cubes in my smoothies just like you would a half a frozen banana. To sweeten up the smoothie, I just use some liquid vanilla stevia or pure white stevia extract, plus a little vanilla extract.
2. Frozen Berries
Frozen berries also give you the same frosty, creamy flavor that bananas do, and they’re higher in fiber and lower in sugar. I prefer raspberries and blackberries since I think they taste the best. However, strawberries, blueberries, and frozen acai pulp are also awesome!
3. Almond Milk Ice Cubes
This is a common trick used in smoothies today and one of the best to replicate that creamy, sweet flavor bananas give to smoothies, almost like a thick milkshake. I freeze one carton of unsweetened almond milk into four ice cube trays so I have them at my disposal to enjoy all week long. When I’m ready to make a smoothie, I use about one cup of unsweetened almond milk ice cubes and add some liquid stevia to get a sweet, creamy flavor with absolutely no sugar and only 30 calories.
4. Frozen Zucchini Cubes
There’s a reason so many people use zucchini in quick breads, muffins, cupcakes, puddings, and more. It adds a yummy, creamy texture that’s tasteless once combined with other flavors and it also has an awesome binding effect to thicken up recipes. Zucchini is actually a fruit but higher in Vitamin C and potassium than bananas and cucumbers, not to mention it’s also sugar-free. Cut and cube a whole zucchini and put the cubes in a freezer safe baggie. The cubes get sweeter and frostier as they freeze, which creates amazing, indulgent smoothies that doesn’t taste like you’re eating a vegetable at all, I promise. I do add liquid stevia or use frozen berries with the zucchini cubes though, because I like my smoothies extra sweet.
5. Frozen Avocado Slices
If you’ve never tried freezing avocado slices, you must! It is the best way to get that creamy, frosty consistency that only bananas seem to give. The avocado also sweetens a little as it freezes, which is even better. Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit and slice each half into three slices for a total of six slices. Freeze in Ziploc baggies for storage. Use two slices per smoothie recipe and add some berries or stevia to sweeten.
6. Frozen Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Cubes
This is a great trick for fall smoothies: freeze either pumpkin puree or butternut squash puree (which are similar in flavor) and divvy them out into an ice cube tray. Freeze for at least 8 hours and use a cup of them in your smoothies for a thick, creamy texture and slightly sweet flavor.
How to Combine These in a Recipe:
I usually use the following ingredients to make two large, thick and frosty smoothies. If it’s fall, I’ll sub in the pumpkin or butternut cubes for one of the other ingredients:
- 1 cup frozen cucumber cubes
- 1 cup frozen zucchini cubes
- 1/4 cup frozen berries
- 1 frozen avocado slice
- 2 cups leafy greens
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk ice cubes
- stevia to taste
- superfoods (I love cocoa powder, chia, and maca)
- 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
Add 3 cups water and blend to make two large 16 ounce smoothies that will keep you full and fueled for hours!
*Note* If you’re not concerned with sugar, you can also use frozen watermelon cubes, frozen papaya cubes, frozen cantaloupe, frozen mangoes, and frozen apple slices to make a sweeter, frosty smoothie without any bananas whatsoever.
I’m surely not knocking bananas if you love them, but I encourage you to try a twist on the common, everyday smoothie and experiment with something new. I bet you’ll love it!
Image Source: cyclonebill/Wikimedia