It Ain’t Easy Being Green

by Gena on January 20, 2011

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As some of you may know, I have a love hate relationship with green smoothies. I want to like them, I do. They’re the currency of the raw food world, and who doesn’t need more greens in her diet? (OK, I may be one of the few people who actually doesn’t need more greens in her diet, but still.)

That said, I just can’t get down with green smoothie culture. There’s something about the stuff that just skeeves me out, in spite of my love of raw leafies. And since I’m not a huge fruit/smoothie lover to begin with, the whole endeavor is a little beyond my ken.

If I were to make lifelong rules out of current preferences, however, I would never ever eat cilantro, radishes, artichokes, or onions. These are all formerly hated foods that, with an open mind, I’ve grown to appreciate (only if the onions are cooked, mind you). So I think it’s important for me not to turn my cheek to green smoothies, at least not entirely: if I continue to experiment with ones that I like—like my mellow green smoothie—I may just surprise myself.

So far, I’ve noticed that green smoothies only work for me if I bury the greens in lots of banana, lots of almond milk, and something fatty (like coconut, nut butter, or nuts/seeds). With those preferences in mind, I whipped up the following green smoothie a few mornings ago. Lo and behold, I loved it. Maybe not as much as I love my peanut butter and berry smoothie, or my butternut squash smoothie, but quite a bit. Maybe a tide is shifting.

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Green Smoothie with Banana, Hemp, and Kale (serves 1)

1 large or 2 small bananas, frozen
2 tbsp hemp seeds (shelled)
1/2 cup almond milk
3 leaves stemmed kale
1 scoop Vega Whole Foods Optimizer in vanilla chai flavor (optional, or substitute your favorite vegan protein)

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender till creamy and smooth, adding more almond milk if needed. Serve and enjoy!

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Speaking of smoothies, please head over to Vital Juice New York today (January 20) to check out my “vital spy” interview! I’m chatting about my favorite places to eat, exercise, and unwind here in NYC, and I offer up my favorite smoothie (the butternut squash concoction) for readers. I’d love it if you gave it a look!

And with that, it’s been a long day of class. Till tomorrow, folks!


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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA January 20, 2011 at 12:40 am

I think that qualifies as a bona fide green smoothie, Gena!

I love green smoothies, but I have made a couple disasters. Word to the wise – never put sprouts in a smoothie. OMG. So gross.


chefJOSEPH January 20, 2011 at 1:03 am

Were they buckwheat sprouts? I use buckwheat sprouts in lots of my smoothies, green drinks too and it goes over very well. Even my non-raw friends love it.


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 20, 2011 at 6:07 am

I kinda like sprouts in a smoothie–alfalfa sprouts, not too much–they do have a very earthy, grassy flavor. I was on a sprout smoothie kick for a while! But I have heard that people can be categorized generally into tasters and non-tasters and I might be if the non-taster variety! It’s why I’m okay eating raw onions and Gena absolutely cannot.


Gena January 20, 2011 at 8:03 am

Have to chime in and say that ANY sprouts I’ve put in a smoothie have horrified me. But, I appreciate the many suggestions! Perhaps I’m just weird. :)


Frances January 20, 2011 at 10:00 am

Blending can really multiply the power of greens with strong flavors. I once made the mistake of trying to make a green smoothie with mustard greens. It ended up tasting and smelling like mustard gas instead.


Julia January 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I tried sprouts in a smoothie.. for me it was awkward… but maybe I did it wrong?


Stephanie January 20, 2011 at 12:46 am


I know you said “later today” when referring to your article. I don’t see it there…so I am assuming it’s not posted yet. Or I am just not looking in the right spot. Can you help? Always love reading your stuff.


rawloulou January 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

I am with you on the whole ‘smoothie’ front!! Green Juices galore, can sup on these till the cows come home, but smoothies…..something in my stomach just turns whilst drinking them :0( I will give it another go shortly tho….waiting for a new blender to be delivered to give them a real go at it mind :0)
Happy to know I am not alone on this one lol.
Loulou xx


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 20, 2011 at 6:08 am

It definitely helps if you blend in a high speed blender.


Gena January 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

So sweet, Stephanie! I meant today (Jan 20), probably after 10 am or so. You can check back on the Vital Juice site.


chefJOSEPH January 20, 2011 at 1:05 am

I’m glad to see this recipe. I personally love green drinks and I stuff as much greens into them as I can. But this recipe is great to have on hand for my friends that are like you Gena or for first timers. Thanks!


Namaste Gurl January 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

I’m surprised to know a down- to earth veggie lover like you doesn’t like green smoothies? Mmmm…. somethings fishy there:)
I really want to try Vega protein, they’re just SOOOO expensive. Sun warrior was quite a leap for me :) Where do you get yours?


Laura C January 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

LOVE my green smoothies! You should try frozen berries + spinach + chocolate Vega. I also think frozen mango/banana/greens is fantastic. It’s definitely funny to me that you like greens everywhere except when they are combined with/masked by fruit and other flavors. Definitely helps me fill my greens quota!


Gena January 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

Gah! Mango! Not OK!



Hannah January 20, 2011 at 1:15 am

I’m just tentatively dipping my toe in the green smoothie world too, after recently acquiring a Vita-Mix (which is actually the first blender I’ve ever had in my life). I’m not ashamed to admit I like them sweet, but I’ll promise to at least try this one plain before I add agave :P


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 20, 2011 at 6:10 am

If I may be so bold and make a suggestion . . . try dates before you try agave. Make sure you pit them first! One or two large nice ones is great per smoothie!


Leaf January 20, 2011 at 1:45 am

I make a similar version with a little coconut water and chia seeds instead of hemp. My fiance adds raw cacao in his too. Avocado is also a yummy addition.


Christin@purplebirdblog January 20, 2011 at 2:40 am

That is green smoothie perfection, in my opinion. Kale in smoothies totally rocks!


Sandi January 20, 2011 at 5:02 am

My favorite green smoothie goes something like this:
baked white sweet potato (sometimes called Japanese or Korean sweet potato but it’s different from the yellow ones in Japan and Korea -_-)
As much spinach or kale as I can fit (I actually prefer kale!)
frozen banana
almond milk
ice cubes

I eat it with almonds on top.

The sweet potato makes it amazing, like pudding. I don’t know if I’d try it with orange sweet potato though…


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 20, 2011 at 6:12 am

Sorry to be such a crazy budinsky, I guess these smoothies are near and dear to my heart! Regular orange sweet potato (baked, not raw) is fab in a smoothie.


Sandi January 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Good to know! I’ll have to try that next time…thanks for the inspiration :D


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 20, 2011 at 5:40 am

Thanks for being honest about your love/hate relationship w/ smoothies. I am and always have been very…meh…about smoothies.

If I am going to drink something, I prefer water. Or coffee :)

If I am going to eat fruits & veggies, I prefer them whole with tons of texture. The opposite of a blended, smooth drink.

So I am not really a big fan. Plus it involves cleaning my Vita. Which I need to think twice about a recipe if it involves appliance cleanup. Lol

I hate garlic and onions with a passion. Always have. And I think…always will :)


Gena January 20, 2011 at 8:05 am

Word up, fellow java queen.


Kristen's Raw January 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Mmmmm java. This breastfeeding mama misses it. I used to love all coffee: reg. Decaf. Old. Fresh. Hot. Cold. Espresso. Fancy soy coffee drink. Organic. Fair trade. You name it. I loved it. :)


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 20, 2011 at 6:13 am

Sorry to have gone bananas in your comment section! It was out of love for the green smoothie!


VeggieGirl January 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

Looks delicious to me! :D

Good luck with classes!


elizabeth January 20, 2011 at 6:36 am

How funny, I am not a green smoothie fan either, but I’ve been experimenting too, a bit. I’m really enjoying nut milk (almond or brazil nut), frozen banana and baby spinach. The baby spinach is even milder than the Romaine (which I don’t like in anything but a salad). I like my smoothies cold and thick, and with green smoothies, I find the cold factor is even more important. I’ve been making the very same recipe for my teenager, adding raw cacao and a bit of agave. I still almost always choose a green juice over a green smoothie, but it’s true green smoothies are easier to make, and a great alternative if you find yourself, like me, living without a juicer. I’m a bit hesitant to add the Vega powder … as you know, I’m also a big fan of the Vanilla Chai flavored Whole Food Health Optimizer (expensive, but so jam packed with nutritional goodness that I have neither the time nor the inclination to put together on my own) but I have already created the perfect Vega smoothie so I haven’t bothered to tweak the recipe. I do know when I’ve tried adding the Vega powder to foods, the results have been gag-worthy, so maybe that’s made me a bit shy about experimenting further.


Gena January 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

We agree totally on juice vs. smoothie, but this combo really wasn’t so bad. As for Vega in food, I’ve put it in (a) puddings (like banana, avocado, carob) and it was great; I’ve also put it (b)in oats and thought it was fine. But not in anything else–it’s too strongly flavored!


Kristin (Cook, Bake, Nibble) January 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

This recipe looks great! It took me a while to get over the green-ness but now I have grown to love my green smoothies, and even add celery and spirulina to mine to make them MORE green! I don’t know who I am anymore ;)



Eliz@The Sweet Life January 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

Looks delicious–I might even be able to drink that one!


Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun.blogspot) January 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

I used to love green smoothies, but then all of the sudden I really couldn’t stand the “grit” in mine (I’m not lucky enough to own a Vitamix, which may solve the greens-grit problem).


Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day January 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

You know, I think there are many people who will never love green smoothies and that’s OK! This one looks so good.

I really love my green smoothies.. especially in the summer.


Stephanie January 20, 2011 at 9:29 am

Ironic that I’m drinking a Green Smoothie as I read this. I too am not a big fan of smoothies and fruit in particular. Mine this morning had a HUGE handful of a spinach/kale mix, Enerfood, 1 raw banana, 1 frozen banana,frozen peaches, almond milk, cocoa powder. I can’t believe how much I’m learning to like them!


Brittany January 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

Personally I always enjoy my green smoothies the most with spinach in them…although I like kale on its own, it’s hard for my little Hampton Beach blender to make it palatable in a smoothie…this smoothie does sound good though, and I’d really like to find this vega protein powder somewhere!

Quick smoothie fail story:
When I had first started making green smoothies, I was trying out kale and spinach in them. One day, instead of kale, I picked up mustard greens because they looked so pretty! I had no idea of the flavor. I tried to make a chocolate banana green smoothie…and it was without a doubt one of the worst things I have ever tasted in my life!!


Frances January 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

I like to make my smoothies big enough to sip at all day and not have to worry about other food prep until mid-afternoon or even dinner. It’s such an easy weekday routine! The smoothie I’m sipping at this morning:

1 large banana
3 medium apples
1/2 lb baby spinach
2-3 cups water
1 scoop Vanilla Chai Vega WFHO

I agree with Gena that spinach is probably the most mild green you can possibly use in a smoothie. I’ve been trying to eat extra greens to help me deal with winter cold and dark, and there aren’t many greens I could tolerate so much of in a smoothie.


Frances January 20, 2011 at 10:18 am

Oh, wait. I just noticed that it wasn’t Gena who said that about spinach. Oops.


Anonymous January 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm

quick, silly, question… how do you transport your smoothies to work? i like to make a lot in the morning but only drink it at home. it would be great to transport leftovers to work somehow. i do have some bpa free plastic bottles but they don’t really keep them cold. do you use a thermos?


bitt January 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

if you aren’t a huge fruit lover, that makes sense about the green smoothies. although some people make them with avocado and dates to really avoid the whole fruity thing. when you say stemmed kale you keep the stem on?


Erin January 20, 2011 at 11:35 am

I love green smoothies, especially as a recovery meal after a hard workout. Here’s my favorite combo:

1 scoop Vega Sport performance Protein (vanilla)
1 tsp MacaSure powder
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, sliced
1 pear, quartered and seeded
1/2 med zucchini or cucumber, chopped
1/2 stem celery, sliced
3 large kale leaves, de-stemmed
2 c. filtered ice water

This is so crisp and refreshing – I can’t get enough of it!


Andrea January 20, 2011 at 11:47 am

You might have just invented my every-day breakfast! I haven’t been satiated on just juice or just juice and fruit since I started spinning every day and oatmeal makes me feel a bit gross first thing in the morning, but this…this could fill me up with making me feel catatonic.


Alex @ Healing Beauty January 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I tried my first green smoothie a few days ago and I used peanut butter to help cover the flavor of the spinach (yes, I was a little scared) and now I’m hooked! I do have a question though, if making these in the morning, what would you recommend to help round out the smoothie and make it part of a nutritious breakfast? Thank you!


Frances January 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Peanut butter can be nice in a smoothie, though I don’t do it often. Anything that you want to add for nutritional completeness can either be blended right in or served separately as your personal taste. Common additives include flaxseed for healthy Omega fatty acids, one or two brazil nuts can meet your day’s requirement for selenium and sesame seeds are good for calcium. Pre-made supplements can be an easy way to get a broad-spectrum nutritional boost, for example, the Vega Whole Food Health Optimizers are very popular. Some people also like to include exotic superfoods like goji berries.

One of the great things about smoothies, is that you can blend a variety of nuts and seeds right in and get exactly the kind of boost you want without a lot of time or trouble.

If you are switching from cold cereal to smoothies, one thing to watch out for is vitamin D. Cows milk and various non-dairy milks are frequently supplemented with vitamin D. Because there are almost no natural sources of dietary vitamin D, and almost no one gets enough vitamin D from sun exposure, your levels of vitamin D may start to drop off.


Alex @ Healing Beauty January 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Thanks so much for your reply Frances!


Micaela January 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I have yet to fully explore the world of green smoothies. I have been making your pb and berry smoothie, though, and I’ve taken to adding organic baby spinach to it. So good! Maybe I’ll go further eventually, but kale scares me.


melissa @ the delicate place January 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm

i love chocolate hemp smoothies. they smell pretty gross but the taste is amazing! hope classes are going well for you. your smoothie on vital juice is one i’ve tried with kabocha but not bnut squash (i just can’t get into it :/) it’s prob the only squash that i’m ‘meh’ about ;p


Mike Lieberman January 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Kale in green smoothies is rough. Real rough.

The green smoothie that I usually recommend to people when they start is spinach and peaches. I’ve found spinach to be much better than kale in my smoothies. That’s pretty hardcore.


Hannah January 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I tried kale in a smoothy once and I couldn’t get it down. But maybe the key is more banana? I’ll have to try this one someday!


Allison January 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Mwhahaha, come on over to the dark side. Green smoothies are awesome.

Also, nut butters were totally MADE to be put into smoothies. I’m only slightly obsessed.


Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine January 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I’ve never considered myself a smoothie person, but lately I’ve been seriously OBSESSED with them. I actually think the greens have helped me to appreciate them- they give a way more complex flavor!


Green Shushi January 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

oh wow I’m surprised you don’t like them! I find that baby spinach leaves no ‘green’ taste in the smoothie. But then again, I also find that kale and swiss chard leaves no taste either so I pack them in…Love them!


melissa January 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm

great interview. I still haven’t done the green smoothie thing, but I have been upping the green juice consumption.


Michelle (Housewife in the Raw) January 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Green smoothies were my gateway food to the raw diet. I love them, as do my kids and husband. Funny for me to think about some people not liking them. :) I think I’ll go make one now….


Sara (Miles & Manhattan) January 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Congrats on the Vital Juice Feature!!! I was so excited to see you there :)


Susan January 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I’m not a big fan of green drinks either. Occasionally I’ll get a random craving in the summer…maybe once. I like all the components separately, just not together!


Christine (The Raw Project) January 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

This looks wonderful, I still have not tried a Vega product and that’s gotta change! I adore frozen banana slices, frozen cherries, and kale in my smoothies.


Kristen's Raw January 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I gotta say… My smoothie disasters have involved (independently) kohlrabi, mustard greens, and any of Vega’s whole food optimizers. How can you stand it girl?! I love Brendan and some of their other products but I find those powders too sweet. Ack.

But. Can I say? You MAKE ME WANNA TRY EM AGAIN! lol Seriously though.


lauren January 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm

over the summer I made a kale and apple smoothie that served as my breakfast…it was delicious. yours looks great and probably tastes even better w/ the banana and vanilla chai!


Pure2raw twins January 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

YUM! Now this is our type of smoothie :)


Heather January 21, 2011 at 1:06 am

This is a random question, but do you find yourself struggling with stronger urges to smoke now that you’re back in school? I’m desperately (still) trying to quit and I was doing okay for a little while… But now that I’ve returned to school full time it seems 100% harder (I smoked heavily when I was in college previously). I remember you mentioning smoking when you were at university before, so I don’t know… Just wondering if this has come up for you at all.


Ela January 21, 2011 at 1:45 am

Hope you’re enjoying the days at school! This sounds like a great smoothie. Have you tried avocado in green smoothies? I think it’s wonderful. But I am crazily green-loving smoothie-loving…


Stefania (Ingredients for Life) January 21, 2011 at 7:35 am

I too have a love-hate relationship with green smoothies. I love the taste and how they make me feel but making smoothies of any kind are such a drag. All the washing and prepping and then washing the blender. Ugh! I would rather eat my food and I don’t like how cold I get after drinking one. That being said, I have one ready to go for this morning. Crazy Sexy Diet has inspired me. :-)


Kimberly January 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

I just bought a container of the vanilla chai Vega Whole Foods Optimizer last night and MET BRENDAN BRAZIER! He was doing a seminar in Duluth, GA at Whole Foods. I was so excited to meet him and have him sign my (his) books. Gena, I told him that you (he was surprised and delighted that I mentioned you) and him were huge inspirations to me with your writings, blogs and wonderful information that you both put forth. Your blog has inspired me more in the kitchen, and has brought a balance regarding eating (100% raw was too strict for me and I just didn’t feel quite right all the time). Now, I follow a high raw vegan diet and feel great. I have been reading your blog for a long time and wanted to tell you that you are much appreciated and I look forward to your blogs every day. You have brought balance, happiness and peace about food and life to me. THANKS! Now, let me go whip up that smoothie.


Deby January 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Hi Gena!! I love that smoothie!!!
Lately I’ve been making a green smoothie everyday for breakfast and I’m loving it!! Grapefruits are one of my favorite fruits so I decided to add them in smoothies from now on!

What do you think about this concoction?
1 bunch of spinach
1 banana
1 grapefruit
12 oz water
2 or 3 ice cubes
Flax and Hemp Seeds (1 to 2tbsp of each)

Blended all together yuuum!!!!! :D If you try it, let me know how you like it!!! :D


Ada January 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Ahhh I can’t believe you’re doing a post-bac at Columbia! I’m a pre-med student there so I’m sure we’ll have some of the same classes together. I have a ton of friends who did the program and absolutely loved it. Let me know if you need recommendations on professors or tutors or anything.


Jenna January 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Likely a forlorn hope – but is there anything that can be subbed for the bananas in smoothies? (Green, pink, or whatever kind! lol) I see these recipes all over the web, in magazines, talked about on the news… but they all have (seemingly) one common ingredient – bananas. And since I’m allergic to the dratted things (along with eggs, nuts except cashews and peanuts, shellfish, and having celiac… yeah. I’m a fun dinner date.) I never know what to sub in place of these fruit. Any ideas?


Michelle January 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I am on a very similar diet (celiac, no allergens, etc. – boo at a dinner party) and I use differnt frozen fruits depending on my mood. This morning I had a kale, coconut water and frozen peach & cherry smoothie. I used to do frozen banana in everything, but I’ve found that smoothies don’t really need them.


Roberta January 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Avacado work pretty good in place of a banana or mangos rock too.


fizzog January 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

My own suggestions for getting to like green smoothies!

1. Make them cold! (Add ice cubes, or frozen berries, or both. And/or freeze bananas – skins off – before putting them in the smoothie.)

2. Use a high-speed blender if you possibly can.

3. Start with baby spinach, or bok choi, or romaine. Or fresk parsley – quite mild. Progress to kale, which is not too strong if you’ve got enough fruit in it. Avoid dark green cabbage at all costs, unless you like your smoothie very peppery indeed! Fresh coriander (cilantro over in the US?) is great, but might be an acquired taste!


Julie J January 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Green smoothies were how I first got interested in raw food. I make one every morning and love it! Now, I’ve even gotten my father-in-law into it. I got him a Tribest personal blender for Christmas and made a bunch of green smoothie recipes with him (we even made one based on your experience at the Dole conference – a blueberry pineapple smoothie with greens snuck in). He loves being able to get his greens in such an easy way and now we’re both making raw soups, mostly from your recipes, as well. He’s trying to see if he can start to incorporate some of the veggies he doesn’t like in raw soups. I tried your raw cream of broccoli soup last night and a salad with your beet dressing, loved it, and quick told him he needed to try it. All that to say that I agree with Michelle, green smoothies really are a gateway in the raw food world.


SmoothieRecipeTV January 23, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I love smoothies in general, mainly fruit smoothies. But I, too, have been working on liking green smoothies. I find it easiest to make a green/fruit combination since the sweetness of the fruit can help keep the ‘green monster’ at bay.

If you take a regular fruit smoothie and make it green by adding a handful of baby spinach. Little by little you can increase the amount of greens until you develop a taste for it.

One final note is to be sure you blend the smoothies well. The fibers found in many green smoothies can be pretty tough. This is especially true if you are using stems in addition to tender leaves.


sunshinegrl1997 January 27, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Hi I’ve been trying to incorporate more raw items into my diet and I want to try a green juice but they scare me lol I was wondering what fruits other than banana were good in green-ish smoothies? I’ve found I am really allergic to raw banana, pears, pineapple, figs and some nuts.


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