EXTENSION: Become a smoothie-making pro with these simple, nutritional steps

May 17—Smoothies are a convenient way to add nutrients to your diet, adding variety to what and how you eat. Smoothies are simple because you combine all the ingredients into one spot, then blend and enjoy.

With a little practice and these tips listed, you can become a smoothie-making pro.

— Add over-ripened fruits and vegetables. Over time, this can reduce food waste and save food dollars in your home.

— Consider buying single-serving blenders. These are typically less expensive than a true blender. You can also buy blenders secondhand or refurbished, generally discounted around the holiday season. If you do not have a blender, make smoothies in a food processor or with an immersion blender instead.

— Enjoy smoothies right after you prepare them. When you have leftovers, you can drink smoothies within 24 hours if you store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also pour leftovers into an ice tray with a toothpick or a popsicle tray to freeze and enjoy later.

— Smoothies are a healthy way to supplement meals. They are an easier way to take in calories when eating a meal may be difficult. This is an important consideration during sickness, if someone is managing a chronic condition, or needs to gain weight.

— Smoothies offer variety. You can easily change smoothies to your liking. The next time you make one, try adding a new ingredient or removing one you may not have liked.

— Store-bought smoothie options can be more convenient, but not typically healthier. These options are generally more expensive, high in added sugar and less nutritious than homemade. At home, you can add what you want and simultaneously save food dollars.

— You may have heard of "juicing." When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you remove fiber and most micronutrients. This is what makes a smoothie a more nutritious option. Smoothies include fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals you only get when you eat the entire fruit or vegetable.

— With the right ingredients, smoothies can be a balanced meal. Add multiple food groups to your smoothie to meet nutrient needs. For example, a smoothie made with yogurt, strawberries, a banana, spinach and oats provide nutrients from the dairy, fruit, vegetable and grain food groups.

— Smoothies are an easy clean up. To make clean up a breeze, fill the blender or food processor halfway up with water, add a dash of dish soap, and blend. It's that simple.

For other creative ideas for adding nutritious foods to the diet, look for upcoming programs and classes at your local Laurel Extension office.