Drinking smoothies has become more popular in recent years as health-conscious people search for an enjoyable and efficient way to eat the minimum recommended USDA's five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  Some nations even have recommended eating double that amount to their populations.  Smoothies are indeed a great way to pack in the nutrients, but how do you begin if you've never made one?  What if you don't have a new, high-tech juicer?  What if you don't know your noni from you goji?  Is a smoothie that isn't made from the juice of acai berries worth drinking?

Making a smoothie doesn't have to be complicated and you can make perfectly healthy smoothies with ingredients that won't require a trip to a specialty grocery store.  Let's start with the basics.

First of all, there is the base of the smoothie.  This can either be yoghurt or juice, depending on whether you prefer your smoothie to be more creamy or more liquid.  If both sound good to you, go for the yoghurt, as it provides more nutrition than its sugar-laden counterpart.  If you want to go the extra mile in making a healthy smoothie, choose a yoghurt with no extra flavoring.  As a rule of thumb, the shorter the list of ingredients, the healthier the food is, and this is certainly true of yoghurts.  You may also choose to create a base made of both yoghurt and some juice.  Any kind of juice you have in your fridge will work just fine.  For a big serving of about a pint, start with somewhere between a half and a full cup of the base.

As far as equipment goes, all you will need to mix the ingredients together in is a blender.  Even the cheapest 2-speed blender should be able to handle the basic recipe described here.  No expensive juicer is required.

After preparing the base, the next step is to throw in two full bananas.  One of the great things about smoothies is that you can use fruit that's at its prime, or a bit beyond and it won't make any difference to the taste.  Even mushy bananas with lots of black bits will be just fine in your smoothie recipe.  Green bananas, on the other hand, will give your smoothie a rubbery consistency, so stick to bananas that are yellow or turning black.

The next step is where the real fun begins.  You already have two servings of fruit with your two bananas.  We are not counting the juice as a fruit here, because fruit juice simply isn't as healthy as the real fruit.  Don't fool yourself into thinking that you already have three fruits because you really only have two that you can count.  For the other three, put in whatever you like best.  It can be three different fruits, three servings of a single fruit, or any other combination.  To make things as simple as possible, the fruits don't have to be fresh from the organic section.  Instead, throw in a can of drained peach slices and you have another two fruits.  You're now at four fruits and your smoothie is getting pretty big. 

You now need one more thing to make your smoothie complete - something frozen!  If you were happy to stop at four fruits, you could throw in about five ice cubes and that would give your smoothie a fabulous creamy texture.  However, if you want to add in a fifth serving of fruit, throw in frozen fruit which you can freeze yourself or buy already frozen.  Eight frozen strawberries count as a serving of fruit and provide just the right amount of an icy ingredient.

Now you have a blender full of yoghurt or juice, fruit and maybe ice.  Here is the single step of the recipe:  put the lid on the blender and push the ON button.  Let the ingredients blend for a minute or so, until you can't see any chunks of fruit.  If your blender has a hard time getting moving, throw in a splash of juice.  You can also stop the blender and stir the ingredients around a bit to help the blender get started.

You now have your basic 5-fruit smoothie which can me adapted into as many variations as your imagination and taste buds allow.  If you want to go a step further and move into the world of vegetables, try adding a small amount of green kale or of carrots.  Start small and see what you like.  It's much more beneficial to drink a four fruit smoothie that you love than to have a veggie-loaded smoothie that you struggle through and quit drinking after a week.  The great thing about smoothies is that they are healthy, filling and taste great. 

Once you get accustomed to the ease of having regular fruit and vegetable packed smoothies, loads of options for experimentation await you.  You may even later branch out into the noni, goji and the acai.

Smoothie recipe

1 cup plain yoghurt or juice (or any combination of the two)
2 bananas
3 fruit servings of your choice
5 ice cubes