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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Lemon Square Smoothie (Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

This smoothie is like a drinkable, guilt-free, citrus-y lemon square! It is nutritious and promotes relaxation thanks to one of the primary ingredients that gives it its flavor... but it may not be the ingredient you expect *GASP*...



This smoothie is vegan, fruit-sweetened, and gluten-free, and is filled with fiber and vitamin C, among other goodnesses. It is a lighter smoothie, and for all you lemon lovers out there it is lemon-y and then some! This smoothie is definitely best as a summer smoothie, and is perfect to drink before taking a mid-day nap in the heat of the day or to drink by the pool side.


What inspired me to create this smoothie was an overgrowth in my old herb garden of one of the ingredients in this smoothie. It was summertime, and that plant was thriving... although it was very overwhelming how much it had grown! This particular plant tastes just like lemon, but it's not related to the lemon fruit at all. The ingredient I'm referring to is...



LEMON BALM!!! Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, but it smells and tastes just like the fruit it's named after. It has medium green leaves with jagged edges and it grows really fast.


Lemon balm contains antioxidants that evidence suggests can help those with anxiety and insomnia. Of course, research is limited to support this claim, plus obviously in comparison to medications it does little to nothing, but I know I feel so tranquil and relaxed when I use it in recipes. Lemon balm grows in mild weather climates, typically during the summertime (June to August).


To me, I can't tell the difference in flavor between lemon balm and a lemon, besides that lemon balm tastes more sweet and less sour than the fruit.



So What's With the Color?


The color in this smoothie comes from the dates, gluten-free oats, coconut, and flaxseed mainly, giving it a gray-ish beige hue. If the color isn't appetizing enough, you could try adding a tiny pinch of ground turmeric (be sure not to add too much though, or your smoothie might taste different and not come out as anticipated) or you could add a little natural, vegan yellow food dye to your smoothie to give it more of a lemon-y shade.


I haven't tried turmeric or food dye in this smoothie, so good results aren't guaranteed. I personally don't mind the beige color, and to me this smoothie tastes so good that the color isn't an important factor in my rating of this lemon square smoothie. But feel free to experiment and find what you like!



Nutritional Profile of a Lemon Square Smoothie


Dates- dates are packed with protein, antioxidants, potassium, and fiber, which help build muscle, fight free radicals, and aid in digestion.


Lemon balm- lemon balm is filled with antioxidants and is believed to reduce stress and promote relaxation (again, research supporting this claim is limited, and it likely has a mild to no effect on stress and anxiety).


Lemon fruit (juice & zest)- lemons are an excellent source of plant compounds and vitamin C which can help with plant-based iron absorption (and thus guard against anemia in vegetarians and vegans). Lemons can also aid in weight loss and help bolster the immune system. (Tip: as a vegan, whenever I'm eating an iron-rich meal I try to pair it with a vitamin C-rich fruit, vegetable, or I'll squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on top of the meal to aid in iron absorption. Another great option is having a glass of lemon or lime water with an iron-rich meal which will not only help you absorb the iron in your meal, but also help you detox. Detox is SUPER important for those of you with Lyme or any infection that can induce a herxing reaction.)


Gluten-free rolled oats- oats are a great source of fiber, protein, and iron which can aid digestion, lower cholesterol levels, protect against anemia, and make you feel satiated for longer. (Tip: pair you morning bowl of oats or jar of overnight oats with foods rich in vitamin C like fresh blueberries, fresh raspberries, or fresh strawberries for better iron absorption).


Coconut- coconut is chock-full of fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, B vitamins, and trace minerals. Coconut supports heart health, digestive health, and has anti fungal properties. The fat in coconut is mainly plant-based saturated fat, which actually has health benefits, unlike animal-based saturated fat. The saturated fat in animal products is the kind you want to avoid.


Flaxseed- flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and iron. The omega-3 fatty acids help with anything from heart health to eye health to hair health. The fiber in flaxseed can help with bowel movement regularity.


Almond milk- almond milk is a good source of vitamin E, calcium & vitamin D (if fortified), and trace minerals. Calcium and vitamin D build bone and support bone health, and vitamin E is good for your skin.




Substitutions


For this smoothie, you can substitute just lemon juice & zest for the lemon balm (do slightly extra juice & zest, to taste) or you could sub the lemon balm and lemon juice & zest entirely with lemon extract/oil (use 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp of lemon extract OR a couple of drops of lemon oil). The Medjool dates taste great in this smoothie, but if you can't do them on your diet or don't have them on hand, you could sub maple syrup, agave, or date syrup OR a sugar-free sweetener like monk fruit/stevia syrup or even granulated stevia, to taste. And of course, if you don't have Medjool dates but have other varieties of date, I think other kinds could work here too. For the gluten-free oats, you can sub additional unsweetened shredded coconut, grain-free/gluten-free granola, or something along those lines. You want to use something that will give this smoothie a dessert-like quality, and mimic the bottom cookie bar part of a lemon square, so use something that could give it that extra little something (***PLEASE NOTE: this smoothie is not grain-free if you use the gluten-free oats and therefore is not paleo or keto. See above for grain-free suggestions to substitute for the oats.***).


For the unsweetened shredded coconut, you can substitute coconut flour, grain-free granola, or additional oats. You can swap out any kind of seed for the flaxseed- chia seeds and hempseed work in this smoothie- although, the flaxseed contributes an extra dessert-like consistency. There is really no good alternative to the vanilla extract, but you could try vanilla powder. You can substitute any kind of unsweetened plant milk for the almond milk (to give some ideas: coconut, cashew, and macadamia could work). And the ice isn't necessary for this smoothie, but I've found that it makes the smoothie thicker and more refreshing.


Why I Love This Smoothie


I love this smoothie because...


1. It tastes great and is SUPER lemon-y & sweet! It's like a citrus-y vacation for your tastebuds!


2. It is nutrient-dense, filled with antioxidants, and is packed with fiber. Basically, it's health in a glass!


3. It is refreshing, easy to make, and is perfect for a hot day!


I hope you like this smoothie & happy blending!


-K.



Lemon Square Smoothie (Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)


Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 0 min

Total Time: 10 min

Servings: 1



Ingredients:


-6 Medjool dates

-3 Tbsp gluten-free oats

-1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

-1 Tbsp flaxseed meal

-Zest of half a lemon

-Juice of half a lemon

-Several lemon balm leaves (like 3-4 leaves)

-Few drops vanilla extract (or sub a pinch of vanilla powder)

-3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or unsweetened plant milk of choice)

-4 ice cubes (optional, for a more thick smoothie)


Directions:


1. Pit the dates, juice & zest the lemon, measure out ingredients, and add to a high speed blender.


2. Blend until smooth (add more almond milk and ice as needed, depending on desired thickness of the smoothie).


3. Pour into a glass, garnish with fresh lemon balm leaves & lemon zest, if desired, and enjoy!


***PLEASE NOTE: I changed the recipe for this smoothie so that if you're substituting lemon extract or lemon oil for the lemon juice & zest and lemon balm, you should only use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of lemon extract and a couple drops of pure lemon oil.***



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