Thursday, June 3, 2010

9 Fruits - Healthy, Delicious Fast Food

You all know that smoothies are a staple in my diet.  For years, I've relied on my trusty Vita-Mix to whip up a quick breakfast as I'm running out the door, blend a pre-run smoothie to fuel me for a long run, create a post-workout recovery drink after teaching a strength class, and recently, to make green smoothies so I can reap the nutritional benefits of my organic CSA veggies when I don't have time to cook. 

My freezer is always stocked with frozen strawberries and mixed fruit from Costco.  But I also freeze my own fresh fruits just before they start showing signs that their days of being "fresh" are limited.  Black spots on a banana bunch scream, "Freeze me!"  Smoothies can be an incredibly healthy alternative to fast food when there isn't time to have a sit-down meal. 

But what do you do when you are out and about and don't have time to go home and blend? 

We used to go to Smoothie King, because in Nashville it was our only option.  I missed the Southern California juice bars and smoothie shops and wished that Nashville would expand their horizons!  Smoothie King was always a stressful place for me, but it was a necessary evil when flying from a fitness class to an evening event.  I had already packed breakfast, lunch, and snacks for my busy day.  Packing dinner too would have put me over the edge. 

My first issue was gluten.  It's always gluten.  I had to give the guy behind the counter a quick lesson in Gluten 101, make sure that he thoroughly washed his blender, watch that he didn't put any glutenous syrups or powders into my smoothie, and repeat my order three times to make sure that my smoothie was made to strict specifications.  I was a nightmare customer, I'm sure.  But I've learned that being over cautious results in fewer I-can't-get-out-of-bed-because-I-didn't-want-to-be-a-pain gluten-contamination days.

My second issue was that there were very limited fruits or even foods in their natural state that were put into the smoothie.  The first time I saw the water and ice base and watched as scoops of powders and squirts of syrups were added to the blender, I went a little OCD on the poor smoothie-maker.  "What did you just put in there???"  Milk?  "Powdered milk?"  Yep.  (Did you know that powdered milk has oxysterols, which leads to the thickening of the walls of your arteries?)  "And what was that red squirt?"  Strawberry?  "Strawberries don't squirt!  I thought I'd ordered a smoothie with real strawberries!"  He added a small scoop of frozen red balls.  "Wait!  What was that brown squirt?"  Vanilla.  "Is it gluten-free vanilla?"  Of course, he wouldn't know.  To be on the safe side I asked him to make the smoothie again without the vanilla.

My third issue was the overall calorie count and percentages of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in almost EVERY smoothie on the menu.  I did find one smoothie that matched my nutritional needs, if I ordered it without the extra sugar and honey.  (Why does ANYONE need to add sugar to a smoothie anyway?  Isn't fruit naturally sweet enough?) My purpose here isn't to defame Smoothie King.  I'm glad I had the option when I needed them.  I'm just thankful that I now have an alternative that meets my nutritional requirements.  It's part of my story.

And then I found 9 Fruits.  (Can you hear the movie music?)

On my first visit to 9 Fruits I wasn't going to order anything.  I was prepared to ask 800 questions in order to find out if it would be safe for me to drink their smoothies in the future.  Kevin, co-owner of 9 Fruits, caught me off-guard by first, having more than a clue about gluten, second, assuring me that all of their products except for the granola were gluten-free, third, offering that they always use real fruit and 100% pure fruit juice, and fourth, by being an all-around pleasant person to talk to. 

Seriously?  I was speechless.  His smoothies sounded like the ones I make at home.  I had to taste one.  I watched as Kevin peeled a fresh banana before my eyes.

I saw the carton of Coconut Milk that he poured into the Vita-Mix.  No mystery powders there.  When I questioned Kevin about the fat content of the coconut milk he brought the SO Delicious carton to me so that I could see the nutritional specs.  An avid label-reader, I knew exactly what to look for.  And he was right.  We all need some good fats, and coconut milk has the perfect amount of medium-chain fatty acids which our bodies process quickly for energy.  With my hyper-sensitive girl fat issues and my ever-important need for energy, this was a fantastic, healthy, non-dairy option.

Then there was the fruit.  Oh, the fruit.  Right there, in the cold display case.  Shiny, colorful, REAL fruit.  Do you see anything squirtable in there?

Nope.  Just REAL fruit -- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, melon, peaches, pineapple -- and 100% fruit juice.  How refreshing.

One smoothie was all it took.  I was hooked.  I now have a go-to place to get a safe, healthy, gluten-free smoothie that I believe in.

And speaking of beliefs, why do you think they call their shop 9 Fruits?  The 9 Fruits website gives a great answer:

'Well, it stands for the 9 “fruits of the spirit” in the Bible. These “fruits” are positive character traits: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control. We’ve dedicated our business to seeing lives transformed by sharing our two-fold message of physical and spiritual health.'

Although Generosity is not one of the fruits of the spirit, 9 Fruits has also donated free smoothies and discount coupons to my fitness participants during special events. 

Today, I had the Peach Flamingo.  Here she is, whirling in that beautiful Vita-Mix.  (Do you know that my Vita-Mix is 10 years old and still works great?  I replaced a canister two years ago, but since we use it at least once a day, it was time.  Don't be scared off by the $400 investment.  It's well worth the money.  Isn't your health worth at least eleven cents a day?  Or, you could just go to 9 Fruits.  I'm sure a few of our housemates would have loved it if we had the extra sound buffer though!  Right, Brit?)

If you have to hit the canister to get the smoothie out, you know it's filled with thick, delicious fruit.

The Peach Flamingo

Take it on the run, or sit and enjoy your smoothie at 9 Fruits.  Since I'm constantly on the move, I usually take mine to go.  But standing at the counter talking to Kevin while he makes my smoothie makes me feel like I've had a quick sit-down meal with a friend.  If you have time to spare, there are tables and a window bar where you can hang out.  Today there was a table of men having a business meeting, high schoolers sipping smoothies at the bar, and a couple who looked like they had just come from the gym and were looking for that perfect recovery smoothie.  Kevin was happy to point them in the right direction.

As for me, my Peach Flamingo didn't last very long, and my empty sat in my cup holder next to the remains of last night's dinner, a Balanced Berry.

Thankfully, 9 Fruits has a frequent buyer reward.  The next one's on Kevin.

Have you tried 9 Fruits yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?


  1. Please tell Kevin he needs to open a 9 Fruits in Des Moines, Iowa. I hear we are getting a Trader Joe’s sometime this summer. That’s progress……

  2. You've gotten me hooked on smoothies since we went to Booster Juice after your 10 mile run. I've already decided to buy the VitaMix next time they come to Costco.

    Hey, can you do a follow up post to this on protein powder? I'm still at a loss trying to find one that has good-quality protein and doesn't taste chalky or powdery.

  3. You will LOVE the VitaMix. You can do so much more than smoothies. I've made soup, salsa, guacamole, and salad dressings too.

    We use the WheyFit Protein Concentrate from Nutrition Express. It may not be the highest quality, but with how quickly we go through it, it's cost effective and it tastes great.