Saturday Smoothies: Orange Brain Shake

orange almond smoothie

The Orange Brain Shake was a favorite of the teen moms at Florence Crittenton when I worked there. One of my goals as the life skills counselor was to introduce the girls and their kids to healthier foods and better nutrition. Many of them had grown up with diets dominated by Kool-aid, pop, boxed mac n’ cheese, ramen noodles and canned pasta dishes. When they came to Florence Crittenton, they would encounter large fresh salads, vegetable side dishes, smaller portions of carbohydrates, healthier meats and other proteins, very limited sugar — and no junk food.

We made nutrition taste delicious. Eventually the girls would truly appreciate the salads and smoothies our staff prepared.  The Orange Brain Shake was one of those that were most requested. Sometimes I called it an Orange Julius Revisited.

I started making the Orange Brain Shake when my sons were little and I was a single mom.  I used to make this non-dairy, high protein smoothie for my boys at least 4 mornings a week. I always told them it would help them think, do better on tests and be alert during school. Eventually they started asking me to make it for them on exam days. I think it worked. They both did well in school.

The year he graduated from high school, Gabe was one of two Presidential Scholars from Montana. A local tv news reporter interviewed him, asking an odd question, “What made you so smart?” Mischievously, Gabe replied, “Two things: we didn’t have a tv in our house. And my mom made me brain smoothies for breakfast.” I think that quote made it into the 60-second news story that night. heh.

So here’s my recipe, just in time for school mornings after the Labor Day weekend.

orange almond smoothie

Orange Almond Brain Shake  — not just for kids. 🙂

Makes two 16 oz or three 12 oz servings


  • 3 whole oranges or tangelos
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 T. soy lecithin
  • 4 or more cubes of ice or frozen coconut milk


  1. Peel two of the oranges. Peel half of the third orange and leave the other half with peel on.
  2. Put all ingredients, including the unpeeled half-orange, into a blender and pulse until the nuts and ice are finely pulverized.
  3. Blend on high for at least one minute to give it some “froth.”


  • Tangelos are tastier, more flavorful than oranges if you can get them. Satsuma oranges are good too (cuties) but you will need more of these, to make the volume of three large oranges.
  • Substitute any of the milk alternatives such as coconut or almond milk.
  • I use soy lecithin, but if you are allergic to soy, you can also use sunflower lecithin. Lecithin makes the smoothie smoother. It is also thought to help heart and liver health, as well as memory and other brain functions. See this link for more info on the nutritional value of soy lecithin. 
  • Sweetness: depending on how sweet the oranges are and how sweet you want your smoothie, you can add a sweetener: honey, agave nectar, real maple syrup, or (gasp!) sugar. Careful, though. It doesn’t need to be sweet to be yummy.
  • Add 1/2 cup or more of yogurt if you are not avoiding dairy, and if you like the taste of yogurt.
  • Once in a rare while, when I made this smoothie for the kids in the evenings, I would put in a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make a healthier than normal dessert shake.
soy lecithin
Lecithin is thought to increase liver and heart health, as well as improve memory. I add lecithin to smoothies for its emulsifying action and health benefits. You can also use sunflower lecithin. Keep refrigerated. I’ve had this jar and label since 1978 shortly after I moved to Montana. The label reminds me of the 1970s — remember how popular moons and stars were back then? Okay, I know. I’m dating myself. Hee!