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Not far from my house, there’s a magical establishment that creates the most ridiculously delicious milkshakes on the planet. (I’m not open to discussion on this – nostalgia and my penchant for the Oreo Mint shake have made it unshakably true in my mind.)

This magical land is known as Cook-Out. For a while, my daily logistical routine involved passing by the siren-like glow of its neon sign quite often. And I got in the habit of stopping in for a shake.

I have no problem with the occasional sugary indulgence, but drinking a Cook-Out milkshake is essentially the same thing as eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s by yourself. And doing that on the quasi-regular was not good for me – I never felt great physically afterward, and I knew that I enjoyed the idea of the dessert more than the actual thing

So, one night, I managed not to turn the car into the drive-thru. I came home instead, and decided to replace my Oreo Mint craving with something else. I’d become a bona fide smoothie fanatic a few years ago when I was working with Jen Schonborn, a lovely holistic nutritionist, in Brooklyn. So I decided to create a twist on the super-healthy-and-yummy morning smoothies I’d learned from her, with a more dessert-y feel, and focusing on the stuff I craved in a milkshake: creaminess and sweetness.

Here’s what I made, and it’s what I continue to make every time I’m craving Cook-Out (or whenever, really).

Banana/Almond/Chocolate Cook-Out Craving Replacement Smoothie

(Note: Feel free to switch up the fruit, or add different kinds of ingredients to help fill in whatever flavors you love the most. These are also approximate measurements – experiment a bit to figure out how thick you like your shake, etc.)

  1. Throw a handful of frozen cut-up pieces of banana in a blender. (I keep these on hand in a bowl in the freezer at all times – they’re also crazy delicious slightly thawed with almond butter spread on ‘em.)
  2. Add a big spoonful of almond butter, or peanut butter if you like that better.
  3. Pour in some almond milk, preferably unsweetened – enough to cover the bananas, at least. You can also use soy or dairy milk – up to you.
  4. Throw in a spoonful of cocoa powder, or go old-school with a bit of chocolate syrup. (This is still dessert, after all!)
  5. If you like your shakes super frosty and have a badass blender, add a couple of ice cubes. 
  6. Blend it all up until it’s smooth, and taste it. How’s it going? From here, you can add any of the following to change things to your particular taste:
    • Want it thicker? Add more bananas, or any other kind of frozen fruit. (I personally like my smoothies to be so thick that I have to eat them with a spoon.)
    • Thinner? Add some more almond/soy/regular milk.
    • Sneakily healthier? Throw in some kale or salad mix. You won’t taste it, I promise.
    • More superfood-y? Add some cacao nibs, maca powder, or a bit of spirulina.
    • Sweeter? Add some agave nectar or honey.

You know something? Once I broke the milkshake habit and replaced it with something just as delicious, but less sugar-crash-y and rich, I didn’t feel the pull of the neon Cook-Out sign anymore. I happily stop in as a special treat once in a long while, but switching up the habit made all the difference.  

We’d love to hear from you! Got any favorite smoothie tips to share? Have you ever changed an unhealthy habit for the better? Keep your CGH friends in the know!

Mailande Moran is a musician, writer, and media consultant based in Durham, NC. She is a 2013 graduate of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she served as a Fellow for the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship's Impact Investing Initiative and the Center on Leadership and Ethics. In the summer of 2012, she worked with Enterprise Community Loan Fund to analyze and communicate the impact of green affordable housing and transit-oriented development in Colorado. While pursuing her MBA, she consulted with the healthcare NGO Healing Fields in India, the microfinance start-up Seeds in Kenya, and the for-profit maternity hospital LifeSpring in India. Prior to Fuqua, she focused on social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in strategy roles at Echoing Green and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Mailande graduated from Duke University in 2006 with an A.B. in Art History. She is passionate about creating a safer, more equitable world. You can hear her music on Facebook (mailandemusic) and follow her other adventures on Twitter (@mailande). read more about