Let me go ahead and preface this post by saying that I am not a licensed dietitian or nutritionist. I am a mere mortal, who has learned a lot about making well-balanced smoothies through the wisdom of dietitians, reputable podcasts, and reading over the past few months. As a result, I’ve been able to experiment with a lot of different ingredients and discover the combinations needed to create a smoothie with nutritional staying power. Smoothies and protein shakes have become pretty popular in the last few years and, unfortunately, just because something sounds healthy, doesn’t always make it so. A lot of these drinks are essentially sugary milkshakes in disguise and they lack the nutrients necessary to keep us properly fueled. This may lead to a shameful run-in with cinnamon rolls, hypothetically speaking- maybe.
When building my morning smoothie, I try to incorporate three main components: carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat.
The carbohydrates are complex and come from the fruits and vegetables. The need to add in extra sugar is eliminated if you use extra ripe fruit. I also always add in a generous handful of spinach (and sometimes kale) as a way to kick start my vegetable intake for the day. Don’t worry- when you blend it all together, you can’t taste the spinach. As for the kale, you have to blend that extra well or you will be tasting “spinach with hair” as Jim Gaffigan so lovingly describes this green. I’m sorry, I love vegetables, but it’s true.
I’ve included a list of the fruits and vegetables I have personally used and loved. You may notice I didn’t include raspberries on the list because I have found they tend to make the smoothies too tangy and gritty for my liking. Also, I typically use frozen fruit to make the smoothies thicker and more scrumptious.
Fruits- About 1 cup
Leafy Greens: 2 generous (and well-washed) handfuls
For the protein portion, I prefer using a good quality whey protein powder. It turns out we don’t get nearly as much protein as we should and this is the component that helps keep our hunger at bay. I have also used cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt when I don’t have the former option available.
- High quality whey protein powder (>15 grams of protein per scoop/serving)
- Greek yogurt (1/2-3/4 cup)
- Cottage cheese (1/2-3/4 cup)
Adding healthy fat is necessary to help stabilize blood sugar and increase our good (HDL) cholesterol. Contrary to my previous belief, nut butters count as a healthy fat and not a protein. Incorporating a healthy fat also makes the smoothie extra delightful.
- Natural peanut butter: 1 tablespoon
- Natural almond butter: 1 tablespoon
- Coconut oil (unrefined, cold-pressed is best): 1 tablespoon
- Canned coconut milk: 1/4 cup
- Avocado: 1/4 cup
To provide the right consistency for drinking, I always add a liquid base to my smoothies. Using milk will add a little extra protein; but I often mix and match depending on my mood. Here are my favorites:
Liquid Base: 1/2-1 cup total depending on your preference
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Unsweetened coconut milk
- Cold-brew coffee
To top off my scrumptious breakfast, I usually add in a little extra jazziness to brighten my day. I’ve listed my favorites below:
Extras: Usually between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon
- Ground flaxseed
- Chia seeds
- Espresso powder
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Fresh lemon or lime juice
- Orange zest
- Canned pumpkin (it is that time of year)
- Cinnamon or any other spices you fancy :)
Some of my favorite combinations are:
- Banana- spinach-peanut butter-coffee-almond milk-cocoa powder-chia seeds (inspired by one of my favorite local restaurants Zest)
- Blueberries-banana-spinach-coconut cream-coconut milk-ground flaxseed-fresh lemon juice
- Mango-pineapple-coconut cream-coconut milk-fresh lime juice
- Strawberries-banana-spinach-avocado-almond milk
The possibilities are endless and delicious depending on your personal preference. Again, I am only sharing what I have learned and not intending this information to be dietetic law. Wishing you all a happy and healthy day!