Smoothie’s are my go to breakfast choice. They’re easy to make, portable and filling. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed many folks jumping into the “smoothie culture” and making less than healthy choices. Here are some tips to make sure you have a delicious and nutritious smoothie.
Keep it Real
Though it is convenient to rely on powders for your smoothie, powders are generally highly processed and full of artificial flavors and sweeteners. Though I do add some powders to my smoothie (see section titled “Add in Supplements” below for details), my focus is on high quality real foods, especially greens. Here are some tips for making a delicious and nutritious smoothie.
Focus on Vegetables
The majority of your smoothie should be vegetables. U.S. dietary guidelines call for at least three servings of vegetables a day. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even get that. Use an organic mix of greens such as kale, chard, arugula, dandelion, collards and spinach. Other vegetables that add a refreshing touch are cucumber, celery and mushrooms, as they all have a high-water content. Don’t be afraid to try different ingredients. I once threw in some beets. True confession, this was not one of my better smoothies.
If you have three cups of greens in your morning smoothie, you’ve already meet your minimum consumption of vegetables for the day. My challenge to you is to strive to double that amount. As an additional challenge, attempt to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Most Americans eat a very limited variety of vegetables, our ancestors ate a huge variety. Next time you’re at the grocery store, buy a green you’ve never tried. Be adventurous!
Easy on the Fruit
Bananas are probably the tastiest fruit to add to your smoothie. From a nutritional standpoint, berries are a better pick. As a housewife who hates to waste food, my go to fruit is usually whatever is about to go bad. I’ve added everything from apples to watermelon and I’ve never had a bad tasting smoothie because of fruit (unlike the beet fiasco).
Though avocados are technically a fruit, I don’t count them under the fruit category for smoothie purposes as they don’t contribute to the overall sugar content of the smoothie. They are a nutritional powerhouse, chock full of healthy fats and very nutrient dense. In addition, avocados help give your smoothie a nice creamy texture.
Always use organic as conventional dairy is notoriously high in antibiotics and hormones. According to a Harvard University Study, dairy consumption accounts for 60-80% of dietary estrogens, which have been linked to cancer. Use fermented dairy such as plain full fat Yogurt or Milk Kefir for a probiotic boost. Kefir is the better choice as it can have two to three times as many cultures as Yogurt and twenty different types of probiotics. It’s perfectly fine to use both or alternate between the two. Just use full fat, plain and organic brands.
Unsweetened nut milks, like almond, are a great addition to your smoothie. If you are very dehydrated, for example after a long run in the summer, it’s nice to add in some coconut water for a little extra hydration and electrolyte boost. My go to liquid blend is ½ cup unsweetened almond milk along with ½ cup coconut water.
A high quality green powder is a great way to maximize the nutritional value of your smoothie. Make sure to use a powder that contains vegetables you aren’t adding in raw form. Ideally one that has a great mix of antioxidants and immune building compounds to compliment your fresh greens. I’m a big fan of the Orgnifi brand, though there are probably others that are equally reputable. The Organifi green powder has many organic powdered superfoods that I’m unlikely to get in the supermarket, for example the algae Chlorella and Moringa leaves, a powerful medicinal plant from the Asian subcontinent.
This is where you can fine tune and get granular with your smoothie nutrients.
- Protein: If you are in a muscle building phase, feel free to add in a high-quality protein powder. Don’t cut corners! Cheaper is not better. Many cheap brands have poor quality protein, low amounts of protein and artificial sweeteners or fillers that can wreak havoc on your gut. The Organifi brand has an excellent vegan protein powder. For my smoothies, I always add a tablespoon of Great Lakes Gelatin, which is derived from collagen, has twenty different amino acids and 11 grams of protein. It’s a great way to easily give your smoothie some of the same benefits derived from bone broth.
- I also add 5 grams of Creatine which has been shown to help reduce muscle loss and cognitive function as we age. As a woman in her 50’s I need all the help I can get!
- Other good add-ons include superfoods (e,g, algae), medicinal mushrooms or adaptogenic herbs (they help your body adapt to stresses by making it easier for you to balance your hormonal system). One of my favorite places to shop for these add-ons is a company called Four Sigmatic. They have a wide variety of mushroom blends to help you with everything from anxiety to sleep. Sometimes I just raid my spice rack for some help: turmeric if I’m feeling inflamed; wild oregano or Echinacea if I feel I need an immune system boost.
Enhance the Nutrients
Here are a few simple hacks to increase the nutrient content of your smoothie:
- Ice at the bottom of the blender to keep the ingredients from getting overheated during blending.
- A squeeze of lemon juice from half a lemon to assure there is no oxidation of your healthy produce and a little added Vitamin C.
- About a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to help with nutrient absorption.
Macro & Micro Smoothie Breakdown
I probably have never made the exact same smoothie twice. Here is a breakdown of this morning’s smoothie. The macro nutrient content of my smoothie probably varies very little. However, the micronutrients can differ substantially depending on the addition of superfoods or adaptogens. This morning’s creation was very simple and took less than three minutes from start to finish.
- Three cups organic spinach, kale and chard
- One medium ripe banana
- Half an avocado
- Half a cup plain full fat Kefir
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ¼ cup coconut water
- One scoop green powder
- One tablespoon Great Lakes Gelatin
- 5 mg Creatine
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1 tsp Turmeric
Carbohydrates: 50 grams
Protein: 28 grams
Fat: 13 grams
Fiber: 17 grams
Vitamin A 75% RDA
Vitamin C 100% RDA
Vitamin D 50% RDA
Vitamin B6 40% RDA
Iron 30% RDA
Calcium 80% RDA
Potassium 25% RDA
This was a fairly high carb smoothie because of the banana. If you are going low-carb, definitely stay with berries or eliminate all fruit and the coconut water. It’s also easy to double the protein by adding more Gelatin or increase the fat by adding a whole avocado.
Eating a smoothie in lieu of a standard breakfast, lunch or dinner can be a great way to increase the nutrient quality of your diet. Just remember to use real food, focus on vegetables and avoid additions with empty calories. Make healthy choices my friends.
Here are the links to some of the brands I mentioned in this post. Many of their products are also sold on Amazon.