How to Build a Healthy Smoothie: The Best Ingredients
Smoothies can be super healthy, but just as easily loaded with sugar, fat, and extra calories. So how do you choose the best ingredients to make a healthy addition to your diet? Here are some tips and ingredients to add to up your smoothie game to help you find a drink that is delicious, nutritious, and filling!
By: Alyssa, RDN-LD
Amount: 1 – 1½ cups
Though fruit is a healthy smoothie ingredient, you can get too much of a good thing0 in the form of calories or carbs. I recommend sticking to 1 cup of fruit per smoothie. You can choose fresh or frozen fruits for your smoothie. Ice can dilute the flavor so frozen fruit can be a great choice to take place of using a lot of ice.
Using fruit can add a natural sweetness to your smoothie, therefore eliminating the need for additional sweeteners. Some great fruit bases include strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, bananas, pineapple, pears, apples, oranges, and peaches. A slice of lemon or lime and tone down bitterness in some of your veggie-based smoothies.
Amount: 1-2 cups or a few handfuls
Veggies are nutrient powerhouses and adding them to your smoothies is a great way to sneak in a little extra leafy greens. Spinach is the best for those new to greens and is a great nutrient boost with a mild taste. I promise you will not even know that it’s in there. You can also choose dark leafy greens like kale, beet greens, or chard. Celery and cucumber have a distinctive taste, so start slow with these. If you’re feeling bold and want to step out of your comfort zone, try mixing in: red beets, carrots, zucchini, bok choy, or cauliflower.
Amount: 10-25 grams
Make sure you always have some protein source in your smoothing. Especially if you’re using your smoothie as a meal replacement or post-workout snack. This helps to build muscles and provide a well-balanced meal. Protein in a smoothie helps to keep you full longer, slows down digestion, and helps control blood sugar levels. Some great options include protein powder, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.
Amount: 1-2 Tbsp
Adding a healthy fat to your smoothie can help to keep you fuller longer and can add great flavor. Nut butters, seeds (chia, hemp, or ground flax seeds), nuts like cashews, almonds, or walnuts, and avocado can be great additions. Be cautious, these fats can also drive the calories up. I recommend about a tablespoon of seeds, or nut butter, or a ¼ of an avocado to avoid this issue.
Smoothie boosters can be added to the top of your smoothie or blended in to give you a bit of extra flavor and texture to liven up your smoothie. Some of my favorites are cinnamon, cocoa powder, turmeric, ginger, matcha powder, vanilla, coconut, oats, or granola. Use your best judgment depending on which addition you choose, as some are more potent than others.
Amount: 1 ½ to 2 cups
You need to add a liquid ingredient to help blend your smoothie but keep in mind, the more liquid you use the thinner the shake will be. Choose water, coconut water, or unsweetened almond or cashew milk for a lighter texture. Use oat or soy milk for a richer texture and protein boost. I would recommend avoiding fruit juices because it can add too much sugar to a smoothie especially if you are adding fruit.
Meal Prep Smoothies
If your mornings are hectic, you can save time by making frozen smoothie packs.
- Assemble individual smoothie servings in mason jars or zip-top bags.
- Place your ingredients in the jar (or bag), starting with the fruit. Use fruit that is already frozen, or it may be difficult to get out of the jar later.
- Do not add any liquid to the jar; you will add the liquid right before blending.
- Store the smoothie packs in your freezer until you are ready to use them.
- When ready to blend, dump the frozen smoothie pack into your blender. Pour your blending liquid into the jar and shake to get any last seeds, etc. out, then pour into your blender.
Blend and enjoy—served right in the jar!