(See healthy recipes for weight loss and vitality below!)
Smoothie season is upon us! The days are getting longer, the sun has decided to stay, and there’s nothing more refreshing than waking up to a colorful smoothie before you hit the gym to work on those bikini abs.
There’s something about sipping a green drink through a straw as you get in some morning stretches that makes you feel like a god or goddess of fitness. While smoothies can be one of the healthiest things you can drink in the morning, there are also a lot of ways you can go wrong. For instance, some smoothie places (we won’t give names, but they are one of the most popular smoothie chains in America…) add sherbet or sorbet to their smoothies to make them sweeter. Dessert for breakfast? Not good for the waistline.
Additionally, some people forget to include a healthy source of fat and protein in their shakes. They blend a bunch of fruit with juice or milk and end up with a carbohydrate loaded breakfast that keeps them full for about 3 seconds.
Here are 5 ways to ensure that your smoothie is the nutrient packed rock star that you intend it to be.
1. Be choosy about your liquid
Juices, milks, and even yogurt give your shake different nutritional benefits. Adding a small amount of blueberry, acai, or black cherry juice can boost your antioxidant intake for the day, but are high in sugar and not very filling so use sparingly. Plant based milks can be a tasty way to get a creamy texture in your smoothie. Soy and Hemp milk will provide a little extra protein. Nut based milks such as almond milk or cashew milk add a great flavor, but aren’t a good source of protein. If you like a thicker shake, add plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt will provide a lot of protein, but may need to be thinned down with a little water to help it blend. Most milk (even plant based) and yogurt is fortified with calcium and vitamin D to help boost the nutrient potential.
2. Drink your vegetables
Vegetables are packed with nutrition, fiber, and hydration while being very low in calories so they help balance out the rest of the smoothie. The easiest vegetable to blend if you want to hide the taste and flavor is spinach. Spinach is mild, less fibrous than most other veggies, and very nutritious! Zucchini is another vegetable that’s easy to sneak in as well as cooked winter squash (like pumpkin or butternut). Social media is all over adding a very unlikely vegetable to smoothies lately, steamed then frozen cauliflower! It adds a little thickness to smoothies with a nearly undetectable taste and texture. If you have tried with no success to add vegetables to your morning drink, greens powders can be a good option as well. Greens powders are blends of cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, greens, and sometimes some fruit that are freeze dried to take care of their sometimes off-putting texture. No matter how adventurous you are, adding vegetables to smoothies is a game-changer if you’re looking to lose a few pounds.
3. Protein Powders for the win
A whey or plant-based protein powder will amp up the nutritional quality of your smoothie. It will supply important amino acids that refuel your muscles and enable your body to get stronger and leaner. Protein requires a lot of energy for your body to digest it (we call this the thermic effect of food, or TEF in the nutrition world) and keeps you full and satisfied. This promotes the optimal environment to lose weight without much effort. A scoop or two of your favorite powder (flavored or unflavored) tastes great blended with fruit and vegetables. Experiment with ratios that work for you!
4. Healthy fats
Avocado anyone? Adding a little bit of fat doesn’t only improve the creaminess of the smoothie, but will help you absorb the beneficial fat soluble nutrients found in the smoothie like vitamin A, D, E, and K. Not only that, fats increase the “staying power” of your smoothie and will help balance the blood sugar response of eating a liquid meal. Go for full fat coconut milk, nut butters, and avocado.
5. Tip top toppings
Adding a little extra texture and visual appeal to your smoothies can make them feel a little fancier while adding bonus nutrients. Some of the best toppers for smoothies are nuts and seeds. Chopped almonds, pecans, even pistachios add a fun texture to your smoothies while supplying healthy fats. Seeds like chia and flax are full of nutritional benefits like prebiotic fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Try topping your smoothies with healthy, low sugar granola for a little extra fiber and crunch.
Get creative with your smoothies by experimenting with all of these healthy ideas! There are no smoothie rules. If you like them thick, add a lot of whole fruit, nut butters, and ice. Put them in a bowl and eat them with a spoon! If you like them lean and green, blend up a bunch of spinach with carrot juice. Add a half of a frozen banana and drink with a straw! Remember that diversity is key to a healthy diet. Don’t just make the same boring smoothie for breakfast every day. Mix up the flavors and ingredients so you are expanding your nutrient consumption. For a delicious smoothie recipes for weight loss and vitality check these recipes below!