How To Build A Healthy Smoothie
Smoothies are one of my favorite go-to quick, healthy snacks or meal options! They're fast, taste great, portable and can be a great "vehicle" for nutrients. However, there is a right and wrong way to build a smoothie when it comes to nutrients and how it affects our blood sugar. Lots of "smoothies" should actually be considered "milk shakes" with the amount of sugar and empty carbohydrates in them. You want your smoothie to be macro nutrient balanced: protein, fat and carbohydrates just like any other meal or snack you eat.Let's clear up the confusion and let me show you how to put together a smoothie that is satiating, nourishing and won't spike your blood sugar!
STEP ONE: First, I like to put about 5-6 ice cubes in all my smoothies. Not only does it give a better consistency, but you'll get the added benefit of extra water and hydration.
STEP TWO: Add fruit and vegetables! Frozen bananas have become a must have in my smoothies lately, it gives it such a smooth and creamy texture. Frozen mangos, figs, pineapple, peaches, berries, cherries, strawberries, pears, watermelon, grapes....the list goes on! Frozen fruit is readily available anytime of year, easy to have on hand and it's said that frozen fruit has more nutrients because it is usually frozen very shortly after harvesting, allowing for more nutrients to remain present. Neat! Fresh fruit is definitely an option for smoothies too, however.I usually try to aim for two types of fruit, add much more than that and your smoothie might get overpowered with taste. Bananas and pineapple or mango have been a summer favorite of mine! I usually add about 1/4 -1/3 cup of frozen fruit.Add some vegetables in there if you dare, this can be a great way to get kids, adults and picky eaters to get in some nutrients! Spinach is a great place to start if you are new to the taste of vegetables in smoothies. (Although it honestly doesn't add much of a taste!) Add a handful and then increase the amount as you wish. The sweeter vegetable varieties are best for smoothies, such as carrots, beets, pumpkin, or squash. Be creative and unafraid to try things, you might be surprised.
STEP THREE: Add liquid. Unsweetened coconut milk is my favorite. Almond milk, high quality cow's milk, water, brewed tea or juice (be careful of sugar content however!) can be good options too! I add quite a bit of liquid because I like my smoothies to be on the thinner side so I can drink them with a straw. Adjust based on what you like! You want the liquid to be near the bottom of the blender, near the blades so it is easier to incorporate everything, so make sure you add the liquid fairly early in the process.
STEP FOUR: Add some fat and protein! This is a CRUCIAL step to a healthy smoothie, one that most often goes forgotten! You need a source of protein and fat to make your smoothie balanced, and to be sure it won't spike your blood sugar from all the carbohydrates. Protein and fat are satiating as well; they will fill you up and keep you full for a longer time. Fat slows down the absorption of sugar in our blood, so we don't feel that initial spike of energy from the fruit, then a crash an hour later and wanting more sugar. Some great smoothie friendly sources of fat and protein are nut butters or whole nuts, avocados (yes, try it, it will make your smoothie soft and creamy as well, you can't even taste it! You'll be amazed at the satiating power of a smoothie with 1/2 an avocado in it!), coconut flakes or coconut butter, greek yogurt, or protein powders. Make sure you use a high-quality, unsweetened, minimal ingredient whey protein powder if you decide to add this. I like Tera's Organic Whey Protein and Reservage Whey Protein.
STEP FIVE: Add the nutrients and spices! This is where you can get very creative with your smoothie and add in all sorts of ingredients to jazz it up! Start as basic as cinnamon and vanilla extract and go crazy with green powders, turmeric, omega 3 oils, and other liquid supplements. Smoothies will hide the flavor of many supplements. Other things you might add include cacao powder, honey, flax seed meal, stevia, chia seeds, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, or bee pollen. Get creative!
Some tips on blending: Don't worry if you don't have a super fancy, high powered blender. It's not necessary, trust me, I have made smoothies in the worst of the worst blenders. It does take a bit more patience, as the key is blending often and in small amounts. Blend just a little bit more than you think you need to, especially if you've added some more fibrous fruits and veggies. And add more liquid if the ingredients aren't seeming to come together.If you have extra smoothie, (which always seems to happen to me for some reason) pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it! Then pop it out next time you want a smoothie and blend the cubes with some water or other liquid.I hope this post encourages you to try out some new smoothie ideas, and reminds you to keep it balanced!
Let me know your favorite smoothie recipes or ideas in the comments. And as always, let me know if you have questions!