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A Dietitian's Top 7 Tips for Making a Healthy Smoothie

By Susana Ritchey MS, RD, LD

I usually consider smoothies to be easy. Throw a few ingredients into a blender and you have a meal or snack. However, if you plan to enjoy smoothies regularly or every day, you may be wondering how you can make sure they are healthy, balanced, and energizing. In order to break some of these smoothie nuances down, I've compiled my top 7 tips for creating healthy smoothies.


#1 Ensure you have protein in your smoothie. At least 10 grams is ideal, but more is helpful if you're physically active, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Forgetting to add a protein source is one of the easiest mistakes to make, which is why it is the first thing I think about when I make a smoothie.


Depending on the amount of protein you're aiming for, you may want to add multiple protein sources. For instance, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has ~8 grams of protein. Adding more peanut butter to reach your protein goal could add more calories than you were hoping for. Instead of adding more, it may be helpful to pair it with your choice of high protein milk. Cows milk, soy milk, pea milk, and other new grocery store finds like Not Milk or fortified oat milk. Hemp milk and flax milk do have some protein (3-4 g per serving), but would definitely need to be paired with another protein source.


Panicked about protein powder? I personally do not have strong expertise in this area, but I asked a few dietitian friends for their recommendations and listed them at the bottom of the article. Feel free to add your favorite protein powders to the comments!


#2 Add fat to your smoothie. Although you may be worried about the larger amount of calories fat contributes relative to protein and carbs, fat is really nutritionally helpful in a smoothie!


Fat helps to slow the absorption of sugars in our bloodstream. This helps keep our blood sugars steady and can prevent complications with diabetes and PCOS. Even if you aren't worried about these conditions, keeping your blood sugar stable can help prevent major energy crashes throughout the day. If this isn't enough to convince you, remember that fat helps to keep you full and is vital for fertility, pregnancy, and lactation.


I generally recommend fats low in saturated fat, so I would not advise using full fat, canned-coconut milk on a daily basis. That being said, it does have some health benefits and is super delicious, so I absolutely use it from time to time. Dairy is also generally higher in saturated fat, but there is some evidence that full-fat dairy can be helpful for women trying to conceive.


#3 Add vegetables! Sure, not every single smoothie you make needs to have vegetables, but adding them to smoothies can really help you get more veggies in during the day.


Not all veggies work in smoothies because of texture and taste. Spinach is my go-to vegetable because grabbing a handful of pre-washed spinach from the fridge couldn't be easier. The one caveat with spinach is that is can turn smoothies with pink and blue colors into unappetizing brown colors. Because of this, I usually use spinach with lighter fruits like peach, mango, or pineapple.


I also love using frozen avocado in my smoothies. Not only does it count as a source of healthy fat, but it helps to keep the smoothie cold. You can now get precut, frozen avocado at some grocery stores, including Sprouts, Publix, Costco, and Whole Foods.


It is also easy to find precut beets at the grocery store now as well, making this typically time-consuming veggie simpler than ever. Beets are perfect for smoothies with pink and blue colors.


#4 Keep it cold. The worst thing ever is a room-temperature smoothie. Make sure at least one or two of your ingredients are frozen. Frozen bananas feature in 90% of my smoothies. Save any over-ripe bananas from the trash by peeling and freezing them. Frozen fruit is perfect, along with frozen veggies like spinach, kale, and avocado. Another trick is to put some of your liquid of choice in an ice cube tray. Frozen cubes made of milk, plant-based milks, coconut water, cold brew and teas are great ways to keep your smoothie cold without watering it down with ice.


#5 Minimize added sugar. Because there are plenty natural, healthy sugars from the fruits in your smoothie, it is best to avoid added sugars and juice. Because juice (even 100% juice) does not contain the fiber content of whole fruits, it is best to avoid adding these to your smoothies. Acai packs are also often sweetened, so if you buy these frozen look at the package for an unsweetened variety. Finally, watch the plant-based milks! Many of the "original" or flavored blends of plant-based milks contain added sugar. Make sure to check the packaging. Almost all brands have unsweetened varieties. If after blending your smoothie isn't sweet enough, I recommend adding a date.


*Note: added sugars are not evil. I use the word "avoid" instead of "eliminate" for a reason. It's okay to add a few ounces of juice or a few teaspoons of maple syrup to a smoothie occasionally. Just don't go overboard!


#6 Don't feel bad about using a recipe. Are you new to smoothies? It's 100% fine to wing smoothie making, but this may be difficult at first. It can be difficult to get the taste, texture, and color right if you are not used to combining smoothie ingredients. Follow the recipe and adjust as needed.


Are you a smoothie veteran? The occasional recipe may be fun for you too. Sometimes we get stuck in flavor ruts, and a good recipe can open up new flavor possibilities. I'll list some of my favorite interesting smoothie recipes at the bottom of the page. Do you have a favorite recipe? Send me the link or share in the comments.


#7 Be aware of the calories. I try to avoid focusing on calories, but smoothies (particularly smoothie bowls) are foods that I feel need a disclaimer. Even though our society portrays smoothies as "skinny foods" and "weight loss foods," they vary a lot in calories. I believe smoothies are delicious and healthy ways to get in a ton of nutrients. This disclaimer does not mean you should not include them if you are trying to lose weight. It is just a reminder to be aware that some smoothies have enough calories, protein and fat to be a full meal. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues, and you should be fine.


Protein powder recommendations:

Because I don't usually use protein powders, I reached out to some RD friends for help. Chelsi Brown MS, RD, LD recommends Gold Standard by Optimum Nutrition for those who can tolerate whey. She notes that their products are NSF Certified, so it is third-party tested and has no banned substances for sports. If you're looking for a plant-based option, Chelsi likes the Orgain brand.

Casie Cuneio, MS, RD, LD says she likes the Vega brand which is also plant-based. Find more nutrition tips and recipes from Casie here.


Smoothie recipes to get you out of that strawberry-banana rut!

If you've read some of my posts, you know I'm mildly obsessed with Oh She Glows. Follow this recipe perfectly and you will be rewarded. The only adaptation I make is to add greek yogurt or higher protein milk for protein.


You guys. This is a literal chocolate milk shake. I'm obsessed. Once again, my only adaptation is to replace the almond milk with a milk higher in protein.


More smoothie questions? Don't hesitate to ask. Comment below or contact me on Instagram, Facebook or via email: letschat@susanaritcheyrd.com.

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1 comentario


Orion Cruz
Orion Cruz
17 nov 2023

Hi,


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