How to make a “balanced” smoothie

With what seems like millions of smoothie recipes available, it can be a bit overwhelming to start including a daily smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to include more veggies (in particular, more greens) as many of us are not often getting enough vegetables daily. Vegetables are extremely important in our diet as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber and are often quite low in energy. They help us to feel full at meals and stay full after meals, so we do not over-eat higher energy foods. Its all about the balance! In an ideal world we would all try to have half our plate as vegetables, but this often does not happen and can be harder at meals like breakfast… oatmeal and spinach anyone? 😛

So while it is important to try and include veggies as much as possible (like eating chilli or pasta over a bed of greens; adding a bunch of sautéed veggies to a soup/stew/chili/pasta sauce/lentil or curry dishes/omelettes; or just eating raw veggies and dips/hummus on the side at meals; etc. (I could go on for days with this, can you tell))… SMOOTHIES are a great way to get more veggies in! As well, if prepared in advance are a great grab and go meal replacement or snack to avoid getting hangry on those busy days where we simply forget to eat.

What kinds of things can I add to my smoothie to make it more “balanced” so that it will be a healthy and fulfilling alternate to meals and other snacks? The answer to this is the same as what I educate my clients around: making sure to include all “four” macronutrients. Now before I delve into that, lets just define what the term “macronutrient” is. These are nutrients that we need in larger quantities (grams) for the body to be healthy and carry out normal physiological functions. You may have also heard of the term “micronutrient”, and these are the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that the body needs in smaller quantities (milligrams and micrograms) to carry out normal physiologic functions.

Focusing in on the macronutrients, there are four that we should be including in each of our meals and these are: 1) CARBOHYDRATES, 2) PROTEINS, 3) HEALTHY FATS, 4) FIBER. Often in our busy lives, we do not think about what we are having for dinner until 5:00pm in evening and the go to is easily the CARBOHYDRATES (think a plate of pasta for example), especially when we are hungry right now! The PROTEINS, HEALTHY FATS and FIBER often get left out as they tend to take longer to prep. What we are doing here when we have CARBOHYDRATE heavy meals is spiking our blood sugar levels and insulin levels, which can lead to a sharp drop in blood sugar levels and then trigger the brain to tell us it needs more food (usually an hour or two after the meal) which translates into strong cravings usually later in the evening (“late night snacking”). This is a whole other can of worms, and I can spend hours educating on macronutrients and balancing meals BUT we are here to talk about smoothies!

When putting together a smoothie for a meal or snack it is important to add ingredients from each MACRONUTRIENT to allow for sustained energy and to make you feel fuller for longer. You do not need to add every single ingredient listed but experiment each time and try new combinations. Some days you might not want a green smoothie, so add frozen cauliflower as your vegetable source instead for example. Some ingredient ideas for each MACRO are:

CARBOHYDRATES:
  • Fruit: fresh or frozen. Berries, bananas, mango, apples, pears etc. (be mindful of the fruit content as you need to balance the sugar/carbohydrates from the fruit with the fiber from vegetables/other sources and with the protein and the healthy fats).
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt, kefir (watch the flavoured kinds as they usually have quite a bit of added sugars). You can also use non-dairy milks (coconut, almond, cashew, oat) but these usually do not have carbohydrates (unless you by the flavoured/sweetened kinds) and usually have minimal protein so you can just use them as a base to make the smoothie creamier.
  • Oats, thicken the smoothie and adds some extra carbohydrates for energy if you are making a smoothie for a meal replacement for example.
PROTEIN:
  • Dairy: greek yogurt, milk, kefir (watch the flavoured kinds as they usually have quite a bit of added sugars).
  • Nuts and Seeds: hemp seeds, chia seeds (be sparing as chia seeds gel as they absorb liquids), ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews/almonds/brazil nuts etc., whole nuts/seeds or nut/seed butters.
  • Good quality protein powder (flavoured or unflavoured, without added sugars and other additives)
  • Collagen powder (has about 4.5g protein per tbsp.)
  • Greens powders, spirulina or chlorella (has about 2g protein per tsp.)
FAT:
  • Avocados (fresh or frozen)
  • Coconut (shredded, oil or milk)
  • MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil or powder
  • Nuts and Seeds: hemp seeds, chia seeds (careful, they gel as they sit), ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews/almonds/brazil nuts etc., whole nuts and seeds or nut and seed butters.
  • Pumpkin puree
FIBRE:
  • Fruit: fresh or frozen. Berries, bananas, mango, apples, pears etc. (be mindful of the fruit content as you need to balance the sugar/carbohydrates from the fruit with the fiber from vegetables/other sources and with the protein and the healthy fats).
  • Vegetables: try to sneak in as many as you can to increase your daily vitamin/mineral, phytonutrients, and fiber intake. And be sure to mix it up daily/weekly. Some ideas are:
    • Fresh or frozen greens, mix it up to include a variety like spinach, kale, romaine, mixed greens and/or add a greens powder.
    • Zucchini with the peel, chop up roughly, adds a nice smooth texture and very little taste.
    • Frozen cauliflower (florets or riced) makes the smoothie nice and cold and again has very little taste.
    • Celery, does have a stronger taste but the sweetness of fruit can offset it.
  • Fresh mint, adds a nice fresh taste and fresh herbs are packed with nutrients.
  • Ground flaxseeds (flax meal), thickens the smoothie nicely without a lot of flavour.
  • Chia seeds, watch how much you add as they can really cause the smoothie to “gel”. Remember that if you make a big batch for a day or two and it thickens too much, you can just add more liquid and re-blend to desired consistency.
  • Oats, thicken the smoothie and adds some extra carbohydrates for energy if making a smoothie for a meal replacement.

Here are some links to some smoothie recipes that incorporate the above ingredients to get you comfortable with them and give an idea of quantities so that you may have the confidence to try out different combinations on your own!

Healthy Pumpkin Smoothie: https://foodwithfeeling.com/healthy-pumpkin-smoothie/

Creamy Zucchini Blueberry Smoothie: https://minimalistbaker.com/creamy-zucchini-blueberry-smoothie/

Gut Healing Green Smoothie: https://holisticwellness.ca/gut-healing-green-smoothie/

Pineapple Kale and Avocado Smoothie: https://holisticwellness.ca/pineapple-kale-and-avocado-smoothie-my-favorite-vegetarian-times-recipes-for-meatless-monday/

Healthy Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie: https://celebratingsweets.com/healthy-mint-chocolate-chip-smoothie/#recipe

HAPPY SMOOTHIE MAKING!!!

 

Megan Hoffman, Registered Dietitian

Megan Hoffman has always had an interest in health and wellness which is what drew her to study to become a dietitian. Her passion is strongly rooted in the power of belief in nutrition for optimal health and wellness. She believes in a whole-foods eating approach and creating and fostering a healthy relationship with food. Read more about Megan here.


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