The smoothie may be one of the world’s most perfect on-the-go meals. It’s portable, a simple way to hit your fruit and veg quota, and basically mindless to make. It’s for these reasons that so many of us rely on smoothies to get us going in the morning, especially when we’re short on time. But just how healthy is that liquid breakfast you’re about to consume? If its main ingredients are frozen fruits and juices, then the answer unfortunately is not very. Marc Bubbs, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and Director of Nutrition for Men’s Basketball Canada, warns that “breakfast smoothies can quickly become carb bombs first thing in the morning,” which sucks for your blood sugar, mental clarity, and potentially your waistline. So, which combination of blendable edibles is the recipe for smoothie success, and which of your go-tos could it be time to ditch? We asked our nutrition experts to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say:
1. LEAFY GREENS – If you’re looking for a quick and easy way of upping your veggie intake, your breakfast smoothie is the perfect opportunity to pack ‘em in. “Everyone needs more greens in their diet and for good reason: they are jam-packed full of phytonutrients, iron, minerals, and fiber, and are super alkalizing for your whole system,” says Jenn Pike, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and STRONG Advisory Board member. “Too many people front load their smoothies with fruit and skip the greens leading to increased cravings and gas throughout the day.” Pike’s swamp suggestions? Spinach, kale, mixed greens, arugula, collards, or even fresh herbs for the win.
2. PROTEIN – You already know protein is key for building and maintaining lean muscle, but it also helps kickstart metabolism and improve energy levels. “Protein is crucial for getting your day off on the right foot,” says Bubbs. “Protein provides the building blocks for all cells and tissues of the body, it helps to naturally raise dopamine levels to keep you sharp and focused, and it promotes satiety so you can stay productive all morning.” Bubbs prescribes adding 20-30 g of whey or plant-based protein powder to your smoothie.
3. PSYLLIUM FIBER – Run out to your local health food or bulk food store and look for psyllium husk, pronto—just a small scoop in your smoothie can do wonders for your health. “Fiber at breakfast helps to release the good sugars from the smoothie you’re eating at a slower rate, keeping you fuller longer,” says Andrea Falcone, Registered Dietitian. “Not to mention helping to lower your cholesterol levels and keeping you regular.” Falcone recommends tossing one teaspoon into your smoothie to begin with, then working up to one tablespoon.
1. FLAVORED YOGURT – That vanilla flavored yogurt may give your smoothie delicious creaminess and flavor, but it’s also giving you some unwanted gifts as well. “Sweetened yogurt adds a ton of unnecessary sugar,” says Pike. “It’s also highly inflammatory as a food source, lacks any fiber, and on average will pack a whopping 20 g of sugar per cup!” Pike suggests switching your yo for unsweetened coconut milk, coconut water, or just plain old water. Missing the creamy texture? Try avocado or frozen coconut meat, she says.
2. FRUIT – Okay, so not all fruit has to go (where would the fun be in that?), but if overall health and nutrition is your smoothie goal, Bubbs says to at least be mindful of how much you’re tossing in. “As a general rule, pick the fruits with the most fiber and least amount of carbs,” he says. “For example, a cup of raspberries has 15 g of carbs but a whopping 8 g of fiber, yielding only 7 g of effective carbs. On the other hand, a large banana has 31 g of carbs and only 3 g of fiber, resulting in a much higher 28 g of effective carbs.” Now that’s math you can use!
3. FRUIT JUICE – It’s tempting to reach for apple or orange juice to add liquid and flavor to your smoothie, but resist the urge. “Plain and simple, there are better ways to thin out your smoothie,” says Falcone. “If you include both juice and fresh fruit you might as well just be having a glass of sugar.” She suggests switching the juice for a non-dairy beverage, kefir, milk, or plain water and rely on other ingredients for sweetness.
Looking for a smoothie that fits the bill? Try the Green Goddess!