by Tara Postnikoff
A smoothie can be a nutritious meal or it can be a recipe for sugar overload. When you use the right ingredients, smoothies are a convenient way to get many nutrients in one meal, and the possibilities are endless. Unlike juicing, smoothies maintain all the fibre from the foods you use. They can be used as an on-the-go meal alternative in the morning or after your workout.
Because you are blending everything together, smoothies can be a good choice if you don’t feel hungry in the morning or after working out. They are also an easy-to-digest option that won’t feel too heavy before bed. However, the nutritional value and benefit is all based on what you put in your smoothie. A well-balanced smoothie will contain some protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates. When you load it up with veggies, you will help increase your intake of key micronutrients. So, what should go in the ideal nutritious smoothie?
Start with your base liquid. Water is a great base instead of juice as it contains no extra calories or sugar. While it may seem boring, it will help keep the cost down and all the other ingredients will add the flavour. For a creamier smoothie, try an unsweetened nut milk.
Next, choose a protein source: about 15 grams is a good start. Protein powder is a typical go-to choice. Look for a high quality brand with no added artificial sweeteners or sugars. I recommend buying an unflavoured variety to avoid the addition of artificial colours and flavours. Generally, you’ll find either whey or vegan protein powders on the market. Whey is a quickly absorbed form of protein and is a great choice after a workout. If you are trying to avoid dairy, look for vegan powders that are generally blends of pea, brown rice or hemp protein. If you’d rather not use a powder, plain Greek yogurt will also do the trick (if you don’t have dairy allergies).
Now, add a healthy fat. This will provide some weight to the smoothie and will help keep you more full. Try two tablespoons of coconut oil or natural nut butter, or half an avocado. For a nutritious boost of omega-3 fatty acids, add one or two tablespoons of chia, hemp or flax seeds.
Sneak in some greens. When blended together, you’ll never know that you’re eating kale or spinach, and it’s a great way to add some extra vegetables to your day. Other veggies that work well in the blender are carrots, beets and celery.
Berries are great in smoothies, whether fresh or frozen. They boost the antioxidant content as well as provide some vitamin C and a lot of flavour. Other fruit can be used too, but cap it around a cup unless you’re doing an intense workout or you are specifically looking for more carbohydrates.
Here are some other possible smoothie ingredients:
- Lemon or lime–helps improve the absorption of minerals from the greens
- Fresh ginger–a great anti-inflammatory
- Mint leaves–a digestive aid and antioxidant
- Parsley–a source of calcium
- Raw cacao nibs–a source of antioxidants
Layer all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the liquid according to your personal preference. Remember to have fun and experiment to find your own favourite combination.
Tara’s Mixed Berry Breakfast Smoothie
2 cups (500 mL) water
1 cup (250 mL) mixed berries
2 cups (500 mL) red kale
1 lemon, juiced
1 inch ginger root, grated
1 tbsp. (15 mL) chia seeds
1 scoop protein powder
Puree ingredients thoroughly in blender and serve immediately. Makes one serving.
Tara Postnikoff is a Registered Nutritional Consultant, certified Personal Trainer and triathlon/running coach in Toronto. She is an avid distance runner and triathlete, and a regular guest speaker for Running Room training programs. To learn more, visit her website at www.heal-nutrition.com.