Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Build the Perfect Smoothie

Breakfast seems to be the hardest meal of the day to squeeze into our busy lives.  It’s the question we get asked most:  I’m always rushed in the morning. What is a quick, healthy breakfast I can grab while I’m running out the door?

There are so easy many options!  Slow-cooker oatmeal, overnight oats, granola, healthy muffins, egg sandwiches… And smoothies.

Smoothies are easy to make, and easy to sip on the way to school or work.  There are an infinite number of smoothie combinations, which is great for satisfying taste buds but can also be confusing.  Here are some easy guidelines for building the perfect smoothie.

As with all breakfasts, you want your smoothie to have (1) protein (2) whole, intact carbohydrates with fiber (3) good-quality fats and (4) no added sugars.  You don’t want to turn your morning meal into dessert.  If your smoothie contains all those components, it will keep you full and satisfied until lunchtime.  Or at least snack-time.

Protein:           You don’t need to add protein powder to your smoothies.  There are many whole foods sources of protein that are perfect for smoothies.  If you eat dairy products, then milk, plain yogurt or cottage cheese are all good sources of protein and can provide a tasty base for your smoothie.  Other sources of protein are nuts or nut butters; seeds like hemp seeds, chia seeds or pumpkin seeds; whole oats; or tofu. 

Carbs:             Carbohydrates are like gas for an engine—they give us the fuel we need to work and play.  Without carbs in our morning meal, our brain doesn’t have energy to help us think, resulting in brain fog.  If you use milk or yogurt as your smoothie base, both of those are good sources of carbohydrates.  Fruits and dried fruit are also healthy source of energy, as well as good sources of fiber!  If you use a milk alternative as your smoothie base (almond, hemp, rice or coconut milk, for example), be sure to choose an unsweetened version.  Add sweetness to your smoothies from fruits.  Bananas and dates are both naturally sweet and add both sweetness and thickness to a smoothie.  Frozen bananas are our favorite trick to a thick and creamy smoothie!

Fiber:               Fiber keeps us full longer and keeps our blood sugars nice and even, so it’s an important component of our morning meal!  There are lots of ways to add fiber to our smoothies, including fruits, dry fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Aim for at least 4 grams of fiber in your smoothie.  It’s pretty easy to do!  For example, a banana, a half of an avocado, and 2 pitted dates all have about three grams of fiber each.  Adding vegetables to smoothies is a great way to sneak extra nutrition into your day.  Vegetables like spinach, kale, cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin and beets can just disappear into a smoothie.  Great for picky kids, too!

Fats:                Fat is satiating—it makes us feel full and satisfied.  Plus, healthy sources of fats, like monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids help us better absorb all those nutrients in our smoothie.  Healthy sources of fat include avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and oils.  For example, you can add a shot of flax seed oil or fish oil to your smoothie.  Seeds like hemp seeds, chia seeds and flax seed provide protein, fiber and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.  If you like your smoothies creamy and thick, add avocados.  Even if you don’t like avocados (although we can’t imagine that!), you’ll like it in your smoothie.

When you’re building your smoothie, just ask yourself?

What is my source of protein?
What is my source of carbohydrate?
What is my source of fiber?
What is my source of good fat?

If you can answer each of those questions, you’ve got the perfect morning smoothie for you or the kids!  To help you build the perfect smoothie, here is one of our new favorites, a Chocolate Raspberry Almond Smoothie.

Chocolate Raspberry Almond Smoothie

Serves one         

3/4 cup hemp milk (made by blending ¾ cup water with 1 tablespoon hemp hearts)
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 pitted dates
½ small avocado
¼ cup unsalted almonds
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Blend all the ingredients together until very smooth.  Enjoy, preferably with someone you love!

Disclosure: While we are the consulting dietitians for the National Processed Red Raspberry Council and, we're sharing this recipe simply because we love it!

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