Your guide to smoothie ingredients! Here’s how to make a healthy smoothie that won’t lead to a sugar crash.

rawpixel-1187704-unsplashTo smoothie or not to smoothie, that is the question. Smoothies have gotten a lot of hate lately…. and rightfully so because they CAN be major gateway drugs to just drinking straight sugar.  However, they also CAN be a great source of macro and micro nutrients in a convenient to-go package.  More importantly, they can be short term “insurance” that you will grab your pre-made, nutritious smoothie out of the fridge instead of starving yourself and then inhaling sub-par grocery store bought baked goods in the break room at 10:00.  Been there, done both and the smoothie is the way to go.  So, if you think smoothies might be a convenient, healthy way to stick to your nutrition plan, read on for some tips!

General smoothie thoughts:

  • There are lots of great, easy smoothie recipes on this site !  Full smoothie recipes are a great place to start so you can get a good idea of ingredient quantities before you start experimenting based on your tastebuds.
  • Frozen ingredients make a huge difference in taste and texture, specifically frozen fruit/veggies (i.e. banana, blueberries, avocado).  Frozen fruits last longer, are cheaper and retain their nutrients well. If you’re on the road, throwing them in your hotel fridge is better than room temp.
  • I highly recommend eating your smoothie as a  bowl or at least with some nuts etc on the side.  Two main purposes for this:
    • The speed at which you consume calories can have just as big of an impact on blood sugar as the content of those calories.  One of the reasons smoothies can cause such a blood sugar spike is because we can suck them down in two seconds.  At the very least if you are only drinking your breakfast, drink slow which is usually easier to do without a straw.
    • Chewing prepares the body to break down food so not chewing can add some digestive stress.  To combat this, I put my “smoothie” in a bowl and sprinkle some chopped nuts or coconut shreds on top so I’m forced to chew a bit.  You can also try to eat some nuts as you drink your smoothie.
  • Beware of overloading with fruit, especially in the morning!  I’m not carbo-phobic and lots of fruits have an impressive nutrient profile.  However, it’s really easy to put way more fruit into a smoothie than we would ever reasonably eat in one sitting.  For that reason, I ration my fruit based on what I think I would comfortably eat at the time (i.e. half a banana and a large handful of blueberries).  Additionally, in the morning, your cortisol levels are naturally higher which is great for burning fat and promoting energy (especially after a workout) but this cortisol release can be thrown off by a spike in blood sugar.  Take advantage of your cortisol by focusing on protein, fat, fiber and some complex carbohydrates.

Build Your Own Smoothie – Ingredients 101

The ideal smoothie template (in my opinion) has protein, fats, fiber and some micronutrient profile (which often come from veggies and fruits) so I’ve grouped the ingredients below accordingly.  I list brands that I’ve vetted and like but there are lots of great options out there.  If you think making smoothie could help you stick to your nutrition plan, “I don’t know what to put in a smoothie” is no longer an excuse!  You have SO many options….read on for the details!

Fiber/Micronutrients:

  • Spinach: sounds disgusting but I promise you can’t taste it.  Start with a small handful and work up.  There is not enough room here to dive into the benefits of dark, leafy greens but to sum it up THEY’RE MEGA GOOD FOR YOU.
  • Blueberries: berries overall are a great low sugar option but blueberries are my favorite combo of health benefits and taste
  • Bananas: awesome flavor but do pack a sugar punch, often just 1/2 a frozen banana can add the sweetness/texture you want
  • Avocado: great source of omega 3 fats, fiber, potassium (I could go on…) and adds a creamy texture to your smoothie
  • Frozen cauliflower or zucchini: my latest and, admittedly, odd ingredients.  Only put a small amount and work up to make sure you can’t taste them.  Wonderful chance to consume veggies raw that you would likely cook otherwise.  Frozen is key here to minimize funky flavors.
  • Baked sweet potato or butternut squash: great for a little sweetness and lots of complex carbs/vitamins, especially good with cinnamon, usually just a small amount (maybe ¼ cup) is good
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: can get this in the baking aisle if you want the chocolate flavor without the sugar.  Be sure to check the ingredients and on the nutrition label you should see low sugar and a higher fiber content
  • Powdered vanilla bean: great for adding a vanilla/sweet flavor without adding sugar
  • Cinnamon: great for flavor and lots of health benefits (anti-inflammatory)

Fats and Proteins:

  • Nut butter: good for fat, fiber, and nutty flavor.  I prefer almond, cashew, and sometimes peanut
      • Market Pantry (target) Almond Butter – delicious and only ingredient is almonds

  • RXBAR Almond Butter, Vanilla flavor: come in single packets at Whole Foods and online , SO GOOD, slightly sweetened with half a date and vanilla bean.  Makes smoothies delicious and also are good just straight out of the pack…..
  • Santa Cruz Peanut Butter: best tasting pure peanut butter I’ve had by a longshot, prefer the light roast

  • Milks:  I have a strong preference for non-dairy milk but if you go dairy, I’d recommend full fat
    • MALK – vanilla flavor (flavored with just vanilla bean),  Califia farms also makes some clean nut based milks and canned coconut milk is usually pretty safe
  • Protein Powder: Collagen peptides is by far my preferred source.  You want grass-fed if possible
        • Vital Proteins – you can buy single serving packets at Whole Foods (and online) or a tub for when you’re at home.  This protein powder is a great source of collagen which is beneficial for repairing connective tissue (perfect post workout) as well as skin/hair health.  It also dissolves easily in liquids like coffee if you just need some straight protein on the go.

        • If you need a more sweetened protein powder I would start with the Vital Proteins vanilla coffee creamer which goes great in a smooth.  If you want higher protein content try to find one that’s just sweetened with stevia like Paleo Pro *stevia is a natural sweetener but tread lightly, it is very sweet and can make you crave sugar later.  I wouldn’t exile it from the pantry but pay attention to how it affects you

  • Unsweetened coconut shreds: great source of healthy fat and add good flavor, can mix in and/or sprinkle on top
  • Nuts: blend into the smoothie or eat alongside! I prefer almonds, walnuts, and my latest obsession is brazil nuts.  They are a great source of selenium and other hard to find nutrients and particularly beneficial for men.
  • Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil: Personally, I think MCT oil is a good source of fat and exogenous ketones (which can be beneficial even when not on a low carb diet). BUT there is some conflicting evidence on this (just like coconut oil) since it’s so high in saturated fat so really it’s your call.  Also, if I know I won’t be able to eat for a while (i.e. meetings through lunch time) I splash a bit in my coffee and it tides me over really well.

 

 

  • There you have it!  Plenty of options for all of your smoothie needs to keep you healthy and happy on the go.  Cheers!

 

 

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