SMOOTHIES ARE LIKE your favorite baseball team: They can be really, really good—or strike out big time.
Or, as the Mayo Clinic put it, smoothies can be a nutritious addition to your diet or they can add a lot of unforeseen calories, usually by way of added sugars.
Take shakes into your own hands, however, and you're more likely to hit a home run.
As Johna Burdeos, a registered dietitian puts it, smoothies are a convenient and quick way to get a balance of your macronutrients. “Ingredients such as fruits contribute to your carb and fiber [intake]; protein may come from milk, Greek yogurt, or a protein powder; and ingredients such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, or avocado provide heart-healthy fat,” she says, noting that you can add fresh or frozen vegetables to get a vegetable serving or two.
"Additionally, fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds offer fiber that supports gut and heart health,” she says, noting that you'll also increase your vitamin and mineral intake, such as key micronutrients like potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and other B vitamins by chugging down a smoothie. “All of these are essential for the optimal functioning of the brain, heart, immune system, digestive system, bones, muscles, and all other organs.”
Ahead, some more simple guidelines for making nutrient-dense smoothies, plus five dietitian-approved healthy smoothie recipes to blend up at home
How To Build A Healthy Smoothie
When blending up a smoothie, particularly if this smoothie serves as a meal, Burdeos stressed the importance of ensuring it helps you maintain your energy levels and provides protein, healthy fats (like almond butter or chia seeds), and carbs—a trio known as macronutrients or macros. “This balance of macros steadies the blood sugar versus causing spikes and crashes if you were to only eat a carb, which some people do especially at breakfast,” says Burdeos.
To make a healthy smoothie, Burdeos said to start with selecting a protein source such as milk, plant-based milk, or Greek yogurt. “In addition, you may consider other sources of protein for a boost, such as a protein powder. Nuts and seeds and their butter counterparts also offer some protein in addition to healthy unsaturated fat,” she says.
Yes, drinking enough water every day is important for your health, but it’s worth flagging that you likely want to steer clear of the water base. “When you use milk for your liquid base, you don't really need to add water to your smoothie,” said Burdeos. “Forgoing milk or a non-dairy alternative and using water is a missed opportunity to meet the recommended intake of key nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.”
Next it’s time to infuse some flavor with a creamy fruit base that also serves as a thickener. “Banana, mango, or avocado are my go-to for this because of their creamy smooth texture,” Burdeos said, noting that you may want to add another fruit at this point and/or a vegetable. “Keeping some frozen fruits and frozen vegetables on hand is not only convenient but also helps cut down on food waste, particularly if you don't frequently eat fresh produce.”
Lastly, Burdeos advises adding some ice “if you want an icy cool mouthfeel” and then going crazy with more healthy flavoring agents: Cinnamon, freshly grated ginger, or fresh mint, to name three.
And one more helpful guideline to keep in mind from Yelena Wheeler M.P.H. registered dietitian nutritionist of MIDSS. “Starting your smoothie journey requires you to know yourself and your flavor palate,” she says. “Choose ingredients that you know you are going to love drinking and that pair well with other ingredients that may not be most flavorful yet are optimal for balanced nutrition."
Along those lines, be mindful of the time commitment involved in making smoothies, too. “If you do not have time to peel a mango, yet love its taste, then consider a frozen version of it,” said Wheeler. If this “convenient” healthy breakfast or snack isn’t all that convenient for you, you probably won’t bother making a smoothie in the first place.