Smoothies. A fast and convenient way to get a breakfast, a post workout recovery, or even get a snack in. The trouble with smoothies sometimes is that people view it as a beverage and confuse it with real food. Thus, we tend to drink the smoothie AND have a meal with it, which could be potentially putting us over the caloric goal for a meal/day. The act of mastication (chewing our food) psychologically tells us that we are consuming food. However, by pureeing, blending, or shaking nutrients together too - we can be achieving the same nutrition- we just need to be a little more mindful about it.
But what should go in our smoothies and how much? Well, the answer to that is simple – what are your goals ? What is the intention of the smoothie?
Since I typically see weight management clients ask about breakfast smoothies, let’s I'll focus on that.
I want to break down a smoothie that is made with great intentions, but done a little blindly (no measurements or considerations of a balanced meal – fats, carbohydrates, and protein).
- Orange juice, 1 1/2C
- Low fat vanilla yogurt, 1/2C
- Peanut butter, 2 tbsp
- Whey protein powder, 1 scoop
- Blueberries, 1/2C
- Banana, 1 medium
680kcal, 16g pro, 18g fat, 120g CHO, 9g fibre
Everything in the smoothie above seems healthy, right?
Let’s break down what is great, and not so great about the smoothie above
Orange Juice – why juice a fruit and/or vegetable when you can have the whole food? The more processed (juiced in this case) a food is, the most nutrients you lose along the way. Use the whole food!
Low fat vanilla yogurt – Sometimes the marketing of food products can be tricky and misleading. We see “low fat”and think it’s the best choice. This product does not add much for nutritional quality to our smoothie and has a lot of added refined sugar!
Peanut butter – not a bad choice for a healthy fat but two tablespoons might be over kill. Fats are the highest in calorie per gram of the macronutrients, so a little can go a long way.
Whey protein powder – I love convenient supplements like this, but we can also get protein from whole foods. Again, a full scoop might not be necessary (depending on who you are), and can save you money by using whole foods.
Banana – I love bananas in smoothies, they add great texture and they are one of my favourite fruits. However, they are the most dense in sugars so we might need to create a little more balance with the macronutrient profile here.
So, since ripped apart the above smoothie, I won’t leave you hanging without a solution! Let’s take the above recipe and modify it a little.
- Blueberries, 1/2C
- Orange JuiceFat-Free Milk, 1C
- Yogurt, low fat vanillaYogurt, greek, plain, nonfat, 1/2C
- Peanut butterAlmond Butter, 1tbsp
- Flaxseed, 1/2tbsp
- Chia seeds, 1/2tbsp
- Whey Protein, ½ scoop
- Raspberries, 1/2 C
- Spinach, 1C
440kcal, 41g pro, 14g fat, 43g CHO, 11g fibre
Substituted the orange juice for fat free milk. Woah… isn’t dairy bad for us? Nope. A fellow nutrition professional broke down the different dairy alternatives here and you can take a look for yourself as to how they compare. I’ll also add that one cup of milk added 8g of protein to this recipe – awesome!
Substituted low fat vanilla yogurt for a 0% plain greek yogurt. This added plenty of protein and took out ~10g of added sugar that our unbalanced smoothie had.
Swapped almond butter in for peanut butter. No added sugar in this and I have modified the amount from two tablespoons to one. Healthy fats are great, but if your goal is weight loss, we need to pay attention to calories (sorry, no way around that).
I have added in both small amounts of flax and chia seeds. This has boosted the fibre in the smoothie. Fibre is passed through your gut and metabolized by your gut microbiome. Your gut bacteria NEED to be taken care of –I can’t express this enough. Fibre can also help regulate cholesterol and help you feel satiated (the opposite feeling of hunger) after a meal. Most Canadians do not get enough fibre (35g for men and 28g for women).Don’t be part of that statistic!
I have cut the whey protein in half since we can get this from other sources like milk, nut butters, and greek yogurt (yay for saving money!).
I have substituted the banana for raspberries to bring the carbohydrates down quite a bit, bring up the fibre and antioxiants, and give some great flavor.
Spinach…. Just because a food does not contribute to calories, does not mean it’s not important! Spinach can offer a multitude of vitamins and minerals, not to mention fibre. If you suffer from constipation, I highly recommend thinking about how much leafy greens you eat in a day – they can do wonders for your gastrointestinal tract!
Other tips to note when you’re building a smoothie:
Start using measuring utensils – we all think we know what portions are but a a dietitian, I can attest that most people DO NOT!
Consider what your goals are and where you currently are
Try to balance your smoothie a little more with a variety of foods
More questions about building yourself a smoothie? Send me an email!