How to Make a Better Smoothie
Blend up the best version of your breakfast or lunch with these tips and tricks.
“It would take me all day to get in the fruits and veggies I consume in one smoothie,” says Megan Gilmore, a certified nutritionist consultant, founder of the popular Instagram @detoxinista and author of Everyday Detox. “If you start with a bagel or doughnut, you may end up craving sugar and carbs for the rest of the day, but if you start with a smoothie, you’re putting the right foot forward,” she says. Rather than throwing everything you’ve got in a blender and praying for a health halo, follow our three-step plan to make sure you—and even your kids—enjoy every sip.
Step One: Pick a Low-Sugar, High-Nutrition Base Liquid
Adding the right amount of liquid (see “Smoothie Math,” below) will help create a perfect consistency for your smoothie. And that consistency is a major reason why smoothies are such great meal choices. One study found that the same ingredients served separately were less filling than when served blended together. Try…
Soy or regular milk
Either can double as your protein source. Trendier milks have less protein but still deliver benefits: almond milk has vitamins A, D and E, and oat milk is rich in soluble fiber.
Its flavor works especially well with banana-based smoothies. Maybe don’t give this one to your teen, though!
OJ, pomegranate and pineapple work well, particularly if you’re using a stronger-flavored green, like kale or arugula. Opt for juices with no added sugar.
Save yourself some calories and sugar, especially if your other ingredients create a thick texture and are packed with flavor.
Save 7 grams of sugar by using half a frozen banana and ½ cup frozen cauliflower instead of a whole banana. It’s delish.
Step Two: Add Fruits and Veggies
Fruit should be your primary source of sweetness, since it contains lots of vitamins and minerals, as well as added fiber to keep you full. “However, if I wind up with a smoothie that tastes off one morning—when produce isn’t ripe, it can taste chalky—I’ll add a splash of maple syrup,” says Gilmore, who is also the author of The Fresh and Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. Honey works too—just keep the amount small.
“Beets provide folate, which is important for DNA synthesis,” says dietitian Keri Gans. Or try dragon fruit— it’s an excellent source of vitamin C.
Step Three: Add Protein (So You’re Not Hungry 20 Minutes Later)
Protein will definitely make your smoothie substantial, and studies have also found that it can help your muscles and bones stay stronger longer. Both Gilmore and Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet, recommend hemp hearts and hemp seeds (available at Whole Foods and amazon.com) as great options for blending. Nut butters—including almond, cashew and peanut—can also be good protein sources, and your healthy fat will be built right in. Powdered proteins, such as pea protein, can be good alternatives if you’re vegan, lactose-intolerant or sensitive to ingredients like soy and nuts.
Hemp hearts are a complete source of protein and fiber.
5 ways a little planning can go a long way
Portion out, bag and freeze banana slices, berries and other fruits and veggies—especially if they’re about to go bad on you.
Purchase prepared items, like packs of roasted and peeled beets or chopped cauliflower, to save time.
Keep nut butter in the fridge. It will last twice as long as when it’s kept at room temp and prevents the oil from separating so you don’t have to stir.
Section out part of the cabinet closest to your blender for dry smoothie ingredients so they’re all in one convenient place.
Stash an extra tablespoon and teaspoon near your blender for easy access.
Cut sugar and calories
Juice Press, a New York City chain, uses half a frozen banana with 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower florets. “It creates a velvety smoothie packed with fiber and antioxidants,” says founder Marcus Antebi. For a chocolaty option, naturally sweet zucchini (a whole one has just over 3 grams of sugar) blends well with cacao (it’s sugar-free!). Try one medium raw zucchini with 1 to 2 tablespoons cacao. Both tricks thicken your shake, which research shows can help you feel more full. Adding 1 tablespoon of chia seeds after blending—so they soak up liquid and soften—also works for thickening, says Gans.
1 cup frozen sliced strawberries + 4 oz cooked beets, chopped + 1 large ripe banana, chopped and frozen + ½ cup frozen cauliflower florets + 6 to 8 large leaves basil, or to taste + 1 tbsp hemp hearts (hulled hemp seeds) or flax or chia seeds + 1 1/4 cups pomegranate juice
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Serves 2.
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats + 1/2 cup cold brew coffee (or 1 shot espresso, cooled, plus water to equal 1/2 cup) + 1 container (5.3 oz) vanilla or coffee yogurt + 1/2 cup peanut butter (not natural) + 2 tbsp raw cacao powder + 1 tbsp honey + 1 1/2 cups ice
Soak oats in coffee for 15 min. Add to blender with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Nutritionist Megan Gilmore’s formula:
Up to 2 cups frozen fruit
1 to 2 big handfuls of leafy greens
1 to 2 tablespoons healthy fat/protein
1 cup liquid
Whir away! Makes 16 to 20 ounces. For breakfast, aim for 350 to 450 calories.
The Last Straw
Say no to plastic and yes to these eco-friendly options. From left to right:
Uniq Paper Straws This sturdy choice won’t get soggy after a few minutes of sipping. frozendessertsupplies.com, from $6/pack of 50.
Buluh Made from whole bamboo stalks, these straws are 100% natural, organic and reusable. amazon.com, $13 for a pack of 8.
9” Softy Straws Designed specifically for smoothies, they’re constructed of dishwasher-safe silicone. amazon.com, $11/pack of 4.
Toss in cilantro, says Gilmore, who is known for trying unusual flavor combos. “One day I mixed it with frozen blueberries and a splash of orange juice. Surprisingly, it worked!”
If you’re not a big fan of leafy greens, Gilmore recommends frozen broccoli in place of kale or spinach.
Add some rolled oats, especially if oatmeal is your go-to a.m. meal. It’s a great way to boost the amount of fiber.
Experiment with jackfruit (available at Trader Joe’s). “The fiber and protein can help you feel more satisfied,” says Gans.
Play with powders. At Juice Press, the fan-favorite Blue Magic smoothie gets its color from Blue Majik, a freshwater algae spirulina powder full of antioxidants, says Antebi (try our spirulina smoothie recipe). Gilmore advises starting slowly when experimenting with herbs or powders to ensure they don’t upset your digestion.