September 27, 2017
Making Your Smoothie Work for You
Do you have that one meal you sometimes just can’t figure out and it often seems like less of a burden just to skip it than to deal with it? For most, it seems this meal is breakfast. It’s easy to hit snooze, catch some extra zzz’s and run out the door before noshing on some good-for-us food. Maybe you excel at breakfast (I know that’s my favourite!) but you struggle in the evenings. With bringing your kids to soccer, dance, hockey practice or perhaps just getting caught at the office to hit a deadline. There are definitely days when I struggle to get those nutrients in too.
While it’s easiest to reach for the office snack bowl, or stop off at your favourite coffee joint for a muffin or breakfast sandwich, I want to challenge your instinct when you’re caught in those moments! Easiest isn’t always what is best for us and oftentimes turning that quick instinct into reaching for something healthy isn’t as much of a burden as we think it is!
I’ve learned to master the art of creating a smoothie-as-a-meal-replacement. Not because I think this is a great option all the time, but when you’re pressed for time, a made-by-you smoothie is one of the best meal replacements you can reach for, as long as you’re including all things nourishing and great in the smoothie (think something other than fruit). I’ve shared my fool-proof, tasty recipe below that I use, but I’ve walked you through three different key ingredients that I think are “must-haves” so you can find your own flavour! Keep in mind – the beauty behind this is in the grab-n-go, so don’t overthink or measure things too hard. We just want to get good things in your body!
Include More Veggies than Fruit
Traditionally, we’re inclined to load our smoothies with all sorts of frozen fruits and yummy goodness, but what if we took the time to load our smoothies up with veggies instead? Our blood sugar would certainly appreciate it (avoid those 3pm sleepies), and what better way to try and jack up those vegetable servings per day than blending them up and making them tasty?! When approaching your smoothie, aim to include one more serving of veggies than fruit. For example: if you’re going to put one banana in your smoothie, put two or more cups of spinach (or your greens of choice)! This will give you a fabulous ratio of fruit to vegetable in your cup of goodness and it’ll be hidden so well you will never even know how much you have in there! A really great cost-saving tip is to check out the frozen foods section for spinach. It is significantly less expensive than fresh spinach because it packs a lot more nutrients in a much smaller amount since the spinach is crushed down and drained before being frozen.
Whatever vegetable you decide to include in your smoothie, be sure to pack as much of it in there as you can! This is really going to raise the nutrient value of your smoothie.
Choose a Nutrient Dense Base Liquid
When I was a kid, my mom used to whip up the best smoothies and milkshakes. So creamy, so fruity; I looked forward to them as a treat whenever she decided to take out her old, trusty blender. My mom’s key: she used fruit juice as the base. This is what made the smoothies explode with flavour and taste so fruity. Unfortunately, fruit juice isn’t a great base to make your smoothie as nutrient dense as it can be. Fruit juice is all sugar and very little nutrients which means you’re missing all of the great fibre and micronutrients that make fruit notorious as a healthy, nourishing choice. Opt to keep your fruit consumption whole and as part of your blended fruit added to your smoothie rather than added in juice form. Instead – gravitate toward a full fat milk or milk alternative (if you can’t handle dairy). This will create a nutrient dense base to keep you fuller for longer! I tend to gravitate toward almond milk, as this contains both protein and fats. I choose a milk alternative because the proteins in milk aren’t my digestive system’s best friend… they don’t get along too well. If you handle milk well, aim for a full fat milk option. The more skim your milk option is, the more sugar it contains, so keep it full fat whenever possible to avoid excess sugar consumption. If you’re struggling to fit fats into your diet, I might suggest leaning toward coconut milk as this creates a really creamy milk alternative and is so yummy for a change! Are you not a milky-texture fan? Not a problem! Try cutting your milk option with water! This is a great cost saving approach as well!
Make Your Smoothie All Kinds of Phat
Ok, ok. Not that kind of phat, but the good-for-you, nutrient dense, ‘I’m-full-for-days’ kind of fat! I’m talking avocados, coconut, nut butters, seeds, oils and all of the above! Adding fats to your smoothie is quite literally a game changer to make it act as a meal-replacement, or really just to find your full nutrient potential. So many North American’s have come to fear fat since the awful “fat-free” movement we saw through the 90s and early 2000s. We must not fear fat. Say it with me: “Fat will not make you fat.” Seriously – keep this mantra on repeat! There are certainly types of fat that we need to focus on consuming and others that we should avoid in order to achieve optimal health, but the reality is that we need a balanced intake of both saturated and unsaturated fats to keep at optimal health. If you’re using a milk alternative for your nutrient dense base liquid, then choose a different fat option her. Try a few of the resources below:
- Coconut Oil
- Seeds (hemp, flax, chia, pumkin, sunflower)
- Nuts or nut butter (almonds, walnuts, cashew, brazil, hazelnut)
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Seed oils (sunflower, flax, hemp, chia)
If you’re struggling to choose, try one pantry item, see how you like it in your smoothies and then move on to another. There’s no use in wasting money on all resources if you’re not going to use them all. If you can, lean toward flax or chia as these contain a phenomenal ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids vs Omega 6 fatty acids (they contain much more Omega 3s). Traditionally, in the North American diet, our Omega 6 consumption is much, much higher than it needs to be, and this contributes to inflammation. Introducing fats that are high in Omega 3s is a great way to fight that ratio imbalance and keep fats in your diet.
My Go-to Smoothie Recipe
I love whipping up a smoothie most nights for the next morning! If I find I want something else for breakfast when I wake up, it’s no big deal! The smoothie will stay there for the duration of the day and I’ll have it that night or the next day depending on my schedule. Regardless, this should be effortless and a nice, easy resolution. If I don’t have something on hand, I tend to replace with like for like (ie: no bananas = berries instead!; no spinach = kale instead!
Keep in mind, this is just my go-to version. There are so many other combinations you can consume to balance your proteins, fats and carbohydrates in your smoothie, so I encourage you to make yours your own!
- ½ frozen banana (pro tip: once your bananas start to turn brown, unpeel them, break in half and store in the freezer in a ziploc bag)
- ½ cup frozen berries (blueberries are my favourite; pro tip: try to purchase when in season and freeze or look for sales on frozen fruit)
- 1 cup almond milk (if you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own! I like this recipe)
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups of spinach (I find spinach blends down the best for smoothies)
- 1 scoop of your favourite protein powder (this is the cleanest protein powder I have found) .. pro tip: protein powder is not needed! Your protein can be found through many different sources like hemp seeds, plain kefir, chia seeds, flax seeds, rolled oats. If you choose any of the seeds for your protein source, be sure to use a differing fat source)
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder (cocoa contains nearly 20 times the antioxidant power of blueberries … plus it’s SUPER yummy!)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (cinnamon helps regulate our blood sugar … as does cocoa!)
- 1 tsp turmeric (a great anti-inflammatory spice)
- 2 tbsp collagen (I love the way collagen helps my joints feel and my nails and hair grow; be sure to gather a well-sourced type — I like this one)
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- Put all your ingredients except the chia seeds in a blender and blend! If you don’t have a high powered blender, be sure to pulse to grind down slowly and then put on the highest setting until all ingredients are well combined. Pour into large jar of choice. Top with chia seeds and shake or stir well
Show me your favourite smoothie creations by hashtagging #mygotosmoothie.