4 Ways to Make Your Smoothies Healthier

green smoothie with nuts and chia seeds
picture of a smoothie

Busy days and long commutes sometimes make it difficult to sit down and enjoy the recommended 5-9 servings per day of fresh fruit and vegetables. Blended smoothies are a great meal replacement or accompaniment to up your intake, and ensure that you aren’t missing out on the bioactive compounds and energy from healthful plants.

Many times though, smoothies can become a source of excessive sugar or calorie consumption if you don't pay attention to ingredients. Keep these tips in mind:

Can you imagine it on a plate?
You wouldn’t sit down to a plate of five apples, so don’t try to cram them into a smoothie. Once you pick the fresh or frozen items for your smoothie, imagine it on a plate. Do the portions seem reasonable? Is half the plate made up of vegetables? If so, proceed!

Pick a protein.
Smoothies can be a sustaining meal replacement if they contain the necessary protein to satiate. Unsweetened Greek yogurt, nut butters, seeds, or dietary-specific protein powders are a great choice. Play around with all different types until you find your favorite taste and texture. Try to aim for at least 10 grams of protein per smoothie.

Something sweet, something pungent.
Try not to rely on fruit alone to fill your smoothie. Balance the sweetness with something subtle, and naturally detoxifying, like fresh parsley, spinach, cucumber, fennel, or fresh herbs and spices.

Pair it with something crunchy.
Research has found that humans may not fully register satiation and usable energy from liquid beverages; that we require the mastication mechanism of the jaw (chewing) to make us feel full. Round out your smoothie with a crunchy complement. Instead of adding nuts to your smoothie, chew on a handful of them or enjoy a rice cake with nut butter.

These tips will ensure that your delicious and convenient smoothie is also health-promoting and satisfying.

--by Elizabeth Potter, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Amy Frasieur, MS, RD, core faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.