The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to do your body a lot of good with just a little bit of effort, consider adding a smoothie to your daily meal plan. When prepared right, smoothies can offer a huge boost in your nutrition and energy levels. It’s literally a complete, satisfying and balanced meal in a cup!
A well-balanced smoothie includes these six ingredients:
- Liquid Base
- Greens (Fx Pillar 1)
- Rainbow Fruits & Veggies (Fx Pillar 2)
- Omega-3 Fats (Fx Pillar 3)
- Protein (Fx Pillar 4)
- Functional Foods (Fx Pillar 6)
1. Liquid Base
The best base for a smoothie is one with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda) or aspartame. Choose water, coconut water or unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut or flax milk.
Amount per Smoothie: 8 oz. or more depending on the recipe and your preferred consistency.
Boost the cleansing power of your smoothie with fresh, frozen or powdered greens. Arugula, kale, red cabbage, Romaine, spinach and Swiss chard are all fair game.
Amount per Smoothie: 1-2 handfuls of fresh greens; ½ – 1 cup of frozen; 1 scoop of greens powder
3. Rainbow Fruits & Veggies
Rainbow fruits and veggies, like avocado, beets, carrots, berries, bananas, apples and pears will naturally sweeten a smoothie and add a healthy dose of fiber to support digestive health.
Amount per Smoothie (pick 2 veggies and 1 fruit): ½-1 cup carrots, beets or frozen cauliflower; ½ of a small peeled and pitted avocado; ½ cup-1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
4. Omega-3 Fats
Eating too little fat causes increased hunger and cravings and decreased metabolism. The beauty of plant-based omega-3’s is that they double as a protein! If you want to stay satisfied for hours, add a serving of these anti-inflammatory omega-3-filled unsalted nuts and seeds to your smoothies:
- Unsalted Pecans
- Ground flax seed
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Another option is freshly ground nut/seed butters like almond, cashew, walnut, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame (i.e. tahini).
Amount per Smoothie: 1 Tbsp. nut or seed butter; 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds or nuts; 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Protein is an important part of balanced meals and adding small amounts can help maintain muscle mass, carry oxygen to cells and balance your blood sugar.
Healthy protein sources for a smoothie include plant-based protein powder or collagen protein powder as well as whole seeds and nut/seed butters. Choose ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds,or sunflower seeds. For nut/seed butters, go with freshly ground almond, cashew, walnut, sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame (i.e. tahini).
Amount per Smoothie: ½-1 scoop protein powder; 1 Tbsp. nut or seed butter; 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flax seeds; 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
6. Functional Foods
Functional foods have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition and are super easy to add to a smoothie! They include cinnamon, fresh turmeric, ginger, parsley or cilantro, and functional food powders like matcha, maca, cacao, mushroom and acai.
Amount per Smoothie (pick 1-3): 1/2 tsp. – 1 Tbsp. functional food powder (check serving size on package); 2 Tbsp. fresh turmeric or ginger; ½ tsp. fresh ground cinnamon
Not sweet enough for you? Feel free to add up to 1 tsp. of raw honey, pure maple syrup or coconut nectar or one pitted date.
Food is about nourishment and enjoyment. Therefore, it’s always important to consider your current taste preferences. If you’re accustomed to a sweeter taste, a “power” smoothie full of greens and veggies may be a turnoff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there eventually!
Beginner smoothies like this one tend to be more pleasing to the taste buds when you’re first starting out. Over time you can reduce the fruit and increase the veggies, greens and functional foods to create smoothies with a bit more muscle, like this one.