The Smoothie. Everyone is talking about it, and if you aren’t already a smoothie-convert, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. I often recommend smoothies to my patients, especially those who don’t eat breakfast or who could stand to improve their breakfast habits. A smoothie is a blended drink that makes a great snack or breakfast substitute. When you are busy or on-the-go, as many of my patients are, smoothies allow you to still have a healthy meal or snack that doesn’t take long to prepare and is easy to take on the run.
There are so many reasons why I’m such a big smoothie fan, but one of them is that when they are made well, smoothies can be incredibly healthy and nutrient dense. Unlike juicing, you are consuming the whole foods that you blend – vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fiber. There are so many combinations of foods that you can blend together, making getting into a boring-breakfast-rut much harder. In fact, I'd love to know what your favourite combination is (let me know in the comments below!) Smoothies might be a great breakfast option for you if you are looking to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet, if you are trying to avoid certain foods like dairy, eggs or gluten, or if you are trying to make improvements to your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure.
It’s important to keep in mind though that not all smoothies are created equal. Drinking smoothies has the potential to be a great tool to help you reach your health goals, but it can also prevent you from reaching them too. A smoothie made primarily out of fruit and fruit juices is going to be high in calories and more importantly, sugar! This high blast of sugar (even though it’s fruit sugar) will spike insulin in your body, a hormone that is responsible for shuttling sugar out of your blood and into your cells. This can cause inflammation in your body and tells your body to store fat, among other undesirable effects. Get your blender ready, and let’s make sure you’re making them right so that they are just as nutritious as they are delicious!
How to Make a Smoothie
Everyone likes their smoothie a little bit different, and I’ve found that playing around with the quantities of each ingredient is the best way to figure out what you like best. Sometimes I end up with a smoothie that is a terrible looking colour yet still tastes great. The recommendations here are approximately enough to make a single smoothie. Feel free to double, triple or quadruple the amounts if you are blending for two or more!
Starting with the Base
You will need about 1 cup of liquid in your smoothie to make sure everything blends well. I like to stick with plain old water most of the time, but there are some other options that work well too.
Fruit is a great way to make your smoothie sweet, but choosing the right fruits (in the right amounts) can help you get more bang for your buck out of your drink. Fruits that are lower on the glycemic index are going to cause the lowest rise in your insulin levels. The list below is in approximate order of lowest to highest glycemic index. I use frozen fruit to ensure that my smoothies are cold and thick. Stick to about ½ cup to 1 cup total, using just one or a mixture of the fruits below. Choose organic when you can.
Veggies are a great way to add more nutrients into your smoothies. Leafy greens are my top pick here (I use 1-2 handfuls), but I get it, maybe you’re not feeling ready for a green smoothie. That’s okay – try using a beet or carrot, which not only add beautiful colour but a bit of a sweet taste too.
If you are drinking your smoothie as a meal-replacement, then this is non-negotiable. Protein helps to keep your insulin from spiking after consuming sugar. Protein will also help you to feel full for much longer, which will make this convenient breakfast feel more like a meal than a drink. Choose 1 or 2 of the following.
As we talked about earlier, the benefit of blending over juicing is that you get to keep all of that awesome fruit and vegetable pulp which acts as fiber. Fiber, like protein, helps to keep you feeling fuller, longer. When detoxing it helps to bind up toxins, and since it aids the digestive processes, fiber helps keep you regular! To add a bit more oomph, try one of the following.
If you’ve stuck to the list so far, you have yourself a healthy breakfast alternative. But there are some extra things you can try adding to your smoothie to boost its fuelling potential. Herbs and spices add warmth to smoothies, which is nice in the fall and winter months. They are also high in anti-oxidants, and often are anti-inflammatory. Healthy fats are great to help aid in the digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins and nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E and K). The amounts listed here are just suggestions, feel free to add more or less based on your taste preferences.
1 cup water
1-2 handfuls spinach
½ cup frozen pineapple
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 scoop unflavoured brown rice protein powder
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp cacao nibs
Place all of the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.
I'd love to know, what is your favourite combination for a delicious (and nutritious) snack or breakfast smoothie?
Image Credit: Miriam via Flickr