Nutrition and Wellness Blog

Recipes and tips from a Functional Dietitian Nutritionist

How to Make a Smoothie Healthy

Aug 2022 | Gut Health, Health and Wellness

A woman places the top on her blender to blend up greens and fruit, How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Healthy Smoothies Can Be Critical for Nutrition

When I started college, I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and the gluten-free world was in its infancy. The cafeteria chefs tried their best to feed me balanced meals but my gluten-free options were limited. My friends often referred to my special meals as mystery food. Let’s just say that my eyes often ruined my appetite before I even tasted the food. Lucky for me, there was a Jamba Juice on campus and it was across the street from my dorm. My go-to lunch often included a smoothie and a bag of Pirate’s Booty. As a dietitian, I am not promoting this meal as the ideal lunch. However, this experience taught me the beauty of the blended drink. Over the years, the smoothie fad has evolved from a commercial sugar ice drink to a balanced meal option. The smoothie evolution has followed the evolution of the gluten-free food world. We are more knowledgeable about these dietary choices and we now have many more gluten-free options including the smoothie. All you have to do is know how to make a smoothie healthy!

It’s summertime and the temperature change often impacts our food cravings and preferences. This is the perfect time to dust off your blender and start making smoothies. Smoothies are a quick way to hydrate your body, boost fiber intake, meet protein needs, consume fruits and vegetables, and give your body a healthy dose of fats. Can you believe that you can meet all those needs in one cup? If that isn’t enough of an incentive, these nutrients may improve memory, promote detoxification, stabilize mood, boost energy and clear out the brain fog and trigger the brain to focus.

Four different smoothies presented on a plate with fresh fruit and granola, How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

How do you make a smoothie healthy?

1. First, include a variety of ingredients.

This strategy supplies the body with macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

2. Second, establish a balance of ingredients.

Without the proper balance of protein and fat the smoothie will not satisfy the body for long.

3. Third, support the tastebuds with consistency.

The texture of the smoothie can make a difference in palatability and is largely dependent on the ratio of nutrients.

Now you’re probably wondering how you achieve these three things… That’s why I created a checklist of all the elements of a perfect healthy smoothie.

A smoothie bowl topped with fresh fruit, toasted oats, and chia seeds, How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Emily’s Healthy Smoothie Checklist

  • 1 cup liquid
  • 1-2 cups fresh or frozen vegetables
  • 1/2-1 cup frozen fruit
  • 1-2 Tbsp fat
  • 1-2 Tbsp protein
  • 1/2 tsp superfood
  • Spices to taste

If you follow this checklist, the smoothie can serve as a quick power snack or on-the-go meal. Smoothies are one my favorite breakfast choice for individuals who have gastrointestinal issues. It’s a gentle way to wake up the intestines and provide a significant amount of nutrition in one cup.

Now that you understand the basics of making a healthy smoothie, let’s go over some awesome options to use for this checklist.

A smoothie topped with mint and pomegranate and blueberries in the background

Emily’s Healthy Smoothie Ingredient Options

Liquid:

  • Plant-based milk including oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk or macadamia nut milk

Fresh or Frozen Vegetables:

  • Spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato

Phytonutrient-Rich Fruits:

  • Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, pomegranate

Fat Is Your Friend:

  • Avocado, coconut oil, nut butter, medium chain triglyceride oil

Protein Power:

  • Hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, nut butters, tofu, lentils, protein powder

Superfoods:

  • Spirulina, goji berries, cacao nibs, maca powder, acai powder

Herbs or Spices:

  • Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, black pepper, fresh mint

See the last section of the article for smoothie recipe inspiration on how to put this ingredients together! But first, try these top tips on how to make a healthy smoothie.

Frozen popsicles frozen from a smoothie with raspberries around them, How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Emily’s Tips On How to Make A Smoothie Healthy and Delicious

  1. Choose milk over water for a creamy texture.
  2. Add the liquid first, especially when using a Vitamix.
  3. Use frozen fruit and/or vegetables to lower the temperature and produce a creamy texture. Note: Frozen fruits and vegetables are often downgraded as a lesser plant source. However, this claim is largely false. Fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak point of freshness. This means they are loaded with nutrients and often taste their best. Watch out for hidden added ingredients including sugar. The key is to purchase frozen fruits and vegetables that consist primarily of the star ingredient. 
  4. If smoothies are not your cup of tea, these recipes can also be converted to popsicles. My son used to love my smoothies until he was about 2 years old. If you have a child with specific food preferences, you will understand the dilemma. Now, he enjoys the smoothie in popsicle form. Popsicle molds are easy to find and affordable. Blend the smoothie and pour it into the popsicle mold. Freeze for about 8 hours or overnight. Run the popsicle mold under warm water for about 30 seconds. This allows for an easy and clean release of the popsicle. You can enjoy the popsicles immediately or store for about 3 months. This frozen treat is a favorite of all ages.

Now let’s put it all together:

Emily’s Favorite Healthy Smoothie Recipes

A green smoothie, with a handful of greens set out next to the glass

Can’t Taste The Greens Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened vanilla
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup frozen berry blend
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower seed butter
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Pinch of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

A tropical smoothie with a diced mango set out next to the glass

Down Under Smoothie

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup almond milk, unsweetened vanilla
  • ¼ cup coconut yogurt, plain unsweetened
  • 1 cup mango, frozen
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp goji berries

Instructions

  1. Add first seven ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and top with goji berries!

 

A green smoothie with a bowl of matcha set out next to the glass

Matcha Lover

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond milk, unsweetened vanilla
  • 1 zucchini, chopped and frozen
  • 1 cup pineapple, frozen
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  • ¼ hemp seeds

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Overall, I hope these tips can help you come up with the perfect smoothie and make it healthy too. If you need more advice on creating the perfect gluten-free diet or autoimmune disease nutrition plan for you, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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