If this happens to you, it could be a sign that your smoothie isn’t calorie and nutritious enough. That being said, there are plenty of fun and tasty ways to make a smoothie dense and balanced enough to serve as a meal. Learn my top tips (as a dietitian) for a well-balanced smoothie.
Can a smoothie replace a meal?
I’ll be sincere with you, it depends! I know, that’s never anyone’s favorite answer, but it’s true! Whether or not a smoothie can replace a meal really depends on what’s in it. If you only add frozen fruit and water, it’s not a meal; it is a light and refreshing snack.
In general, a meal should contain a few food groups. I recommend trying to have carbs, protein, fat, and fiber at meals whenever possible. This is important because each food group has different benefits, and when you eat them together, they promote health, satiety, blood sugar stability, and good energy levels.
The same goes for a smoothie. If you only add fruit and water, then you’re really only getting carbs and fiber, not to mention you’re getting very few calories as far as a meal goes. I know dietary culture got us thinking that fewer calories is better, but calories are literally what give us energy! We need it to function, so we need to make sure we have enough of it throughout the day. Added protein and fats will not only help increase calorie content, but also promote satiety.
How to improve the nutrition of your smoothie
If while reading this you realize that your smoothies could use a boost, I’m here for you. Here are some tips for spicing up your smoothie for a satisfying and balanced breakfast.
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When making a smoothie, which liquid do you prefer? If it’s water, it may be worth reconsidering. You can use juice, milk (dairy or non-dairy), or coconut water. I often recommend cow’s milk, soy milk or pea milk as they are sources of complete protein and calcium. These are the most complete nutrition sources when it comes to liquid options.
That being said, if you’re boosting the protein content of your smoothie in another way, you can use a different liquid without sacrificing satiety.
Add nuts, seeds or nut butter
This is one of my favorite ways to boost my smoothies. Some of my favorites are walnuts (which add creaminess) and Peanut Butter (because it’s delicious!). You can also find me adding chia seeds to almost every smoothie I make because they are nutritionally balanced and high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are allergic to nuts, you can also rely on sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seeds. The purpose of adding nuts and seeds is to improve the flavor and texture of your smoothie, and to add protein and heart-healthy fats. In fact, adding dietary fat will help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) found in the other ingredients.
Focus on dairy products (or dairy substitutes)
Dairy is an easy way to add protein and potentially fat to your smoothie. You can use milk as the liquid (as I suggested above) or you can add yogurt or kefir, which are also a good source of probiotics.
With kefir you may not need another liquid, but with yogurt you can use juice, coconut water or even plain water because you will get protein and calcium from the yogurt itself.
Whether dairy products are prohibited for you, then consider adding soy products as these are generally more comparable to cow’s milk products. Oatmeal, cashew, or coconut yogurt won’t have as much protein as cow’s milk yogurt.
Try protein powder
Another viable option is add protein powder to your smoothie. This could be especially helpful if you’re having a smoothie after a weight training workout where refueling protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery.
Most people don’t really need to use protein powder, but if you like using it, I recommend buy a third-party tested option so you know the label is accurate and free of harmful contaminants.
Use frozen fruits and vegetables
All this talk about adding protein and fat doesn’t mean fruits and vegetables aren’t important either. One of my favorite things about smoothies is that they’re an easy way to up your fruit and veg intake. So, incorporate your favorites to add fiber, vitamins and minerals. My favorite combination is banana, blueberry and spinach, but get creative and mix it up!
Please don’t be afraid to buy frozen. A lot of people think they have to buy fresh produce, but frozen foods are just as nutritious. In addition, it has a much longer shelf life, which can reduce food waste and save your wallet. It’s also an easy way to boost nutrition because you don’t have to bulk up by adding ice; frozen fruit is cold enough to make a cool drink.
At the end of the line
Smoothies can be a convenient, nutrient-dense breakfast if prepared with intention. I invite you to say goodbye to low-calorie smoothies, fruits and ice cream and hello to well-balanced and satisfying smoothies. While fruit and ice cream can make for a refreshing snack, a smoothie packed with carbs, protein, fat, and fiber can keep your blood sugar steady, your energy levels strong, and your stomach satisfied until your next meal or snack.