Whipping up a healthy smoothie for breakfast can make the dog days of summer a bit more bearable. Inspiration is endless, too. Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll find gorgeous smoothies that appear more like artwork than a meal. A perfect vehicle for delivering loads of nutrients and flavor, smoothies certainly have a place at the table. But all smoothies are not created equal, and with increasing availability at smoothie shops, markets, restaurants, and gyms, it can be easy to think that you’re choosing something healthy when in fact it can be loaded with sugar and calories. When packed with the right ingredients, smoothies can help you power through your morning or refuel from your Ascend ride in a flash.
Sip on this
There is no need to compromise flavor when preparing healthy food, including smoothies. However, many are loaded with too much fruit or fruit juice, which can spike blood sugar levels and leave you with more cravings in no time. The key to building a power smoothie is to make sure you balance out the sweetness (fructose from fruit) with greens, fat, protein, and fiber. Quick and portable, a post-workout smoothie can enhance your fitness efforts by replenishing energy stores and protein needed for muscle recovery. Try to drink up within 30 minutes post exercise. To keep you full and satisfied, make sure you have a good dose of protein and fat if your smoothie is a meal replacement.
Whether you want to keep it simple or get creative, we’ve listed some options to choose from when building your power smoothie:
Greens/Veggies: Blending is a great way to load up on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from dark leafy greens and other vegetables not usually included in your breakfast meal or snacks. Pack the most volume with your veggies; select kale, spinach, chard, romaine, celery, cucumber, frozen cauliflower or zucchini. Throw in some herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint), too.
Liquid: Try these liquids to help puree the other ingredients and add hydration: filtered water, coconut water, nut milks, or green tea.
Healthy fat: Fat is one of three macronutrients (along with protein and carbohydrates) that provide our bodies with energy in the form of calories. Necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), fat is important for brain function, healthy skin and nails, and hormone regulation. Healthy fat is our friend, and can help you stay satisfied until your next meal. Choose from nut butter, avocado, coconut oil, ground flax seeds, walnuts, or Brazil nuts.
Protein: Protein, made of amino acids, has many critical roles in our body. It is vital for the structure and function of our cells. It also transports nutrients, provides energy, produces hormones and enzymes necessary for important chemical reactions, and builds and repairs muscles and tissues. Pump up your smoothie’s protein with nuts, nut butter, protein powder, or yogurt.
Fruit: Fruit adds fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as sweetness to balance out the greens. Limit to one or two small servings per recipe (or ½ cup). Frozen or fresh, select from banana, mango, pineapple, berries, or apple or add a zing of citrus with lemons or grapefruit.
Optional superfood additions: For added health benefits, try including cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chia seeds, whole grain oats, collagen peptides, matcha or superfood powders* such as tocos, ashwagandha, reishi, he shou wu, moringa or pine pollen.
Top it off: hemp seeds, bee pollen, cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, gogi berries, spirulina, nuts, seeds, fruit, or homemade granola.
· Use a good blender (such as Vitamix). It truly makes a difference, especially when adding nuts or leafy greens.
· Drink immediately; refrigerate any leftovers and consume within 3 days. Store in airtight containers or jars.
· Prep your ingredients the night before (excluding liquid and ice) so all you need to do in the morning is grab and blend for a nutritious breakfast.
· Smoothies are a great way to clean out your fridge and prevent food waste; toss it in before you toss it out.
· Frozen fruit (berries, mango, pineapple) are just as nutritious as fresh and can thicken your smoothie, while frozen bananas add creamy texture. You can also freeze kale and other greens.
· Change it up and create a smoothie bowl by adding more ice or frozen ingredients and less liquid. Smoothie bowls = more surface area for superfood toppings!
· Get the kids involved; little ones will love to help and the older kids will have fun creating their favorite combinations.
· Ask for modifications to ingredients and toppings if purchasing a smoothie or smoothie bowl. Granola, dates, agave syrup, or juice can all sneak in excessive sugar. Read the ingredients or build your own.
What’s in your blender? Tag #howiascend to show off your healthy creations this summer!
*Always consult with your doctor before consuming any herbal or medicinal supplements.
Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H