Stop me if you've head this before but not all smoothies are actually that healthy for you.
The last thing you want to do is walk into a smoothie shop and order the first thing that sounds tasty. You could be sabotaging your waistline and zapping your energy.
Here are our best tips to craft your next healthy smoothie recipe with excellence - whether it's a tasty smoothie at home or ordering take out.
And the right smoothie will always build your energy for the day and support your health.
But first, a word of warning on how you can overcome the most common smoothie making mistake...
Beware of the sugar bomb in disguise...
If you order a mango tango raspberry blast from a smoothie shop, it's sort of like sitting down to an all you can eat fruit buffet.
I'm guessing you wouldn't sit down to a meal and only eat a giant plate of fruit. But just imagine this for a moment...
You eat a banana, pound a glass of apple juice, have some chunks of pineapple and then top it all off with a cup of berries.
You then attempt to head out the door and conquer your day.
Even if this amount of fruit was possible to eat in one sitting, its loaded with sugar. Albeit, natural sugar. But still way too much sugar in one sitting.
And this is how most smoothies are crafted. They take huge amounts of fruit and liquify it. I'm talking amounts of fruit that you'd never be able to eat in the whole food form.
Since it's liquid, you can down it in about 10 min.
That's not natural.
It's way more fruit that you'd be able to eat in real life.
It's liquified sugar now and it will digest rapidly to cause a massive spike in blood sugar.
Once blood sugar goes up, it must come down. And come down rapidly it will...
You'll soon feel tired, irritable, and unsatisfied. And it that's not bad enough, this big spike will shift the body's metabolism into storage mode.
This is not good news if you're trying to be healthier and finally get rid of those love handles.
There's a better way...
Easy Smoothie Recipe
I'm guessing you strive for healthy, whole food meals that follow balanced plating guidelines about 80-90% of the time.
You include lean protein, aim for plenty of nutrient dense greens, have quality carbohydrates (like whole fruit!) and add good fats to a majority of your meals.
These are the same guidelines you can lean on to build your perfectly healthy protein shake at home or at your favorite local smoothie shop.
A balanced shake, just like a well portioned meal, will give you everything you want and more - clear headed thinking, sustained energy, and a feeling of fullness that's "light but satisfied."
You can also keep the natural sugar in check.
The main points are that for you to begin building a better a healthier smoothie, you must start by first choosing the right base, make sure you get ample protein, include healthy fats, load up on your veggies, and keep the added fruit in moderation.
1. Choose your base liquid wisely.
Every good shake starts with selecting the right base liquid that supports your health and fitness goals. Here are some options to consider:
Alternative milks - Almond, Coconut, Cashew, Flax and more
Opt for high quality nut milks, preferably brands that are cold pressed with minimal additives. Even better, if the ingredient list excludes carrageenan and fortified calcium.
The best nut milks have the shortest ingredient lists.
This is always an excellent option - not only for budget concerns but also for optimal hydration purposes.
If you're drinking your smoothie after a workout or as a heathy breakfast, water as the base can help you hit your daily water goals too!
Choose this as your base if the healthy smoothie you're making falls around your workout session.
Coconut water is naturally high in electrolytes and can help improve overall hydration status while helping to increase your workout performance and recovery.
However, coconut water does have a good amount of naturally occurring sugar.
The reason you should use this liquid pre or post workout only is so that the natural sugars can more readily be burned as fuel or energy.
Coconut milk in a can
This is my favorite option for smoothies - 100% full-fat coconut milk from a can.
With zero additives, you don’t have to worry about added synthetic vitamins, gums or stabilizers.
But do keep in mind this option is slightly higher in fat content since it hasn’t been cut with water. You can easily dilute it yourself.
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk with 1/4 cup filtered water is a good mix.
It's a delicious smoothie base that’s also a good source of beneficial MCT’s. These are the fats in coconut that can boost metabolism, improve gut health, and readily be used by the brain and body for fuel.
It will give your smoothie a thicker texture as well.
Note: 1/4 a cup of full fat canned coconut milk will provide you with about 14g of added fats, so you don't really need to add additional fats like nut butter or avocado (unless you're on a higher fat, keto approach).
Cold brew or matcha smoothies
You can use cold brew coffee, regular drip coffee or matcha tea for a tasty and energizing smoothie base.
It'll be loaded with antioxidants and all the health promoting benefits of coffee and tea. Plus, it'll give you a caffeine boost.
One of these caffeinated smoothie liquids is perfect choice for a breakfast smoothie or pre-workout option.
Just be sure to keep your caffeine consumption earlier in the day to avoid any sleep disruption.
Skip the fruit juice
Avoid fruit juice as your smoothie base. Too often fruit smoothies are made with juice as the base.
This pseudo health move layers liquid sugar on top of more sugar. Ahh, a delicious glass full of sugar…..
If your focus is on a predominantly whole foods diet, juice is likely not on your plating guideline list. It shouldn’t make the cut for smoothies either.
It's not uncommon to make this swap in your next smoothie and reduce your sugar intake by a whopping 30-50g in total.
For reference, 1 tablespoon of sugar is 12g. That's a huge difference!
Avoid sweetened nut milks in your smoothie recipe
Another option worth avoiding is sweetened nut milks. If you’re at a smoothie shop, ask the question about how the nut milks are sweetened.
Added sugar compounds quick. If you're including a naturally sweetened protein powder with some type of fruit, it should be sweet enough.
2. Get ample protein.
Just how meals should be protein focused and serve up about one palm’s worth of protein, the same principle can be applied to your smoothies.
Protein keeps us feeling full, it’s crucial for metabolism, a must for muscle repair and important for recovery.
It's also the amino acids in protein that help your brain make all it's neurotransmitters for the day like dopamine and serotonin.
To get about one palms worth of protein, you’re looking to get about 20-30g worth of protein in powder form.
Choose a protein powder from a brand you trust and be sure it’s naturally sweetened with stevia, monk fruit or a touch of cane juice to avoid artificial sweeteners.
Depending on your personal preference, food allergen concerns, and goals - good sources of protein can come from whey, collagen, or plant proteins like brown rice, pea and hemp.
Many brands will include multiple plant proteins in one mix. Or you can combine your own at home.
Other add-ins that can offer a small protein boost include chia, spirulina, and hemp seeds.
3. Include healthy fats.
The key to staying full between meals is making sure you have added fats, but fats also assist in the absorption of certain fat soluble nutrients - making sure you’ll absorb all the superfood goodness out of your favorite smoothie recipe.
Fats occur naturally in beef, cold water fish, or pork - so we get fats in most of our meals.
However, protein powders are devoid of fat and adding the healthy ones are a must when it comes to building you perfect protein shake.
Shakes are in liquid form and they’re already pre-digested. This means they sometimes aren't as filling as whole food meals because there's less breakdown that must occur in the gut over time.
So adding fats to your smoothie will help slow the absorption of the ingredients through the digestive system and effectively prolong feelings of fullness!
This is good news for fighting off cravings and keeping you feeling satisfied until your next meal.
Coconut oil, coconut butter or pure MCT oil make excellent options.
Other great fat choices include nut butters. The regulars like peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter make solid choices.
Or you can go exotic with walnut, pecan, macadamia, or sunflower seed options.
For coconut oil and nut butters, 1-2 tbsp can be an efficient serving size.
Avocado can also be used to boost good fats in a smoothie. And if you like your smoothies thick, this is a great option to achieve your desired texture goals.
For avocado, use about 1/4 of an avocado if it's a large one. If it's a small avocado, use about 1/2 of it.
Additional ways to boost the fat content or up the variety of fats in a shake would be the addition of chia or hemp seeds or by simply adding a handful of your favorite nuts to the blender.
4. Load up the greens.
Going big on the greens is another crucial strategy to building a healthful and balanced meal. Just like a plate isn’t balanced unless it’s full of veggies, the same can be said for any healthy smoothie recipe.
Fiber slows digestion, and much like healthy fats, it will provide a longer lasting feeling of fullness. The added bonus is you’ll be getting tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
When it comes to meals, 2 fists of veggies in any one meal is the gold standard. And you can easily achieve this with two big heaping handfuls of spinach or kale in your smoothie.
It may turn it green, but it won't have a major impact on flavor.
Other vegetables like pumpkin (think pumpkin pie in a glass!), carrots, or even frozen vegetables like zucchini and cauliflower work well for adding bulk plus nutrition to your favorite smoothie recipe.
None of these will add too much weirdness on flavor - especially when mixed with sweeter fruit options like berries.
5. Choose your fruit add-ins wisely.
The biggest mistake with smoothies is piling on too much fruit. While fruit is healthy, it also contains naturally occurring sugar.
We’ve already exposed the cheap smoothie joint ploy of starting with fruit juices, and these same places often start with sugary juice purees instead of fresh fruit.
…..but it’s also an issue when a smoothie uses five different types of fruit pieces all in one shake.
Let the plating guideline lead the way once again - you wouldn’t eat 5 pieces of fruit in one sitting so why would you drink that much in a protein smoothie?
Stick with 1 piece or 1 cup of fruit as a good starting point.
This could be 1 banana or 1 cup of berries - this can also be a mix of fruit that equals 1 serving in total. Think 1/2 frozen banana plus 1/2 cup frozen berries for a tasty combo.
Berries are always a good choice because they pack the most nutritional punch with minimal natural sugar.
Fruit will lend it’s naturally occurring sweetness to any smoothie, but if you’re looking to kick it up on the sweet factor, use a couple of dates instead.
Dates in your smoothie give you a boost of sweet but it will be accompanied by a good amount of nutrients and fiber too.
Bonus: superfood smoothie add-ins!
The cool thing about your new healthy smoothie recipe guide is that your options are truly endless - especially when it comes to superfood add-ins.
Boost the nutritional content of your smoothies with superfoods like turmeric, maca, bee pollen, cacao, reishi mushrooms, chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass and more!
Raise your nutritional status with spices including cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, pink Himalayan salt, nutmeg, and clove to name a few.
Not only will this add lots of flavor but in will improve the nutrient density of your super shake!
When crafting the perfect healthy smoothie, use this 5 step guide for your portions to give your body the nutrient dense fuel it craves.
The right shake will give you plenty of nutrition, but also keep you feeling full, focused and fueled throughout your day!
Do you have a favorite smoothie combo that you've discovered? We'd love to hear it! Email us your recipe at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can try it out.
Written by Brett - Nutrition & Health Coach / Co-Founder of Moontower Matcha
Brett has worked for the last 10 years with thousands of individuals one-on-one to achieve their own health and fitness goals.
His mission is to share healthy habits, real-world solutions, and comprehensive strategies around nutrition, movement, sleep, and stress management to help guide individuals to the results they desire most.