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Whether you’re looking for a balanced breakfast, a post-workout snack, or a late-night treat, smoothies might cross your mind. And hey, we don’t blame you—depending on what you put in them, they can be both super-filling and incredibly tasty. But just because they curb your appetite and sweet tooth doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good for you.
To learn what makes a smoothie actually worth adding to your routine, keep reading for what three nutrition experts have to say on the subject.
What's the Best Time to Drink a Smoothie?
The morning is a great way time to enjoy a smoothie as it provides a very easy portable breakfast option. Adding something like oats along with fruits and vegetables such as berries and baby spinach can increase your fiber and vegetable intake very quickly. Also, they're a great way to continue your body's reparative state from sleeping. "It helps me continue to cleanse from the night before, while keeping me full and satisfied for hours," celebrity nutritionist Kelly LeVeque explains.
Are Smoothies Healthy?
According to NYC-based nutritionist Jennifer Maeng, a well-made smoothie can be a healthy choice at any time (so long as they contain the right ingredients—more on that below). Whether you’re running late for work, too busy to take a break for lunch, or get home late after a long day, she says nutritious smoothies are an excellent option to ensure you stay satiated—and she’ll always recommend them over skipping out on meals in a pinch.
Are Smoothies Adequate Meal Replacements?
Speaking of skipping meals, many people replace full meals with smoothies. But, is this healthy? According to naturopath, nutritionist, and founder of Edible Beauty Australia, Anna Mitsios, smoothies can definitely be meals in and of themselves. "Smoothie recipes often contain fruit, yogurt/milk, protein, fiber, and fats, so they can provide a complete source of nutrition to replace the occasional meal," she explains.
LeVeque adds to this, noting that so long as your smoothie is comprised of the "Fab Four" main components of fat, fiber, protein, and greens (and water, milk, or a milk replacement for smoothie consistency sake), it’s a perfectly healthy meal replacement. Where fats help keep your cells functioning properly, fiber feeds your gut bacteria, protein helps build and maintain muscle, and greens deliver loads of vitamins and antioxidants for optimum health.
Plus, there are so many ways to achieve that mix of nutrients, that you likely won’t get bored of it—something that can’t be said of many other meal replacements.
What Should You Put in Your Smoothie?
While you now know the mix of nutrients necessary to create the ultimate smoothie, you might not know how that breaks down into actual ingredients. To streamline the process, simply choose a mix of ingredients from the below lists until you find your favorite flavor. No matter what you choose, you can look forward to a nutritionally-balanced smoothie that will keep you full for hours on end.
- Almond butter
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Chia seed
- Brown rice protein powder
- Hemp protein powder
- Pea protein powder
- Collagen protein powder
- Plant-based protein powder
- Super greens powder
You can also mix super greens tablets (like 8Greens Effervescent Tablets, $39) with water to serve as both the liquids and greens in your smoothie.
Following a holistic recipe like LeVeque’s Fab Four formula is quite possibly the most holistic approach to meal replacements. "It’s a light structure to help my clients feel satisfied, elongate their blood sugar curve, and eat foods that are the most nourishing to support hormone production, microbiome proliferation, and healthy body composition," she explains. “In combination, the Fab Four works to turn off eight hunger hormones in the body; it ensures you are getting the essential fatty and amino acids you need for cell regeneration, and helps you build a complete meal that will keep you satisfied for four to six hours.”
That said, other smoothies aren’t entirely off the table, they’re just not ideal if the goal is to swap it in for a meal. If you simply want to add a smoothie to your breakfast or snack rotation, Maeng says to blend an even mix of carbs, fat, fiber, and protein. The addition of carbs allows for many more fruits to be added into the mix. However, it’s important to remember that carbs translate to sugar and can cause insulin spikes, so if your goal is weight loss or energy balance, drinking loads of fruity smoothies can negate the purpose.
What Types of Smoothies Should You Avoid?
This all depends on what your goals are. As a general rule of thumb, Mitsios says that you should steer clear of smoothies that contain excessive sugar due to frozen yogurt, sugary yogurt, or high-glycemic-index fruit (like mangoes, dates, and bananas). Smoothies with these bases cause sugar levels to spike, which can lead to a blood sugar spike and quickly becomes a recurring pattern, causing even more sugar cravings throughout the day.
Maeng adds to this, noting that store-bought smoothies (and even made-to-order ones) can be too high in carbs or fat. "Sometimes it has added sugar which is totally not necessary," she adds. "In order for you to fuel yourself properly, balanced macronutrients is the key."
How Often Should You Add Smoothies to Your Diet?
Even though well-made smoothies can totally serve as meal replacements, Maeng doesn’t recommend replacing all whole-food meals with liquid ones. "If it is a well-balanced smoothie, I say you can incorporate it daily," she says. "But if you are drinking smoothies two to three times per day and skipping meals for weight loss, I would not recommend it. It takes a few minutes to drink a glass of smoothie but to eat those calories from whole foods, it will take much longer. And chewing and swallowing action gives you much greater satisfaction from the meal."
If weight loss isn’t the goal but you want to work on your fruit and veggie intake, once-a-day smoothies are a great addition to your diet. “If you have no issues with packing in all of your nutrition via meals and snacks then they can be consumed whenever you feel inclined to whiz one up,” Mitsios concludes.
Simple Smoothie Recipes
If choosing your own ingredients feels like too much of a hassle, allow us to eliminate the guesswork for you. Ahead you’ll find three smoothie recommendations courtesy of LeVeque, Maeng, and Mitsios. Enjoy!
LeVeques’s Smoothie Recipe
- 1 serving vanilla protein powder
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or almond butter)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chia
- 2 cups unsweetened nut milk
- 1 teaspoon cacao nibs
Instructions: Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and add ice if you prefer cold smoothies. Interested in more of LeVeque’s tasty mixes? Check out her smoothie recipes, here.
Maeng’s Go-To Smoothie
- 2 cups packed baby organic spinach
- 1⁄2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk 1 cup water
- 1⁄2 cup ice
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1 tablespoon nut butter
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1⁄2 cup frozen berries
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. “It’s perfect as a snack for two people or as a breakfast for one,” Maeng says.
Mitsios’ Favorite Smoothie
- 1 cup of blueberries (frozen works)
- 1 cup of kale or spinach
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal
- 1 teaspoon of chia
- 1 teaspoon of almond butter
- 1 teaspoon of collagen powder
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. “This combination is the perfect complexion-boosting formula with fiber to sweep away excess hormones which can create breakouts and congestion, antioxidants and protein to boost collagen production, along with B vitamins and Omegas to control inflammation and promote skin smoothness,” Mitsios says.