Nutritionally balanced smoothies make great breakfasts or snacks and can help aid muscle building and recovery when consumed 30-60 minutes after exercise. The key to making smoothies nutritionally balanced is to add good quality protein, which also provides healthy fats in the form of vitamin E and essential fatty acids.
The step by step process below, provides adequate nutrition for one smoothie for breakfast or after the gym. Alternatively you can make a smoothie and enjoy half as a morning and half as an afternoon snack. Step one is about choosing your flavour, step two adds good quality protein and step three adds the liquid component. If you are healing your gut, balancing hormones, increasing energy or strengthening immunity, step four shows you how add healing properties to your smoothie.
I’ve outlined all my favourite smoothie flavours below. Use these steps to find flavours & smoothies that you enjoy. You can then experiment on your own with different ingredients to find a variety you love.
STEP ONE CHOOSE YOUR FLAVOUR:
- CHOCOLATE COCONUT SMOOTHIE: 1 tbsp cacao powder, 1 banana, 1 tbsp coconut chips or creamed coconut.
- BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE: 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 banana.
- STRAWBERRY VANILLA SMOOTHIE: 1 cup strawberries (or 1/2 cup diced), 1 banana, 1 tsp vanilla essence.
- CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY SMOOTHIE: 1 tbsp cacao powder, 1/2 cup raspberries, 1 banana,
- GREEN SMOOTHIE: large handful baby spinach leaves, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 banana.
- CREAMY GREEN SMOOTHIE – 1/4 large or 1/2 small ripe avocado, large handful of spinach leaves, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 banana.
STEP TWO CHOOSE YOUR PROTEIN:
Add 2-3 tbsp of any of the following and mix them to create more nutritional balance. Men may require 3tbsp to ensure the smoothie fills you up until lunch. If you are making an after the gym smoothie opt for around 15g of protein (e.g. 2 tbsp hemp seeds and 1 tbsp almond butter).
- ALMOND BUTTER – adds a lovely creamy flavour. I find almond butters easier to digest than almonds on their own. They are a good source of protein and vitamin E. 1 tbsp almond butter adds about 3.4g protein.
- HEMP SEEDS (hulled/shelled) – these work well in smoothies because they don’t add much flavour, whilst adding a good nutrient punch! The seeds are good quality protein containing both essential and non essential amino acids and are rich in essential fatty acids plus a variety of other vitamins and minerals. 1 tbsp hemp seeds adds around 5.3g of protein.
- CHIA SEEDS – like hemp seeds, chia don’t add much flavour. They do however absorb liquid & become dense and sticky after a while so it’s best to use them in smoothies you are drinking immediately, unless you want to end up with a chia type pudding. Chia seeds are also a complete good quality protein, and rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. 1 tbsp chia seeds adds around 2.5g of protein.
- FLAXSEEDS– these are a great source of fibre so if you need to up your intake adding a tablespoon to a smoothie will help. They are rich in anti inflammatory omega 3, & a great source for vegans and vegetarians. They add a nice nutty flavour. 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds adds around 1.5g of protein.
- GLUTEN FREE OATS – use whole grain or rolled oats to add protein & fibre. Oats are great to use if you are looking to lower cholesterol levels. If you are adding oats I would recommend adding 2tbsp of oats plus another 1tbsp of an alternate protein source. 2 tbsp oats will add about 4g protein.
- COLLAGEN HYDROLYSATE – if you need to heal your gut, adding protein from collagen will help repair the tight junctions and cells of the gastro intestinal tract. Collagen is also great for skin health & don’t worry it doesn’t taste of anything so won’t affect the flavour of your smoothie. 1 tbsp adds around 5.5g of protein.
STEP THREE CHOOSE YOUR LIQUID
Add around 250-300mls of any of the following:
- Filtered water,
- Coconut water,
- Unsweetened almond milk,
- Unsweetened hazelnut milk,
- Unsweetened cashew milk,
- Unsweetened coconut milk,
- Unsweetened oat milk
- Unsweetened hemp milk.
Organic, unsweetened plant based milks can be expensive and aren’t always necessary. I would recommend experimenting with different liquids to see which ones you enjoy. I often just use filtered water, particularly if I am adding nut butter or coconut to the smoothie, and just add a nut milk once in a while to change things up a bit. Nut milks contain around 5-7% nuts and the rest is filtered water, so adding almond butter or creamed coconut with filtered water is really creating the same thing.
In terms of flavours, unsweetened almond milk works well in all smoothie flavours. Hazelnut milk adds a praline type flavour when also adding cacao powder. Coconut milk works well with chocolate and strawberry, vanilla flavours. But it really comes down to personal preference.
- Glutamine is an amino acid which helps repair the cellular lining of the gastrointestinal tract. 1 teaspoon of powder which provides around 5g of glutamine is enough. Glutamine won’t affect the flavour your smoothie.
- Probiotics if your immunity is low, if you exercise regularly or experience digestive issues like bloating or flatulence adding a multi strain (10+ strains) probiotic capsule to your smoothie can help. Empty the capsule into the smoothie after it is blended and stir it in to avoid heating.
- Slippery Elm powder creates a mucilaginous layer over the gastrointestinal tract, which provides healing properties to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Slippery Elm is also a prebiotic food helping form healthy bacteria in the gut. I would recommend adding no more than 1 teaspoon to a smoothie so as not to affect the flavour & it is recommended to take slippery elm 2 hours away from medication.
- Maca superfood powder is great for balancing hormones, improving fertility and energy. It is a root that has quite a distinct flavour so I would recommend adding no more than 1/2 to 1 teaspoon to a smoothie so you don’t affect the flavour too much.
- Acai Berries are extremely high in antioxidants so are a great addition to a gym recovery smoothie to combat the stress your body has been under. The berries don’t affect flavour of a smoothie so you can add up to 1 tbsp.