Whether you are looking for a quick breakfast on-the-go, a post-workout shake, or a high-protein drink to help meet your nutrition needs before bed, a healthy smoothie can be a great option. Making a fruit smoothie at home can also be an economical way to add important nutrients to your performance diet, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and Vitamin D. One of the great aspects of smoothies is that you can continually change the ingredients for new flavor combinations. Check-out the ideas below for building a healthy smoothie that meets your specific needs.
Add Protein to Your Smoothie
One of my favorite aspects of fruit smoothies is that they are a great way to help an athlete meet their protein needs. If you are making a morning smoothie or a post-workout shake, aim to include ~25 grams of protein in the smoothie. You can easily meet this protein goal by utilizing some of the ingredients listed below. If you are trying to build or maintain muscle mass consider ending the day with a high-protein smoothie before bed that contains 40-50 grams of protein. The protein in the smoothie will provide your muscles with the fuel needed to promote recovery during the night.
- Greek Yogurt– Greek Yogurt is a quick and easy way to add protein to your smoothie. Greek yogurt contains ~21 grams of protein per cup, while regular yogurt has ~7 grams of protein. You can change the flavor of the Greek yogurt used in the smoothie to alter the smoothie’s taste.
- Cottage Cheese – Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, containing ~28 grams per cup. The main type of protein in cottage cheese is casein protein. Casein is a slow acting protein, which makes it an ideal protein to consume before bed. Consider adding cottage cheese to your evening smoothie to take advantage of it’s high casein content. If you are not a fan of the texture of cottage cheese don’t worry, when blended into a smoothie it will make the smoothie creamy, otherwsie you won’t even know it’s there!
- High-Protein Milk – Ultra-filtered milks, such as Fairlife® or HEB Mootopia® are a great way to increase the protein content of your smoothie. When milk is ultra-filtered, it removes the lactose from the milk and concentrates both the protein and calcium content of the beverage. A cup of regular milk has 8 grams of protein, while a cup of ultra-filtered milk has 13 grams of protein. As an added bonus the ultra-filtered milk is lactose free (for those who are sensitive to lactose) and has more calcium than regular milk.
- Dry Milk – Adding non-fat, dry (powdered) milk is another easy way to boost the protein content of your smoothie. Adding 1/4 cup of dry milk to your smoothie increases the protein content by 8 grams and will not alter the flavor of your smoothie.
- Protein Powder – Many individuals like to add whey or casein protein powders to their fruit smoothies to ensure they are hitting their post-workout or evening protein goals. Protein powders typically provide ~20-25 grams of protein per scoop depending on the brand. If you are considering the use of protein powder as an ingredient for your smoothie, make sure the product you utilize is third-party tested. For more information on third-party testing and supplements make sure to review my previous blog article – What about Supplements?
*Side note on protein and smoothies – do not add raw eggs to your smoothie as a way to increase the protein content. Raw eggs may contain Salmonella and result in food poisoning. There are plenty of other ways to add protein to your smoothie without the use of raw eggs!
**I also had an athlete try to increase the protein content of his smoothie by adding in deli meat…that doesn’t work well either!
Boost the Nutrient Profile of Your Smoothie
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Flaxseeds and chia seeds both contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s have many roles in the body, including helping to reduce inflammation and supporting brain health. In addition to alpha-linoleic acid, flaxseeds and chia seeds contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them healthy additions to your smoothie.
- Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
- Frozen fruit is a great way to ensure your smoothie is packed full of nutrition. Frozen fruit is flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, thus it maintains a nutrient content similar to fresh fruit. Some of my favorite frozen fruits for smoothies inlude: mixed berries, mango, pineapple, and peaches. Bananas help make smoothies creamy and delicious. Consider slicing fresh bananas and freezing the slices to throw into your smoothie.
- Pro-Tip – make sure to slice the banana before freezing it. Trying to blend a whole, frozen banana is likely to break your blender…trust me on this one!
- A great way to boost the nutrient content of your smoothie is by adding in leafy greens, such as kale or spinach. Although this will turn the smoothie a greenish-brown color, it will not alter the flavor or your drink and will make the smoothie extra healthy.
- The use of spices is an easy way to enhance the flavor and nutritional content of your smoothie – two of my favorite spice additions to smoothies are cinnamon and turmeric.
Tips for Making a High-Calorie, Healthy Smoothie
If you are looking to add calories to your diet in an effort to gain weight, fruit smoothies can be an excellent way to help you increase your daily caloric intake. Consider adding the following ingredients to your smoothie for added nutrients and calories.
- Nut Butter – Adding 2 Tbsp of nut butter to your smoothie can increase the caloric content by ~200 calories and add 7 grams of protein. If you have a nut allergy, consider adding SunButter® for an allergen-free option. If you don’t have nut butter available, you can blend nuts into your smoothie as well. Adding a handful of walnuts will not only add calories, but also protein, omega-3s, and antioxidants.
- Avocado – You can easily boost the caloric and nutrient content of your smoothie by adding in avocado. Avocados are incredibly nutrient dense, containing ~240 calories in one avocado. They also contain monounsaturated fat, fiber, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Adding avocado to your smoothie will help give it a creamy texture.
Basic Healthy Fruit Smoothie Recipe
Below is the recipe to prepare a basic fruit smoothie. Have fun experimenting and changing the type of frozen fruit, spices, and other ingredients for new flavor combinations.
Now that you have some ideas for ingredients to add to your smoothie – it is time to go make a healthy smoothie to enjoy! For additional suggestions on ways to meet your performance nutrition needs visit with a Registered Dietitian who can work with you on developing a customized sports nutrition meal plan.