Sure, smoothies can be nutrient-dense powerhouses—but they can also be packed with excess calories and sugar, says McKel Hill, registered dietician and creator of Nutrition Stripped, an online guide to living whole and eating well. These excess cals may come in the form of too many sugary fruits, or even too many “healthy” ingredients, like nut butter. Here, Hill helps break down the ways in which you can build a healthful— yet no less delicious—blended beverage.
1. The Base
It’s good practice to avoid using juice as your liquid base. “Store-bought juices are loaded with refined sugars, and aren’t a beauty food in my book,” says Hill. Instead, start with a half- to whole-cup of water or a dairy-free milk, like coconut or almond.
2. The Produce
Add in two handfuls of a green leafy vegetable, like spinach, and one piece of frozen fruit, like a frozen banana, or 1 to 2 cups of a lower sugar fruit, like raspberries and blueberries. Blend to taste.
3. The Protein and Fat
If you want your smoothie to carry you through meal time, add protein and healthy fats, says Hill, who recommends a scoop of powdered plant-based protein. (We like Sun Warrior's vegan Warrior Blend Natural, $30 for 1.1 lbs.; sunwarrior.com.) As your healthy fat, try just one tablespoon of your favorite nut butter or coconut oil, or even half of a fresh avocado.
4. The Extras
Right now, your smoothie is good as-is, but if you want to go the extra health mile there are some extra ingredients you can consider. Nutrient-dense add-ins like bee pollen, maca, and açaí powder are all great additions, says Hill. “These are just boosters though; they're not necessities."