Let me first tell you…you may or may not know this…but you do not need smoothies, shakes, protein drinks, meal replacement smoothies – whatever you want to call them – to lose weight, or gain muscle, etc. Okay…now that’s out of the way…but let me explain why.
All of the nutrients (and more) found in smoothies, can be also included in regular snacks and meals. In other words, a smoothie is no better than a bowl of Greek yogurt, berries, and mixed nuts and seeds; or a piece of baked chicken, ½ cup of quinoa, and half plate of veggies, etc. However, smoothies/shakes are a great way to get in nutrients if you are busy, on the go, and need something quick and convenient, or if you simply enjoy having one!
What I do recommend as a healthy diet for the general population, and one that supports healthy weight management, is one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains or other complex carbohydrates, dairy products or dairy alternatives, seafood, lean proteins, legumes and nuts while reducing red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary foods and beverages. While also – and these are just some examples: moving more; if you are trying to lose weight, reducing the amount of calories you eat/eating at a caloric deficit (for weight loss; which means you figure out your Total Daily Energy Requirement (TDEE) – from a professional, or a reputable online site – and eat about 500 less than that per day); gaining help and support from a professional if necessary (or even a supportive friend or group); getting adequate sleep; trying to manage stress; working on becoming more organized; and reducing the negativity in your life (maintaining a healthy lifestyle is connected in all areas of our life).
Another thing I want you to know, is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on shakes per month if you would like to use smoothies/protein shakes. They can be made with as many or little ingredients as you have access to, and still pack an extreme nutrient punch and keep you full until your next meal.
Here is a list of smoothie ingredients to chose from. All you need is at least one from each category (ideally), and you will have a nutritious and delicious protein shake!
Plain Greek yogurt (higher in protein than regular)
Plain, chocolate or vanilla unsweetened milk (cows, goats, almond, soy, cashew, or rice, depending on preference)
Plain kefir (high in probiotics)
Natural peanut butter
Soft silken tofu (adds protein but can barely taste it when it's in a smoothie)
Protein powder (whether you go for the most nutritious out there, or a more cost effective one – do what works for you and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it!)
Almonds, or any other type of nuts
Fruits: (can be fresh or frozen, if fresh it is best to use some ice)
Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
Avocado (adds amazing creamy texture)
Vegetables: (I find these are the best to use)
Flavour and Added Nutrition:
Flaxseed (fibre, protein and other nutrients)
Chia seed (fibre, protein and other nutrients)
Hemp hearts (fibre, protein and other nutrients)
Old-fashioned oats (will add complex carbs and fibre to keep you full longer)
Spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne)
Unsweetened cocoa powder
If you must have added sweetness, use a small amount (1 tsp or less) of your choice of sweetener or sugar (however, the fruit, vanilla beverages and extract, and cinnamon will usually add enough): stevia, Splenda, sugar, cane sugar honey, pure maple syrup
Completely optional and not necessary if you use foods with a lot of nutrients, but some other options for added flavour and nutrients are:
Note: blend ingredients in a blender.
Tips on Purchasing Smoothie Ingredients:
Any time you make healthy swaps in your pantry, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. You may not be used to buying all of these ingredients, and you may not the means or access to get everything right away. Here are some general tips for stocking up the pantry in general, and for smoothies:
Purchase 1-2 new ingredients at a time.
Check local flyers for sales. More and more grocery stores are having sales on healthier items such as chia, flax and hemp seeds. There are also apps such as ‘Flipp’ that check local flyers for you when you search for a specific ingredient.
The larger you can buy of the item the better (if possible), it will last you longer and give you more time to add other staples to the pantry. However, certain items will also have sample sizes you can buy or find (e.g., Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts small package for $2.99, and Vega One Single Protein Packages for $3.99),
Frozen is better for smoothies than fresh in my opinion, as they keep for a long time in your freezer, and won’t go bad in your fridge within the week.
Even a smoothie with 5-6 ingredients from the list above (1-2 from each category), will be delicious and nutritious.
For more tips on eating healthy on a budget, see my previous post.
Protein Powder Examples:
Vega One (My personal favourite, as it is high in fibre, protein, and many other nutrients; made from all natural, nutritious foods; vegan; gluten-free; 6 servings of greens; also includes probiotics and digestive enzymes)
Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal
LeanFit Complete Green or Whey Isolate Protein (available in some grocery stores or at Costco)
Tips When Choosing a Cost-Effective Protein Powder:
Low sugar (ideally 3g or less; make sure it is not top 3 in the ingredient list)
Low saturated fat (ideally 1.5g or less)
High protein (ideally 15-30g, depending on goals)
High fibre (ideally 3-5g)
Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, etc., are an added bonus).
Whey Protein Isolate is better than ‘Whey’ only
For Vegans: hemp and soy protein powders are great because they contain complete proteins, however, other options such as brown rice protein and pea protein are still great, as long as you are getting other protein sources throughout the day.
Kale and Berry Power Smoothie
1/3 cup of blueberries
1/3 cup of strawberries
1/2 cup of spinach or kale leaves (remove the hard parts of the kale stalks)
1/3 of a cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition and digestive benefits)
1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
1 tablespoon of hemp powder or seeds
1 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or ginger, depending on taste preference
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1/3 cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition benefits)
1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
1/2 of a frozen banana
1/2 to 1 scoop protein, or 1-2 tbsp hemp, chia, or flax seeds, or 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
I hope this helps some of you with making your own smoothies, and not feeling like you have to buy expensive smoothies or products to work towards a healthier lifestyle!
If you have any questions, post in the comments below (or email me!). I'm always here for support.
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Felicia Newell is a Nutritionist, Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Expert, Health Coach, and a mom of 4 boys under 6! She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition. Felicia wears many hats, and knows what it is like to try and live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren't always supportive of making healthy choices.
Life is busy, confusing at times, and full of contradictions, especially in the world of health and wellness. Felicia is passionate in helping others fight through the misinformation out there, and to navigate life and health, but most importantly, to enjoy the crap out of it while doing it.
She has over 11 years of education and experience in Nutritional Sciences. Between completing her Bachelor and Masters in Nutritional Sciences, working at a research centre, teaching university courses, years of nutrition counselling helping people crush their goals, and being a busy mom of 4 young boys, she has the passion, skills, education, and experience to help others reach health and wellness in a way that works for them.