How to Put a Nutritious Smoothie Together
Smoothies are a good way of consuming two or more different food groups if you are in a hurry. Many different foods can be put into a smoothie, making the possibilities endless. They can be consumed to fuel your body after a workout by adding protein, to increase your intake of vegetables without knowing they are in your smoothie, and to increase your dairy intake. There are four main ingredients to a nutritious smoothie: a base, fruits and/or vegetables, protein, and any extras you would like to add.
The base is the most important part of the smoothie. It must have some kind of liquid so that the smoothie is smooth, hint smoothie, and easy to drink. Milk, soymilk, almond milk, yogurt, and water are just a few liquids that can be used as a base in a smoothie. Adding dairy such as milk and yogurt contribute to your daily intake of dairy, which is important since most people do not consume their recommended dairy intake per day. Try to stray away from fruit juices as a base because they are high in sugar and calories.
The large variety of fruits and vegetables that can be blended into a smoothie is what makes them so nutritious. Fruits add sweetness, texture, fiber, and other important nutrients to the smoothie. If you use frozen fruit, the fruit will be sweeter, but also, the smoothie will have a thick, frosty consistency. Fruits are a good source of fiber because of the pectin, which makes the smoothie creamy. Vegetables also add many important nutrients to your smoothie. I know, you’re thinking, “vegetables?! That doesn’t sound good at all.” However, fruits and the base mask the taste of the vegetables. By putting vegetables in your smoothie, you are consuming the food group that most people do not consume enough of without even tasting it! Vegetables like kale, carrots, spinach, avocado, and cucumber add nutritious value to a smoothie.
Many athletes add protein to their smoothies to fuel their bodies after a workout and to increase their muscle gain. You can also add protein to a smoothie to consume as a meal replacement. Most people add protein powder like whey and casein to increase the protein content in the smoothie; however, there are other options if you are wanting to obtain your protein needs through food rather than supplements. Tofu, peanut butter, or other nut butters can be added to a smoothie to increase the protein content.
Once these three ingredients have been added to the smoothie, you can still add anything extra to increase the taste or the nutrient density. Flax, chia, or hemp seed can be added to the smoothie to increase the fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acid content. Cocoa powder is also good for nutrient and taste value. Yes, you heard me right. It contains flavanols, the compound that makes chocolate good for you, and it is low in calories, sugar free, and fat free. Anything extra can really amp up the nutrient content and make your smoothie even more delicious.
Smoothies can be very nutritious and good for you as long as you watch and control what you put in them. Since the flavor combinations are endless, you most likely will never get tired of them. You can experiment with flavors and the nutrient intake, they can replace a meal if you are in a hurry and do not have time to make a one, and they can help you consume your recommended intake of certain food groups like vegetables and dairy. As long as you watch the amount of calories you are putting into the smoothie, they are one of the most nutritious foods to consume!
Contributed by: Brenna Breaux, LSU Undergraduate Sports Nutrition Intern