The Anatomy of a Perfect Smoothie

Sweeten up your summer menu with a nutrient-packed smoothie

The idea of a refreshing frozen treat in the middle of a hot afternoon will lead you straight to the nearest smoothie spot. And if you order up a Strawberry Banana smoothie at Jamba Juice, it’ll set you back around 58-grams of sugar—that’s more than a 16-ounce bottle of soda, yikes! Instead, opt for one of their “all-fruit smoothies” and ask them to swap the fruit juice for water or unsweetened nonfat milk of choice.

This change alone will save you around 25 grams of sugar and 100 calories.

Try making your own mouthwatering DIY smoothie at home. Here’s how:

1. Grab Your Liquid Base

When making smoothies, you’ll need a liquid base. This is to help the blender process the ingredients with ease. Your best bet is to start with a base that is calorie-free or low-cal like water, coconut water, or your favorite nonfat milk. Using milk will provide a boost of calcium and vitamin D, while coconut water is filled with electrolytes, making it perfect pre- or post-workout or on a sweltering day.

2. Find Your Fruits and Veggies

When it comes to produce and smoothies, the possibilities are endless. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables provide an all-natural sweet addition that is packed with fiber and antioxidant vitamins and minerals. There really are no rules here—pick what you love and blend away. Just remember to go with fresh or frozen whole fruit instead of sugary pre-made varieties.

Add a handful of baby spinach leaves or kale (or use frozen veggies instead of ice cubes) for an all-natural nutrient kick.

3. Pick a Protein

Adding a serving of lean protein to your smoothie will help you feel satisfied and stay full for longer. Not only that, but protein is essential before or after a workout because it helps fuel your muscles and improves recovery, which means you won’t be as sore the next day.

Try adding ¾ cup to 1 cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, plain yogurt or a scoop of whey protein powder (or substitute pea, rice of other protein powder) for about 15 to 20 grams of protein per 1 serving.

4. Boost the Health-Factor

Once you’ve got your base, produce and optional protein picked, it’s time to choose your healthy additions. There are so many great items available today— chia seeds, flax seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, hemp seeds—all of which offer a serving of heart-healthy fats, filling fiber and free-radical fighting antioxidants. Not interested in any of these? No problem! Your basic fruit smoothly is supercharged as is.

5. Garnish With Greatness

Even smoothies deserve a little bit of goodness on top. No reason to go overboard here. Skip the cookie crumbles and reach for any of these healthy toppings instead: walnuts pieces (full of fiber, vitamin E, healthy fats, and more), cacao nibs (a low-cal swap for chocolate chips, filled with fiber, antioxidant vitamins, and minerals), unsweetened shredded coconut (lots of electrolytes and healthy fats), fresh fruit, high-fiber cereal or granola, or your favorite low-sugar granola bar.

Smoothie Recipes

Not sure where to start? Try one of these favorite smoothie recipes that are simple to make and so delish!

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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