In a Breakfast Rut? Try a Smoothie
New Year’s resolutions used to be about taking stock in your life and finding ways to make a meaningful change for the better. Now it’s too often just another excuse for social media gurus to sell their latest subscription service or fad diet, because a “better you” is clearly a thinner you, right? Well, we can’t argue that some of us could use a few healthier habits, and one easy way to introduce some good things into our diets is to consider a smoothie kick.
To be clear, we’re not limiting ourselves to the goopy green kind of smoothies. Smoothies can be both delicious, satisfying, and good for you without inducing a gag reflex. They’re also super convenient, portable, and endlessly variable, so here are some tips for beginning to introduce smoothies into your daily routine.
The Building Blocks for a Healthy Smoothie
There’s a reason why fitness buffs swear by smoothies and bourgeois gyms sell them for $12 a pop: smoothies really are good for you. The key is to pick the right ingredients so that they’re filling and healthy, and not just a giant sugar bomb that’s going to make you feel hungry again an hour later. There’s more to making a good smoothie than just blending some fruit with juice. Here are some guidelines:
All smoothies need some form of liquid base, or else you’re going to have a drink that’s very… chewy. (Ugh.) The most common options include coconut milk, almond milk, or really any kind of milk. You can also use tea, or iced coffee, and juice is always an option although nutritionists warn that juices tend to add unnecessary sugar. Some people just use water and ice cubes. Pick the liquid based on the other ingredients you’re going to add and go from there.
To get the most benefit from drinking a smoothie, you need to consider adding proteins. The most popular — and easy — way is to add a protein powder. Typically these powders are sourced from whey, peas, hemp, egg whites, or even brown rice. And if you want to be up on the latest trend in protein powders, collagen supplements are a great way to go. As you age, your body produces less and less collagen, an essential protein needed for building connective tissue. This affects the appearance of your skin (less collagen=more elasticity, hence sagging and wrinkles) but also the connective tissues within your body, such as those lining your gut and protecting your organs. Adding a collagen supplement can help your body replace the collagen it can no longer make, which has been proven to help people who suffer from osteoarthritis as well as other inflammatory disorders, such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Not all protein supplements are built the same and to date, none are regulated by the FDA. You will want a collagen powder that says it contains hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, which means the protein has been isolated and broken down so that the body can easily process it. Try the unflavored variety first: most will be hardly noticeable in a smoothie, and the flavored versions often contain sugars that you don’t need and could irritate your gut more than help it. Also, it’s a good idea to see if the powder has been certified by a trusted third party, a wise strategy for any dietary supplement.
Another way to add protein to your smoothie is through milk and yogurt. While these also add some fat and calories, they make the smoothie tasty and, well, smooth. In fact, most doctors recommend you get your proteins from food primarily without relying on the use of powders and supplements, but we like to use both and consider all our bases covered.
The second critical component in a well-balanced, satisfying smoothie is a source of fat. We know, we know, the diet industry has been demonizing fats for decades, but some healthy sources are more beneficial than you think. Fat is the ingredient that will make your smoothie taste good and actually keep you full, but if you use the right sources it can also help make vitamins and minerals more bioavailable, aka, easy for your body to digest and absorb. Some great sources of healthy fats are avocados, nut butters, coconut oil, whole milk, and yogurt. The important thing is to be conscious of the fact that a little goes a long way, so try to keep in mind that the more of these ingredients that you add, the more calories you will be consuming, so moderation is key.
Fruit and Veggies
Here’s the fun part. This is where you get to pick from all the delicious options that nature (or the frozen food aisle) has given us. The old stand-bys like strawberries with bananas, or mixed-berries are a solid start. If you’re feeling wild, consider blending pineapples and mangoes with coconut milk.
The trick, according to nutritionists, is not to add too much of a good thing. The reason fruit tastes so good is its high sugar content, so too much fruit will actually negate the healthy aspects of your smoothie. Most recommend about 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, and the more colors you have, the greater the variety of vitamins and minerals.
If you’re stout of heart (and stomach), consider adding veggies into your smoothie. Many people toss in a handful of spinach or kale because they add a ton of antioxidants without modifying the flavor too much. Some people (the real smoothie junkies) will cook sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or carrots and then freeze them to add too, although that takes preparation and dedication to the craft.
Now that you know the basics of creating a healthy, nutrition-optimized smoothie, it’s time to start trying out all the different options. The variations are literally limitless, so try to find a few recipes to keep on hand so you don’t get sick of any one flavor. We’ve included a few links for a variety of recipes to give you a taste of some of the possibilities.
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