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., etc. However, smoothies 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 weight loss, 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, 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 5-600 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 (weight loss has a psychological component as well, and when we feel better in other aspects of life, we can be more successful in reaching our goals).
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 great smoothie!
- Plain yogurt
- Plain, chocolate or vanilla unsweetened milk (cows, goats, almond, soy, cashew, or rice, depending on preference)
- Plain kefir (high in probiotics)
- Natural peanut butter
- Almond butter
- 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 (small amount)
Fruits: (can be fresh or frozen, if fresh it is best to use some ice)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Pomegranate seeds
Vegetables: (I find these are the best to use)
Flavour and Added Nutrition:
- Chia seed
- Hemp hearts
- Old-fashioned oats (will add complex carbs and fibre to keep you full longer)
- Spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne)
- Vanilla extract
- Coconut water
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Mint leaves
- 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’re adding your own nutrients, but some other options for added flavor and nutrients are:
- Chlorophyll powder
- Spirulina powder
- Acai powder
- Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder
Note: blend ingredients in a blender or magic bullet (easiest for cleanup).
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.
- 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
- 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!
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.