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Ask the Diet Doctor: How to Make Healthy Smoothies

Q: How can I make healthy smoothies at home? What are the best ingredients?

A: Homemade smoothies are a fast and easy way to fit high-quality nutrition into your day. "Homemade" is key, as most commercial/premade smoothies are packed with simple sugars and enough calories to fuel your entire workday, putting you on the fast track to developing diabetes.

Here's a foolproof plan (plus a few of my favorite smoothie recipes) for mixing the perfect meal or snack every time. Simply fill your blender with a little from each of the following categories, and you're guaranteed to get a nutritionist-approved final product.

RELATED: The Formula for the Best Smoothie


Your optimized smoothie is a great opportunity to get in a variety of essential fatty acids. Walnuts are my personal favorite because they blend well and don't leave any grit at the bottom of your cup. They also deliver an impressive blend of mono and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats.

Other good choices: Pistachios, almonds, natural peanut butter, and canned coconut milk. If you want more omega-3s in your diet, try adding flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is not very heat stable so you can't cook with it, and the strong flavor makes it a poor choice for salad dressing (unless you get garlic-chili infused flaxssed oil, which is delicious). Therefore, adding flaxseed oil to your smoothie is the perfect way to incorporate it into your diet.

How much to use: 1 tablespoon of oil or 2-4 tablespoons of nuts

Fruits and Vegetables

Your choice of fruits and vegetables is what really determines the flavor of your smoothie. But don't worry: You can't go wrong! Make berries your staple ingredient, as they are carb-controlled and packed with nutrients. Use tropical fruits like banana, mango, and pineapple when you need extra carbohydrates (ideal for a pre- or post-workout shake).

In regards to vegetables, spinach and kale are both surprisingly neutral tasting when blended. They will turn your smoothie green, but they'll hardly impact the flavor profile—definitely worth the nutrition boost!

How much to use: 1-2 cups of berries, 1/2-1 1/2 cups of tropical fruit, or all the spinach and kale you can handle


Protein is a major player in making super smoothies. A quality protein powder will go a long way in meeting your daily protein needs while also adding flavor. Choose whey protein if you prefer thinner smoothies, and go with casein-rich protein powder for a thicker, creamier blend. For vegetarians or vegans, soy or pea protein are both great options.

Not a fan of protein powder? Use cottage cheese or tofu to add a protein punch to the mix.

How much to use: 1-2 scoops

Nutrient-Dense Add-ons (Optional)

By adding extra antioxidants, fiber, essential fatty acids, and more, you can take the nutrition quality and health benefits of your smoothie to the next level. Here are some examples of high-impact, nutrient-dense add-ons:


  • Flaxseed meal (1-2 Tbsp): This provides fiber, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants called lignans.
  • Chia seeds (1 Tbsp): Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are a good source of fiber and omega-3 fats.
  • Green tea powder (1-2 Tbsp): A concentrated source of the waistline-shrinking EGCG.
  • Cacao nibs or powder (1-2 Tbsp): Ground up cocoa beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, iron, and magnesium.
  • Green supplements (1 serving, serving size varies by brand): Consisting of primarily freeze dried fruits and vegetables, these supplements are packed with antioxidants (sometimes up to 8 servings of vegetables worth). These supplements can also help optimize your body's acid/base balance, which is important for bone health.


Liquid and Ice

I typically use water as my liquid, but unsweetened almond or coconut milk are both good options. Avoid fruit juices and add the actual fruit instead.

The correct amount of liquid and ice to use depend on your preferred consistency. More water and less ice makes a thinner smoothie while less water and more ice will make a thicker one. Simply adjust the amounts to fit your preference.

With the template I've provided, you can put together countless power-packed smoothies. Ready to get started? Read on for some of my all-time favorite recipes.

Strawberry Pistachio Smoothie Recipe

Makes 1 serving
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
3 Tbsp shelled pistachios
1 1/2 cups water
3 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thicker shake, add less water or more ice cubes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie Recipe

Makes 1 serving
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
1 banana
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups water
3 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thicker shake, add less water or more ice cubes.

Double Chocolate Cherry Shake Recipe

Makes 1 serving
1 1/2 cups dark cherries, pitted, unsweetened (frozen)
2 Tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
2 Tbsp Coco powder, unsweetened
2 Tbsp flax meal
1 1/2 cups water
3 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thicker shake, add less water or more ice cubes.