While bananas have their benefits (post-workout potassium, for one), the flavor isn't for everyone.
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Hate bananas? Good news: You aren't the only #fitgirl who doesn't reach for a banana with almond butter after a tough workout. Not so great news: Bananas are in almost every smoothie—or at least it seems like that to someone who doesn't like them, right? This leaves you with one of two options: Rotate through the same three banana-free smoothie recipes on a continuous loop, or lose some free time searching endlessly and unsuccessfully for a new blend that still has the right consistency and nutrients, plus actually tastes good.
Besides being an easy way to add creaminess to smoothies, bananas make for a super-nutritious base. They're an excellent source of potassium and soluble fiber, which aids digestion and may help lower cholesterol, says Florida-based registered dietitian Alyssa Cohen. The natural sweetness of bananas also reduces the need for added sugar in smoothies. (See: The Ultimate Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie Bowl Recipe)
All that is well and good, but if you're in the aforementioned No-Bananas Club, it doesn't do you much good. Fortunately, there are plenty of banana alternatives for your smoothies that provide a similar consistency, each with their own nutritional perks. You're welcome.
When cashews are soaked in water, they soften and morph into a decadent, creamy smoothie ingredient. Cashews are rich in heart-healthy fats, and they contain a moderate amount of protein, which makes them a good choice for anyone who is counting their macros or wants to limit their carbs, says Edwina Clark, R.D., head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. "They also provide magnesium and a small amount of iron," she adds. (Use the leftover soaked nuts to make this Vegan Cumin Sweet Potato Soup.) The downside is that they're more calorie-dense than a banana (157 calories per ounce versus just 25), so portion control is important if you're watching your weight. Soaked cashews will also not be as sweet as bananas, so you may need to think about healthy ways to add a bit of sweetness to make your smoothie to your liking.
"Mango is dense and creamy, rather than juicy and watery like berries or apples, so they're pretty great for replicating the texture of a banana in a smoothie recipe," says nutrition consultant Danielle Omar, R.D. Plus, one cup of mango contains more vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium than a medium banana, and roughly the same amount of fiber. You can swap in about 1/2 cup frozen mango for a banana without having to make any other adjustments, she says.
Avocados can be a good substitute for bananas to create a creamy texture. Also, the fruit you usually see in smoothies has a pretty high sugar content. The healthy fat of the avocado will work to control the release of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore reduce a blood sugar spike, says Cohen. Just remember to keep your portions in check: One serving is roughly 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado, with one whole avocado clocking in at around 300 calories.
Cauliflower has long been a substitute for potatoes, rice, and even pizza crust, but it can also be used straight from the freezer to add that sought-after texture and thickness to smoothies. "It's an unlikely smoothie ingredient, but its taste is mild enough to blend in seamlessly," says Cohen. Bonus: This non-starchy veggie is low in calories and carbs, provides fiber to fill you up, and supplies important micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, and biotin.
Adding Greek yogurt to your smoothie will give it a creamy kick, not to mention provide your body with a mega dose of filling protein, says Cohen, which is key to recharging your energy and rebuilding your muscle after a long or strenuous workout. To keep added sugar to a minimum, use plain yogurt and sweeten your smoothie naturally with a serving of fruit.
Beans are a commonly used alternative in baked goods due to their creamy consistency, which is why they're also an excellent banana replacement in smoothies. "Beans are also a good source of plant-based protein and fiber," says Cohen, who recommends using garbanzo or cannellini beans for their neutral taste. Opt for a brand of canned beans with no added salt, or rinse them beforehand to remove the excess sodium.
Compared to some other dairy products, cottage cheese is a higher-protein, lower-sugar option. Boosting the protein content of your smoothie can help you feel more satisfied after drinking it: "This is especially important if you're not eating anything with it, since the act of chewing is one of the things that signals fullness and satiety during a meal," says Kansas City–based registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet.
This fermented milk product is often described as drinkable yogurt and is a great source of gut-friendly probiotics. (Learn more about the health benefits of kefir milk.) "Because it's pourable, you may be able to eliminate the need for other liquids, such as water, juice, or milk in your smoothie," says Harbstreet. For versatility (and to cut down on added sugar), opt for the plain variety instead of flavored.
Chia Seeds or Flaxseed
"When mixed with liquid, chia seeds and flaxseed gel up and keep everything thick and creamy," says Omar. "They're also great sources of omega-3 fats and protein." Adding a tablespoon or two to your smoothie will keep it creamy, but won't add the volume or sweetness that a banana would contribute, so make sure to add in other fruits (think: frozen berries) to compensate.
Try: Mixed Berry Smoothie
If you prefer dairy-free smoothies, silken tofu will give you creaminess and protein content similar to what you'd get from Greek yogurt, says Omar. It's also flavorless, making it a convenient swap for any recipe.
Oats absorb liquid and bind everything together to give your smoothie that thick creaminess bananas typically provide, along with loads of filling fiber and a nutty, satisfying flavor, says Omar. If you don't have a high-powered blender, make sure to grind your oats into a powder first so you're not left with pesky oat chunks in your smoothie, unless that's your kinda thing. (Leave those rolled oats out to make one of these 20 overnight oat recipes.)
Try: Apple Pie Smoothie
Thanks to its high water content, frozen zucchini is low in calories, carbs, and sugars, but high in important nutrients like potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, says Omar. Add some extra fruit to replace the sweetness, or go for a more natural green smoothie.