How to Make a Healthy Smoothie Every Single Time
Feel like you're constantly short on time and nutrients? Smoothies can be a great way to make a quick meal or snack that's packed with good-for-you ingredients...but only if you're choosing the right ingredients and ratios for a healthy drink that actually tastes good.
Poor smoothie planning could lead to something that tastes like watery kale, or, conversely, a milkshake. The former might have you tossing your personal blender in the back of the cabinet to collect dust, and the latter will easily wreck your diet if you continue to down these drinks thinking they're "healthy."
So, what's the right way to make a smoothie? Follow these five simple tips on how to make a healthy smoothie from Harley Pasternak, Shape Brain Trust advisory board member, nutrition specialist, and celebrity trainer. Pasternak's New York Times best-selling cookbook, The Body Reset Diet (Buy It, $14, amazon.com), features healthy smoothies loved by celebs such as Halle Berry, Kim Kardashian, and Jessica Simpson. (Psst: Pasternak even helped Simpson lose 100lbs after her last pregnancy.)
Below, the unofficial smoothie king (no, really, he used to have a healthy line at Jamba Juice — read how one editor faired after two weeks drinking the Harley-approved smoothies) shares how to make a healthy smoothie that's just as satisfying as it is nutritious.
1. Include the "Holy Trinity of Satiety" (protein, fiber, and healthy fats).
The first step when you're learning how to make a healthy smoothie: Focus on specific nutrients. You may know all about macros by now: protein, carbs, and fat — the macronutrients your body needs to survive, but Pasternak has a different set of nutrients he likes to focus on when building a healthy smoothie.
"Every smoothie should have what I call the 'holy trinity of satiety' — protein, fiber, and healthy fat," says Pasternak. Plus, you can extend this method to all your meals to make meal prep even easier. "The same applies to salads, sandwiches, scrambles, stir-fries, and every meal you eat."
Protein: When it comes to protein, you have some options: Experiment with protein powder, cottage cheese, or "strained yogurts" (aka Greek or Icelandic). "Strained yogurts are fermented longer and have significantly more protein and less sugar than traditional yogurts," says Pasternak. If you can't seem to get passed the powdery texture, silken tofu is a good option that will make your smoothie thick without adding an overpowering flavor.
Fiber: Next, for fiber, add plenty of fibrous fruits such as berries and fruits you can eat with the skin on (think: apples and grapes), which tend to have more fiber and less sugar than tropical fruits with a tougher outside layer that you peel away (think: pineapples, mango, bananas). Don't forget about veggies for fiber and micronutrients, too. "Vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, and spinach don't have powerful flavor profiles and can be blended into a smoothie without significantly changing the flavor profile," says Pasternak. (Related: The Health Benefits of Fiber That Make It So Important for Your Diet)
And don't avoid the frozen aisle when you're learning how to make healthy smoothies. Pasternak actually recommends using frozen fruit versus fresh in your smoothie. Yep, since frozen fruit is picked and sealed at its nutritional peak, it contains more vitamins and antioxidants than its "fresh" counterparts, according to research from the University of Chester in England. "I like frozen fruit for smoothies for a few reasons — it's more economical because you can buy in bulk without worrying about it rotting; you can buy out-of-season ingredients; and it provides a delicious, refreshing icy texture to the smoothie," he says.
Fat: Lastly, add a sprinkle of seeds, nuts, or avocado for a healthy dose of unsaturated fats, which are preferred fats for good heart health. See, learning how to make a healthy smoothie isn't as difficult as you'd think. (Related: The Expert-Approved Guide to Good Fats vs. Bad Fats)
2. Choose your liquids wisely.
This tip on how to make a healthy smoothie may seem insignificant, but trust, it can make a huge difference in your drink's nutritional profile. Though non-dairy milk alternatives, such as pistachio, oat, and almond "milk," are taking up more and more real estate on grocery store shelves, Pasternak says he prefers good ol' cow's milk in his smoothies (and on its own, for the record). Why? "Real dairy milk has two incredibly high-quality proteins — casein and whey — and is a rich source of calcium and vitamin D," he says.
If you have a dairy allergy, just make sure your milk alternative has a good amount of protein, such as Planet Oat Milk (Buy It, $3, walmart.com), Silk Soymilk (Buy It, $3, walmart.com), or Lactaid (Buy It, $4, walmart.com), and contains calcium and vitamin D. Many non-dairy milks are fortified with these nutrients.
3. Skip the added sugar and “kitchen sink" supplements.
Adding a scoop of a random powder from the supplement store may seem like a key step of how to make a healthy smoothie. But IRL, "be wary of adding hidden additional sugars and what I call 'kitchen sink supplements' — outdated or non-scientifically supported supplements," says Pasternak. (Related: Are Dietary Supplements Really Safe?)
If you're choosing the right ingredients, your smoothie is already potent with nutrients from the whole, natural foods you put in. Plus, the fruit adds enough natural sugars there's no need for honey or agave, which can turn any well-intentioned healthy smoothie into a dessert with one tap of the pulse button. If your smoothie isn't sweet enough for your tastes, add some more fiber-packed fruit or a dash of coconut water.
4. Stack your blender strategically.
Wondering how to make a healthy smoothie that isn't so thick that it needs to be eaten with a spoon? Proportions and placement of the ingredients in the blender are key. Pasternak's golden rule: "Always start with liquids, then move up to thicker ingredients, such as yogurt, then solids, and finally protein powder (if you're adding)," he explains. Putting larger, harder ingredients like frozen fruit or ice at the bottom near the blades can make it more difficult for your blender to quickly blend your smoothie completely.
5. Get a blender that does more than blend.
Sorry, but a tiny blender that gets its power through your computer's USB port is not the best answer to how to make a healthy smoothie. "The most common mistake people make is using a blender with no power," says Pasternak. "The majority of household blenders can't get frozen fruits smooth, or chop through seeds, so you get a smoothie that's not very smooth."
He's so passionate about quality blenders he even made his own: The Salton Harley Pasternak Power Blender (Buy It, $200, amazon.com). Pasternak says he wanted to offer a more affordable alternative to the expensive powerhouse blenders (think: Vitamix, Buy It, $270, amazon.com) on the market that still performs just as well.
No kitchen space? No problem. The compact NutriBullet High-Speed Blender/Mixer System (Buy It, $84, amazon.com) has more than 21,000 customer reviews, with more than 16,700 of them with 5-star ratings. It might be small, but it's mighty, customers say. "It's only 600 watts, but it's very powerful," wrote one reviewer. "Twice a day, I blend fresh kale/spinach, frozen banana, frozen strawberries, frozen apples, frozen blueberries, and frozen raspberries."
At the end of the day, all your efforts to craft a smoothie could be useless without the proper tool to blend it all together. So if you want to put these tips on how to make a healthy smoothie into practice, invest in a blender that can cut it — literally.