Here in California, the winter is officially over. Spring has sprung and with it comes the promise of warmer days, beach outings, skimpier clothes. After a year of lockdowns and working on zoom, I definitely can use a reset, both bodily and mentally. Getting a leaner and stronger body and making skin more supple and smoother can be achieved with a simple dietary tweak.
It’s a good time for spring cleaning, not only in the home but also cleansing spiritually and yes, cleansing our bodies of stagnation and maybe even a few accumulated extra pounds. For me personally, the best way to accomplish this is to swap a meal here and there for a delicious and nutritious meal replacement smoothie. Let me explain why I choose this path.
Is a Smoothie a Meal?
Drinking or eating a smoothie (bowl) as a meal can be a very healthy option. However, in order to make it truly nutritious, it’s crucial to ensure that the smoothie incorporates all the food groups that would belong in a healthy meal – energy-providing carbohydrates and fats and body-mass-building protein as well as important vitamins and minerals.
A healthy smoothie meal replacement should ideally include around:
- 1 cup of fruit
- 1-2 handfuls of green leafy veggies
- 1 cup of protein
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of fat
Before I introduce my favorite recipes for meal replacement smoothies, let’s see what makes them so good and healthy.
How Healthy are Smoothies Really?
Smoothies of all kinds are touted as super healthy and a great way to increase our daily intake of the health-bringing fruits and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetable intakes were associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality. These results support public health recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality.Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality
The health benefits are not only for physical health and can lead to reduction of mortality associated with chronic and acute diseases. Upping your intake of fruits and veggies, including by the way of replacing a meal with a smoothie, can be very good for mental health as well.
High total intake of fruits and vegetables, and some of their specific subgroups including berries, citrus, and green leafy vegetables, may promote higher levels of optimism and self-efficacy, as well as reduce the level of psychological distress, ambiguity, and cancer fatalism, and protect against depressive symptoms.Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults
Smoothies – when not overly sweet and/or containing too much fat – can also be an asset when trying to lose some weight. A study of the effects of increased fruit and vegetable intake on women concluded that upping your consumption of these can indeed help achieve weight loss goals.
Whole FV intake may influence weight through a variety of mechanisms including a reduction in eating rate, providing a satisfying, very-low to low energy density, low glycemic load or low-fat content. Also, FV are the primary source of dietary fiber, which can provide additional support for weight loss in women when consumed at adequate levels.Comprehensive Critical Assessment of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake on Weight Loss in Women
Ingredients for a Meal Replacement Smoothie
Truth is, you can put almost anything into a smoothie. But there are a few possibilities to consider:
- green leafy and cruciferous vegetables
- protein powders
- collagen peptide powder
- cacao powder
- cacao bits
- nut butter
- seed butter
- liquid (water, fruit juice, vegetable juice, nut milk, seed milk, etc.)
Whichever you choose, make sure to cover the bases by having some carbs, some protein, some fat, and some additional nutritional boost.
Good Carbs from Fruit and Veggies
The sky is the limit when it comes to what fruits and veggies to put into a smoothie. What is important is to mix things up. Don’t settle on the same mixture day in and day out. When you mix things up, not only will you keep it interesting for yourself, but you will also make your microbiome happy. These little bugs are what makes us happy and healthy so feed them a variety of prebiotic foods. The more variety, the better.
Importantly, don’t overdo with sweet fruit. Fruit is great but it does contain lots of fruit sugar. It is still better than cookies or candy of course, but too much sugar is too much sugar. Balance it by adding a handful or two of dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or Swiss chard. All of these will provides fiber, calcium, vitamins A, C and K, as well as powerful phytochemicals. Little known fact is that even green veggies have protein which helps to keep blood sugar in check and control cravings.
On that note, stay away from store-bought premade “smoothies” unless you triple checked the label and there is no added sugar. Many of the so-called smoothies are loaded with cane sugar and basically are a green-washed name for a sugary drink.
What are my favorite fruits and veggies to include in smoothies and why?
Here are a few:
I’ve always loved mango for its delicious taste. We have tons of international stores here in Los Angeles and fresh mangoes are on hand almost all year round, so I’ve been buying and eating a lot of them (kids are also fans!) Only recently though, I learned from a fellow blogger, what a powerhouse this sunny fruit is when it comes to skin health and beauty. Once you read here about this special fruit and its amazing benefits, I’m sure you’ll jump on the mango wagon. For me, it’s the perfect fruit all around!
Aside from the great taste, I love adding it into my smoothies because of the enzymes it contains. Bromelain is one of the best enzymes to help break down proteins.
Papaya is yet another great source of digestive enzymes. The one here is called papain and studies have shown that eating papaya may help ease digestive ailments such as constipation and bloating.
The humble bananas are a great choice to add bulk and natural sweetness to a smoothie. However, if you want ot keep your blood sugar in check and sugar intake low, I would stick to a half a banana per smoothie at most. This is a very dense fruit and high in calories. It is a great prebiotic – food for our gut flora – and it also contains digestive enzymes.
Women who ate two bananas daily experienced a modest, non-significant rise in healthy gut bacteria. However, they did experience significantly less bloatingEffect of banana consumption on faecal microbiota: a randomised, controlled trial
Protein in a Meal Replacement Smoothie
Protein can come from a variety of sources. You can make it vegan or you can add fermented milk products to feed the gut with beneficial bacteria and yeast. Choose from:
- unsweetened nut butter
- chia, hemp, or flax seeds
- plain yogurt (Greek or any style, just unsweetened)
- kefir (has more strains of bacteria and yeast than yogurt, read about its amazing benefits here)
- nut or seed milk (almond, walnut, oat, hemp, macadamia, etc.)
Is Fat Necessary in a Meal Replacement Smoothie?
Technically, you can get some fat from your protein source already. So, if your primary goal is weight loss, you can forgo adding extra fat into the smoothie.
However, some fats can actually aid in weight loss, especially if keeping up with a healthy low card or ketogenic diet.
Good fat sources include:
- sugar-free nut butter
- chia, flax, sesame, or hemp seeds
- flax oil
- MCT oil
- full-fat organic yogurt
Additional Nutritional Boost
I find smoothies a perfect place to boost my immunity and energy levels by adding some special add-ons. Here are a few to choose from:
Matcha – great anti-oxidant, filled with polyphenols, anti-cancer and great for skin health
Maca powder – superfood especially for women during the time of “change”
Ashwagandha – energizer, reducer of the blood sugar levels, stress reliever and mood booster.
Spirulina and/or chlorella – one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, these super-algae can boost your metabolism and increase energy levels, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels
Cacao powder – amazing anti-oxidant (just make sure you’re getting organic pure cacao, not cocoa which is processed and lacking the crucial nutrients
Herbs – for minerals and vitamins to boost your immunity, digestion, (basil, cilantro, parsley, tulsi, lemon balm)
Spices – for taste and nutritional boost (nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, etc.)
Meal Replacement Smoothie Recipes
Now that we know how much goodness can “hide” in them, let’s dive into a few of my favorite recipes for meal replacement smoothies for every occasion. All you need is a good blender (I use a Nutri-bullet). It takes literally a few minutes to wash the fruit and veggies and a minute or so to blend. And then, just enjoy!
Green Tropical Breakfast Smoothie
This is my go-to smoothie. I just love how the flavors work together to make this not too sweet but delicious drink.
- 1 handful of spinach
- ½ handful of dandelion greens
- few leaves of basil
- 1 mango
- ½ cup of frozen pineapple
- 1 tbs chia seeds
- 1 cup of oat or almond milk
Skin Saver Meal Replacement Smoothie
Good any time of the day, but I love it in the afternoon for an extra energy boost. All the ingridients here are superfoods for skin. Sometimes, I take a couple of tablespoons, add a bit of kaolin clay, and make a face mask with it. Double skin-saving!
- 1 cup of mango chunks (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup of pineapple chunks
- ½ avocado
- 1 scoop of collagen peptide powder
- 1-2 tsp Matcha green tea
- 1 tsp chlorella powder
- Water or nut milk to liquify
Pre-Workout Citrus Blast Smoothie
Before a workout, it’s all about getting an extra energy boost. Make and drink at least 30 minutes before exercising to avoid feeling too full.
- 1 handful of greens of choice
- ½ cup of papaya chunks
- ½ cup of berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
- 1 kiwi
- Juice from 1 lemon and 2 oranges
- ½ of avocado
- Sprinkling of turmeric
- water if needed
Post-Workout Cacao Peanut Butter Smoothie
After a strenuous workout, I like to replenish with a protein packed smoothie like the one here:
- 1 banana
- ¼ cup of peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter)
- 1 TBS ground flaxseed
- 1 tsp cacao powder
- 1 cup of almond milk or plain yogurt
- a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg
- dash of vanilla extract
Good-Night Sweet Princess Smoothie
I have a sweet tooth and I like a desert. Not every day but on occasion, I like something sweet after dinner to soothe the craving for a touch of sweetness. This smoothie is a perfect fix. It will also help you sleep thanks to the tart cherry juice, banana, and almond butter – filled with magnesium and naturally occurring melatonin. No need to worry about the added cacao – it has no caffeine so it won’t disturb your sleep cycle. The taste is a bit like Cherry Garcia Ben& Jerry’s ice cream. Delish!
- ½ banana
- ½ cup of unsweetened almond butter
- ½ cup of tart cherry juice
- ½ cup of almond milk
- 2-3 pitted dates
- 2 TBS of cacao powder
How to Blend
All you need is a blender and the ingredients. Wash your fruit and veggies. Cut them up into chunks. place in the blender and add the other stuff. Fill wiht the liquid of choice and blend away.
A note on equipment.
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In case you need a blender, I can highly recommend the Nutribullet. I’ve been using it for a long time now and it is really great! It shreds everything, even the hardest nuts into pulp. It’s also very easy to clean which is important if you make a smoothie on a regular basis.
If you are looking for a bigger blender with an option to blend a single serving as well, this KitchenAid blender would be a great choice.
In case you don’t feel like shopping for the ingredients but have a blender, you can get super nutritious and yummy smoothies delivered to your door. Check out this awesome service from SmoothieBox.
Right now, there are two special offers to start you on a subscription. Check them out by clicking the banners:
The best part about smoothies is that you can mix and match the ingredients and come up with your favorite recipes. Mix them up! Try different veg and fruits! Go nuts with different nuts and seeds! The sky is the limit. Enjoy and drop me a note about your favorite way to enjoy a meal replacement smoothie.