Your smoothie is only as good as the things you put in it. And I should know: I'm a nutritionist and dietitian who understands the importance of eating good food and how it fits into a busy lifestyle. Because you want said blended drink to actually fill you up, here are a few no-fail steps I've learned for building the ideal smoothie.
1. Start with a base with no added sugar.
I'm partial to unsweetened coconut and nut milks, but coconut water, 2% milk (if you tolerate), and kefir work well too. Coconut milk and coconut water add some natural sugars, while unsweetened nut milks are leaner and meaner, so the correct choice depends on what you're looking for.
I don't, however, recommend using fruit juice (because of the high sugar content) or water (because you're likely to wind up with a smoothie that's thin and plain, and where's the fun in that?).
2. Add one or two handfuls of leafy greens.
While there's nothing wrong with throwing kale in your smoothie day after day, I recommend mixing it up if you can, because different plants offer different benefits. Some fantastic and often-forgotten greens I love: collards, chard, watercress, and dandelion greens.
3. Add healthy fats.
I find people often add protein to their smoothies, but aren't so concerned with adding fat. The thing is, fat tastes delicious and it also helps keep you full. So if you're counting on your smoothie to carry you through to your next meal, I highly recommend adding some healthy fat, like half an avocado, coconut meat, a tablespoon or two of full-fat Greek yogurt, unsweetened nut butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, or even two Brazil nuts.
4. Season your smoothie with mix-ins.
Follow steps one through three and you've got a nutritious smoothie. But to really finish it off with added flavor and nutrition, consider additions like local bee pollen, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia, and raw cacao — extras that'll add a little boost. We season our chewable food with spices and salt; why not our smoothies?
When making a smoothie at home, I often choose add-ins based on what I'm looking for at that moment, whether it's more fiber (chia seeds), protein (hemp seeds), and antioxidants (spirulina or cacao). Spices add flavor and color. Think about it and don't be afraid to mix it up — literally!
Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD, is an LA-based nutritionist and dietitian.