The Last Protein Smoothie Recipe You’ll Ever Need
By DR. JOHN BERARDI
As a nutrition coach, most clients I work with know what a healthy meal looks like. If they don't always (or rarely) eat the way they should to look and feel the way they want to, it usually has something to do with being really busy.
But here's one of the secrets to good nutrition: Not all of your meals have to be food meals. In fact, you can even replace one to two meals each day with easy-to-make, tasty little drinks we at Precision Nutrition call Super Shakes.
Now, I know that there are tons of stores and juice bars springing up all over, offering smoothies. But honestly, these store-bought and juice bar-type shakes are just barely better than a fast-food milkshake. They're typically sweetened heavily with sugar, loaded with poor protein sources and missing many of the nutrients found in whole foods.
Then there are the juice cleanses, which can make you feel weak and could actually harm your health. I'm not talking about either of those. The Super Shake is packed with good stuff like high-quality protein, fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and more.
Super Shakes are quick and easy -- but they're also really good for you. In fact, they can actually be superior to most of the meals your neighbors are eating. But you have to do them right, and that's where this Super Shake guide comes in.
Get a Good Blender
Before you start experimenting with our step-by-step guide, here's a question for you. Do you have a decent blender? If not, and you want to start making Super Shakes, you're going to have to go get one. And remember, you get what you pay for.
That's right, if your blender starts smoking when you add a few ice cubes, it's time for a replacement, one that's more powerful and ready for the task at hand (might as well get one that looks good, too).
In terms of value, I like the Magic Bullet. It's only $60-70 and it's quite powerful. The only issue is that it's small. So if you want bigger Super Shakes, you'll have to go bigger with your blender. It also may wear out after a few months of daily use.
In which case, you might choose the Vitamix. This is the Mercedes-Benz of blenders. It's pricey. But I've never seen another blender match its power and longevity.
Making Your Shake Super
Ok, so let's assume you've got your blender out and it's powerful enough to do the job. Now you can follow the step-by-step guide below for creating nutritious and tasty Super Shakes.
We selected some of the fruits, vegetables, and proteins that seem to work best for our clients. Just go through each step and select an item (or two) from each column. Mix and match as you like. You'll end up finding combinations you prefer the most. That said, our list isn't exhaustive. Feel free to branch out.
Keep in mind, too, that not all of the steps below are mandatory. If you don't want a topper, leave it out. If you want extra veggies, go for it. If you are trying to keep your calories down, you can manipulate variables like portion sizes, and carb and fat amounts.
Step 1: Pick a liquid
Four to eight ounces is a good starting point for each serving. Less liquid makers thicker shakes, more liquid makes thinner shakes. Options:
Almond milk (unsweetened)
Soy milk (unsweetened)
Hemp milk (unsweetened)
Iced green tea
Step 2: Pick a protein powder
One or two scoops should be sufficient (25-50 g). Some protein powders contain thickeners, which will increase the thickness of your shake. Options:
Other proteins or protein blends
Step 3: Pick a veggie
Add one or two handfuls. Spinach is usually your best bet, as it is virtually flavorless in a Super Shake. Canned or roasted pumpkin pairs really well with vanilla. Peeled, roasted beets pair well with chocolate. If you add celery or cucumber, you'll need to use less liquid in your shake. Options:
Dark leafy greens: spinach, Swiss chard, kale
Pumpkin / sweet potato
Beets / beet greens
Cucumber / celery
Powdered greens supplement
Step 4: Pick a fruit
Aim for one or two cupped handfuls. Toss in half a banana to give the shake excellent texture. Dates go a long way, as they're very sweet. Just make sure to get rid of the pit first! Apples are easy -- simply remove the core and slice into wedges. You can use fresh or frozen fruit. Options:
Pineapple / mango
Powdered fruit supplement
Step 5: Pick a healthy fat
One or two thumb-size portions is usually enough. When blended well, nuts and seeds give the shake a nice, rich consistency. Options:
Flax, hemp, chia seeds
Peanut and nut butters
Step 6: Pick a topper
A little goes a long way. Cinnamon is good with vanilla and pumpkin. Add oats if you need extra carbs, or yogurt if you want more protein and a smoother texture. Options:
Cacao nibs / dark chocolate
Oats / granola
Ice (if using fresh fruit)
Here's one of my favorites:
- Water (just enough for it to mix)
- 2 scoops of plant-based protein (I don’t do well with dairy or dairy-based proteins)
- 2 kale leaves and 1 tsp of powdered greens supplement
- Half a frozen banana and two pitted dates
- 2 thumbs of walnuts
- Top with a few sprinkles of coconut and five ice cubes
- Drink. Feel smug about getting more nutrition in one beverage than most people get in a week.
See how easy? With this template, there should hardly be a day when you can't grab whatever happens to be in your pantry and fridge and make a delicious shake that's in line with your health goals and your schedule.
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Readers — What are your favorite smoothie recipes? What are your go-to ingredients? How do you use shakes/smoothes as part of a healthy diet? Leave a comment below and let us know!
John Berardi, Ph.D., is a founder of Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching company. He also sits on the health and performance advisory boards of Nike, Titleist and Equinox. In the past five years, Dr. Berardi and his team have personally helped more than 30,000 people improve their eating, lose weight and boost their health through their renowned Precision Nutrition Coaching program.