Let's be honest: Most of us know what a healthy meal looks like. So when we don't eat the way we should in order to look and feel the way we want, it usually has something to do with being really busy. (Guilty as charged!)
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But here's one of the secrets to good nutrition: Not all of your meals have to be sit-down solid food meals. In fact, you can even replace one to two meals each day with easy-to-make, tasty protein smoothies.
Sure, there are tons of stores and juice bars springing up all over, offering smoothies. But more often than not, these store-bought and juice bar shakes are 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. We're not talking about either of those. We're talking about a Super Shake — a protein smoothie 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. Follow it to create a perfect protein smoothie every time.
Read more: 9 Out-of-the-Ordinary Breakfast Smoothies
First, Get a Good Blender
Before you start experimenting with this step-by-step guide, here's a question for you: Do you have a decent blender? If not, 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, lots of people opt for the Magic Bullet. It's only $40, and it's quite powerful. The only issue is that it's small. So if you want bigger smoothies (or are making smoothies for more than one person), 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 you'll be hard pressed to find another blender that match its power and longevity.
Now Make Your Shake Super
OK, so let's assume you have 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.
Listed below are some of the fruits, vegetables and proteins that typically work best. 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, this list isn't exhaustive. Feel free to branch out! (And share your recipes in the comments.)
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're trying to keep your calories down, you can manipulate variables like portion sizes, and carb and fat amounts.
Step 1: Pick a liquid base.
Four to eight ounces of liquid is a good starting point for each serving. Less liquid makes thicker shakes and more liquid makes thinner shakes. Here are a few options:
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Cow's milk
- Soy milk (unsweetened)
- Hemp milk (unsweetened)
- Iced green tea
- Fresh-pressed juice
Step 2: Pick a protein powder.
Next, add one or two scoops of protein powder (25 to 50 grams of protein). Be sure to note that some protein powders contain thickeners, which will increase the thickness of your shake. Here are a few options:
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Pea protein
- Rice protein
- Hemp protein
- Collagen with whey powder
- Other proteins or protein blends
Step 3: Pick a vegetable.
Add one or two handfuls of veggies. Spinach is usually your best bet, as it's virtually flavorless in a smoothie. Canned or roasted pumpkin pairs really well with vanilla. And peeled, roasted beets pair well with chocolate. If you add celery or cucumber, you'll need to use less liquid in your shake, since they already contain a lot of water. Here are a few vegetable options:
- Swiss chard
- Sweet potato
- Beet greens
- Powdered greens supplement
Step 4: Pick a fruit.
Aim for one or two cupped handfuls of fruit. Toss in half a banana to give the shake excellent texture. Or try dates! But just a few, as they're very sweet and go a long way. (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. Try one of these options:
- Powdered fruit supplement
Step 5: Pick a healthy fat.
If you're adding in some extra fat, one or two thumb-size portions is usually enough. When blended well, nuts and seeds give the shake a nice, rich consistency. Experiment with one of these options:
- Flax, hemp, chia seeds
- Peanut and nut butters
Step 6: Pick a topper.
Now finish off your smoothie with a little garnish. Remember: 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. Here are a few options to consider:
- Cacao nibs
- Dark chocolate shavings
- Ice (if using fresh fruit)
Feeling stuck? Try this recipe:
- Water (just enough for it to mix)
- 2 scoops of plant-based protein
- 2 kale leaves
- 1 tsp of powdered greens supplement
- Half a frozen banana
- 2 pitted dates
- 2 thumbs of walnuts
- Top with a few sprinkles of coconut and five ice cubes.
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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What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever made your own protein smoothie before? What are some of your favorite things to add? Do you have a protein powder that you like? Did you find this guide helpful? Do you think you'll use this template? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments below!