We know smoothies can be a handy meal or snack in a flash, but are these sweet sips also a good way to help you lose weight? We asked Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, all about this popular meal-replacement option to separate the facts from fiction in, well, the smoothest way possible.
"A smoothie is 'healthy' when it's not simply a milkshake or sugar bomb in disguise," Newgent says. "Ideally, a healthy smoothie is based on wholesome ingredients and has a balance of macronutrients — good carbs, protein and healthy fats."
With that in mind, we've rounded our go-to healthy smoothie recipes that hit that nutritional mark and will help you achieve your weight-loss goals — one cup of blended goodness at a time.
1. Everyday Green Smoothie
The green smoothie seems like the picture of weight loss — but Newgent warns that not all green smoothies are created equal. If the smoothie contains good carbs, protein and healthy fats, she says, then they absolutely can be helpful for weight management.
So, how does one go about making a healthy green smoothie? A lot of it comes down to your taste preferences, but remember to stay away from adding foods loaded with sugar — like honey and maple syrup.
This green smoothie recipe follows Newgent's guidelines for a healthy recipe: Avocado for healthy and beneficial fats, a serving of chia seeds for plant-based protein and one-and-a-half cups of nutrient-dense kale.
Get the Everyday Green Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Almond Butter and Blueberry Smash Smoothie
Newgent advises that smoothies can be helpful for weight management if they supplement your diet with nutrients you usually miss out on and if the serving size is just right for your energy needs. You'll also want to make sure your smoothie provides ingredients that can boost that feeling of fullness. It's the coupling of protein and fiber that is the key to satiety, Newgent explains.
Given those guidelines, this almond butter and blueberry smoothie recipe would make a great breakfast or a post-workout snack.
The frozen blueberries provide important antioxidants that protect cells from damage and are loaded with fiber. The unsweetened almond milk and almond butter provide protein and healthy fat that will keep you fuller, longer. And the Greek yogurt provides additional protein plus gut-healthy probiotics. This pack comes in under 250 calories per serving.
Get the Almond Butter and Blueberry Smash Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Energizing Green Smoothie
Since smoothies can be a quick, on-the-go meal, include ingredients that give your healthy lifestyle an added punch, like matcha green tea powder.
Matcha is a special form of green tea in which the dried leaves are ground into a fine powder — and like all teas, its rich in polyphenols, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Polyphenols are chemical compounds that act as antioxidants, which control the damaging effects of free radicals in the body and help prevent chronic disease.
Matcha also comes with a dose of caffeine, which we know increases our energy — but according to a March 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, caffeine has also been shown to boost muscle strength and power. So not only will the caffeine found in matcha green tea give us a jolt, but it might even help us work out better.
When buying matcha, founder of House of Matcha, Stephen Cheuk, says to look for ceremonial-grade matcha green tea powder stored in re-sealable packaging (not a loose bag or foil) since it's a live product and packaging is critical for maintaining freshness. He also recommends buying matcha that is bright green, silky in texture and smells fresh and 'green,' ideally produced from one of these areas in Japan: Uji in Kyoto prefecture and Nishio in Aichi prefecture.
And when it comes to matcha, you get what you pay for. "Ceremonial matcha will cost around $29 to $39 for about 30 grams," says Cheuk. Avoid matcha green tea powder that costs the same as a generic box of teabags.
Get the Energizing Green Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Creamy Berry Smoothie
Tofu works as well in smoothies as it does in your weekly stir-fry. Once blended, it will add a silky texture to your drink, along with plant-based protein and calcium. And thanks to the variety of non-dairy milks available at grocery stores like almond, coconut and oat milk, you can easily turn your smoothies vegan.
As conscious consumerism grows, swapping one of your regular meat-based meals for a vegetarian or vegan meal can have serious health benefits. Take it a step further by following a vegan lifestyle, and the health benefits are even more significant.
By skipping animal products, you can reduce your saturated fat and cholesterol intake, says Nicole Geurin, MPH, RD. "This, in turn, can help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides — all of which may reduce your risk of heart disease," she says.
Get the Creamy Berry Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Mochaccino Smoothie
If you want to source smoothie recipes for weight loss, Newgent says there are some caveats, especially if you're going to use a smoothie as a breakfast option.
"The smoothie needs to provide enough energy (calories) and satisfaction to carry you to lunch, and it absolutely needs to be rich in protein — ideally 15 grams of protein or more," she advises. "Adding protein is key since your body and muscles need it throughout the day; not just at lunch or dinner time."
This healthy smoothie recipe provides a satisfying amount of protein along with a caffeine kick with a full cup of cold brew thrown into the mix. Pea milk makes up the protein portion and fortified almond milk provides calcium while the banana adds potassium, an essential electrolyte for those who work out and want to avoid muscle cramps.
Get the Mochaccino Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Sunrise Cinnamon Spice Shake
Whether you are following keto, a Mediterranean diet plan, paleo or a vegan diet, healthy smoothie recipes are so versatile, they can easily adapt to whichever lifestyle you choose. But, regardless of the diet, sometimes a straight-up, sweet-tooth substitute is also what you need.
If you're craving cinnamon buns, try making this cinnamon shake instead. At only 240 calories — compared to the 880-calorie gut buster you'll find at the food court — this smoothie won't send you into a sugar rush, thanks to the low-calorie sugar substitute stevia.
And while whole milk and cream cheese turn this smoothie keto-friendly, simply swap out the dairy and cream cheese for almond, coconut or cashew milk to make it a part of your healthy vegan diet plan.
Get the Sunrise Cinnamon Spice Shake recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Vegan Hint-of-Sweet Avocado Shake
With this avocado smoothie, you can get all the savory goodness of avocado toast without the additional, toast-based carbohydrates.
According to the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, avocados provide healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Fiber aids in digestion, helps reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and aids in weight loss.
Mild-tasting baby spinach may be low in calories, but it's full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K and folate. Add hemp seeds, but not just for their satisfying nutty flavor: Hemp seeds are a healthy addition thanks to omega-3 fatty acids, protein and essential minerals. If you want to make this healthy green smoothie sweet, add a pack of stevia.
Get the Vegan Hint-of-Sweet Avocado Shake recipe and nutrition info here.
8. Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body, according to the Journal of Nutrition. Thanks to the canned stuff, you can have pumpkin all year round and get all the nutritional goodness this gourd provides. (Just remember to choose unsweetened pumpkin purée, and make sure not to pick up pumpkin pie filling by accident!)
In addition to being a solid source of iron, pumpkins are also known to aid in weight loss. According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, a clinical nutrition specialist, pumpkin is a low-calorie, high-fiber food that helps to curb your appetite thanks to its ability to slow down overall digestion compared to low-fiber foods.
If your smoothie is lacking in protein, or you have an active lifestyle where you need to fuel high-energy needs, Newgent recommends adding a scoop of high-quality protein powder to your smoothie recipe. Check out our top five picks of recommended protein powders that you can feel good about adding to your smoothie recipes.
Get the Pumpkin Protein Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: 7 Low-Sugar Pumpkin Dessert Recipes
9. Green Superfood Smoothie Jar
The best thing about this healthy smoothie recipe is that it's full of ingredients that you probably already have stored in the freezer. A variety of frozen fruits and vegetables — from mango cubes to broccoli and baby spinach — all come together with a splash of lemon juice, ginger and turmeric.
Don't forget to add spices and herbs to your smoothie recipes. They enhance flavor and health benefits without throwing in extra calories. Ginger and turmeric, in particular, are among the elite group of superfoods thought to help reduce inflammation, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Get the Green Superfood Smoothie Jar recipe and nutrition info here.
10. Herbed Avocado Shake
Newgent says the best things to put in a smoothie to lose weight is ample protein and fiber (with no added sugar) to satisfy your appetite, which will carry you from one meal to the next.
"A smoothie with at least 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein is a good bet. Choose ingredients that provide the duo — like nut or seed butters, shelled hemp seeds and pulses," she adds. And try to choose whole foods with multiple nutritional benefits, like shelled hemp seeds, rather than single-source ingredients, like hemp protein.
This healthy green smoothie recipe for weight loss has it all: Greek yogurt for protein, fiber and gut-healthy probiotics, hemp seeds for more protein and fiber and avocados for heart-healthy fats.
Get the Herbed Avocado Shake recipe and nutrition info here.
The most important thing to do for breakfast, says Newgent, is to eat a meal that meets some of your daily food requirements — such as fruit with protein and a whole grain. "For weight loss, research suggests it may be helpful to be somewhat repetitive. It's OK to do the same thing, every day, for one of your meals. However, if you eat or drink the same thing every day (like a smoothie for breakfast), vary the ingredients used in it to get more nutrients in.