People ask me about smoothies a lot. And I mean, A LOT! And I know why. Smoothies are everywhere! They’re all over social media, in the grocery stores and on restaurant menus. They’re also super quick and easy to make, and don’t make a lot of dirty dishes, so it’s no surprise they’re popular. But is a smoothie a meal?
As a registered dietitian here’s my go to answer. It depends. It depends on what’s in it. If it’s balanced, and has all the components a typical meal would contain (protein, fat, fibre, carbohydrates), then yes, a smoothie can be a meal. But if it’s on the lighter side, with only fruit and ice, then no, it’s not a meal.
To be clear, a smoothie doesn’t have to be a meal. You can enjoy a smoothie as part of a meal, or have it as a snack, and that’s ok. But if you’re having only a smoothie for breakfast or lunch, then it should be built like a meal.
So how can we turn a glass of blenderized fruit into a balanced, flavourful and filling meal? This post will cover all that, and more!
Firstly, for a smoothie (or any meal/snack) to be satiating and keep you feeling full for longer, it needs to include protein. This is the key nutrient. To ensure your smoothie is meal-worthy, it needs to have a good source of protein.
Here are some suggestions: silken tofu, protein powder, hemp hearts, greek yogurt, cottage cheese
If you’re buying a pre-made smoothie, like from the grocery store, check the nutritional facts to see how much protein it has. If it’s less than 20g of protein, don’t consider it a meal. It will be more of a snack, or a part of a meal, but you’ll likely have to pair it with something else.
If you’re at a place where smoothies are freshly made to order (a cafe, Boost Juice, etc), opt for a higher protein smoothie or ask them to add protein to a lower protein smoothie.
Fruit is usually the main ingredient in smoothies and what most people focus on. They add sweetness, flavour, texture, fibre and are a good source of antioxidants and carbohydrates which provide you with energy.
Feel free to add any fruit you enjoy. Get creative with different combinations of fruit flavours!
I find people often overlook the liquid in their smoothies. They think of it as a necessity when it comes to blending, however the liquid you choose can be another opportunity to sneak in more nutrients.
For example, using soy milk or pea protein milk will add more protein to your smoothie. Up to 7-8g if you use 250ml worth. But if you don’t like those options, here are some other liquids to try: other plant milks (almond, oat, cashew, coconut), coconut water or plain water.
Something I forgot to mention above, is that smoothies do increase your daily fluid intake. If you’re like me, and struggle to drink enough fluid throughout the day, having a smoothie as a meal will help provide some additional fluids.
Another key nutrient that people often skip out on when making a smoothie is fat. Fat provides flavour, texture and is also satiating. You don’t have to go crazy with the amounts, but adding a little bit will elevate the nutritional value of your smoothie.
Try adding: avocado (fresh or frozen), peanut or nut butter, ground flax, chia seeds.
These ingredients are not essential to make a balanced smoothie, but I do encourage them. If you’re going to have a smoothie as a meal, you want it to taste good. And some of these additional ingredients can make your smoothies more interesting from a flavour standpoint. Plus, if you’re having a smoothie daily, you might want to mix up the ingredients to prevent getting bored.
Try adding: fresh or frozen spinach, fresh ginger, oats, dates, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, applesauce, coffee, cocoa powder.
Now you know how to build a well balanced and filling meal-worthy smoothie. If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based proteins, and how to get enough protein at other meals, check out this post.
If you make a smoothie using my smoothie formula, take a picture/video and tag me on social media @harvesttablenutrition. I love to see your creations!