Today's Foodie Friday post isn't a typical recipe; it is not a recipe for one specific meal, rather many ways to prepare one meal. Confused? All you need to know is that there are smoothies involved. Delicious smoothies.
I have been vegan for four and a half years and have jumped on and off of the smoothie train many times. While I do rather enjoy a good smoothie, it wasn't until recently that I discovered I have been doing it all wrong.
There is a huge push for using smoothies to aid in losing weight, energizing, detoxing, cleansing, etc, but there is even less information on how to effectively incorporate these colorful, nutrient dense glasses of goodness into your diet. It is most commonly assumed that simply adding these smoothies to your current diet is all that needs to happen. I am about to tell you otherwise.
People have all different caloric needs, depending on many factors including height, weight, sex, and physical activity. For example, I am 5'5" and currently weigh about 125 pounds. On my very least active days I can consume 1000-1200 calories per day and be full, and on days that I am most active and my body craves more nutrients, I can consume 1600 calories easily.
A rich, dense smoothie can run up to 400-500 calories. As you can see from my personal example, a dense smoothie might take up half of my calories for an entire day if I am not very active. And this is where so many people go wrong with adding smoothies to their diet, especially for weight loss. It is an unfortunate misconception that a smoothie is just a drink that supplements a meal. I say 'unfortunate' because, by supplementing, you are essentially adding more calories to your meal than you would have otherwise consumed, which can actually lead to weight gain. A truly nutrient-rich smoothie, however, is meant to take the place of a meal, which is why it is okay to make it calorie-dense.
In addition to taking the place of a meal, smoothies are meant to be filled with useful nutrients that will also energize and fuel your body, as well as aid in digestion and boost your metabolism, which will subconsciously affect your decision-making about what you eat during the rest of the day. A fully packed smoothie will fill you up and keep you satiated until your next meal. The key is in the ingredients.
Anatomy of a nutrient-dense smoothie meal
A satisfying smoothie should contain a good amount of protein and fiber for a decent base. This is the key to filling you up and making that feeling last until your next meal. Your smoothie will also incorporate several other important nutrients such as iron, potassium, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, E & K, antioxidants, and omegas (don't worry, you don't need all of these in one smoothie; as long as the base is protein and fiber packed to keep you satiated, you can add in the others as options).
Examples of Protein and Fiber dense ingredients:Protein
Protein powder ( I generally use Sunwarrior's Organic Raw Vegan Protein Blend in Vanilla)
Nut Butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc)
Nut (almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are divine!)
Enriched soy and nut milks (these will also provide calcium)
Leafy green veggies (kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, red butter leaf lettuce)
Red & golden beets
Cacao nibs & cacao powder
*Note: Be mindful of serving size when choosing calorie dense ingredients (ie. nut butters) if you are using smoothies as an aid for weight loss.
Putting it all together
After choosing your fibrous and protein packed base ingredients, choose a few more for other nutrients and flavor. For example, dark leafy greens are high in iron, grapefruit strengthens the immune system, and jalapeños help burn calories (I should probably publish a smoothie ingredient guide in the near future!).
You'll probably need to add a bit of liquid to your smoothie to get it blending well. I tend to use almond milk the most, but I also enjoy coconut water (Zico dark chocolate is divine!) and I suppose you could just use plain water but I prefer something with more flavor. <<Tip:>> On a hot day I like to blend in 1-2 cups of crushed ice to give it a consistency similar to frozen drinks you'd buy from a coffee shop.
You can enjoy your smoothie the traditional way in a glass, or you can take your smoothie game to the next level and craft a delicious smoothie creation in a bowl. When I enjoy my smoothie in a bowl, I tend to keep it a bit thicker and add plenty of toppings!
These are just a few of my favorite toppings:
Shredded coconut or coconut flakes
Fruit (I love using mango or kiwi on top!)
Dried fruit (including raisins and cranberries)
Nut butters (just a dollop!)
By the way, these are all completely toddler friendly (as long as there are no known allergies and the nut butter is well blended in to avoid choking), and my two year old loves them!