7 Smoothie Boosters: Ideas to make your shake even healthier
Posted by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND
Looking for new flavor ideas for your smoothie or want to find out how to pack your smoothie with an even bigger nutritional punch? Take a look at my seven tips for smoothie boosters and fifteen tasty smoothie recipe ideas you can add to your favorite shake immediately.
Seven Smoothie Boosters: Healthy Add-Ins to Your Favorite Shakes
Smoothie boosters – those little ‘extras’ we like to add to our shakes – are a great way to tailor your favorite blend. Need extra calories or protein in your shake? There’s an add-in for that. Not getting enough fiber? A boost of fruits, vegetables and seeds in your smoothie might do the trick. Maybe you’re just tired of the same old shake every morning – in which case a few flavorful add-ins might help you beat the boredom.
Typical smoothies and shakes don’t necessarily need a nutritional boost – most can stand-alone as meals, provided they’re nutritionally balanced. The most basic shakes usually include milk or non-dairy milk (soy, hemp, etc) as the base, some form of protein powder, and often a dose of fruit. But one of the great things about smoothies is that they practically scream for boosters. You can add all sorts of things to them – which allows you to let your creativity run wild, and customize your shake to deliver exactly what you want or need.
Smoothie Booster #1: Protein
Protein needs vary from person to person – age, gender, body size and body composition all factor in. So for those who need extra protein beyond what a “standard” smoothie might provide, there are plenty of add-in options for boosting protein content.
Protein powder may already be an ingredient in your smoothie, but adding extra powder is one of the easiest ways to get more protein and to tailor the amount to your personal needs. Plus, it blends right in and doesn’t change the flavor.
One tablespoon plain protein powder adds about 5 grams of protein.
Fat-free or low-fat dairy boosters like cottage cheese, ricotta cheese or yogurt provide extra protein along with calcium and vitamins A and D.
One-third cup (100g) nonfat cottage cheese, ricotta or plain Greek-style yogurt adds about 7 grams of protein.
Tofu – especially the soft or silken variety – blends nicely into smoothies and its mild flavor doesn’t overpower the other ingredients in your shake.
4 ounces (about 120g) tofu adds about 7 grams of protein.
Smoothie Booster #2: Fruits and Vegetables
If you have trouble working enough fruits and vegetables into your day, adding them to your smoothies can be an easy way to boost your intake.
Fruits: Aside from the typical berries or bananas, you might try mixing it up with less-typical fruits like kiwi, pomegranate seeds, guava or melon.
Vegetables like cooked carrots, pumpkin, beets or butternut squash are great smoothie boosters because they’re mildly sweet. And baby greens – like baby spinach – are mild in flavor and make great smoothie add-ins, too.
Smoothie Booster #3: Healthy Fats
Adding fat to your smoothie will, of course, add some calories. But healthy fats offer up more than that – you can also pick up some vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber along the way.
Seeds – like flax, hemp, chia or sunflower seeds add a bit of texture to your smoothie, and give a little boost of minerals (especially copper and zinc) and omega-3 fatty acids.
Nut butters – such as almond, walnut or pistachio – also contribute zinc and copper, along with some protein and fiber, too.
Avocado adds a silky-smooth add-in to smoothies, and provides the same healthy fats found in olive oil along with some vitamin E.
Smoothie Booster #4: More Fiber
Most people don’t eat the recommended 25 grams of fiber a day, but it’s easy to boost fiber intake when you choose the right add-ins to your smoothie.
Rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseeds, apples and berries help to boost your soluble fiber intake – that’s the type of fiber that traps water and swells, contributing to feelings of fullness.
Carrots, most other seeds and leafy greens can boost the amount of insoluble fiber in your diet – the type of fiber that helps keep you regular.
Smoothie Booster #5: Calories
If you have high calorie needs or are trying to gain weight, high-calorie extras in your smoothie can really help. The trick is to add healthy nutrition along with the calorie boost.
Rolled oats – a scoop of quick-cooking rolled oats can add 100 calories or more, along with soluble-fiber and a little extra protein, too.
Avocado and nut butters – add half of an avocado or a heaping spoonful of nut butter to your shake and you can boost the calories by 100 or more.
Dried Fruits or 100% Juices – because their calories are so concentrated, fruit juices and dried fruits are discouraged for those who are trying to lose weight, but that’s precisely why they make such a great add-in for those who are trying to gain. Try 100% orange, carrot or pineapple juice, or toss in a handful of dried apricots, peaches, cherries, dates or raisins.
Smoothie Booster #6: More Flavor
Your smoothie might taste just fine as it is, but if – like me – you’re in the habit of having them every day, it’s nice to change up the flavors to keep things interesting. Aside from changing the flavor of my protein powder – and playing around with different fruit and vegetable add-ins – what often takes my shakes over the top is the extra flavor boost I get from adding herbs, spices, extracts and other natural flavors.
Spices – try a dash of sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or clove, or add some spicy heat with ginger or even a dash of white pepper. Since they’re plant products, spices also contribute phytonutrients and antioxidants, too.
Herbs may not be something you’ve thought about adding to your smoothie, but there are plenty of herbs that work really well. Try mint, rosemary, thyme or basil – but don’t stop there! I know people who love fresh parsley or fresh cilantro in their smoothies, too.
Extracts and Zest – a little fresh lemon or orange zest adds a bright, fresh flavor to your smoothie, and there are some healthy oils in citrus peel, too. I also like to keep all kinds of extracts on hand – like pure vanilla, almond, coconut and peppermint for an extra flavor boost.
Smoothie Booster #7: Digestive Support
Some smoothie add-ins do double duty – they not only add flavor and nutrition, but they can also help support your digestive system, too.
Aloe vera juice adds a mild sweet flavor to your shake and helps support nutrient absorption in your digestive tract.
Yogurt contains probiotics – so-called “good” bacteria that help support digestive health.
Ginger and Peppermint are both known to aid the digestive process.
Chia seeds are a very rich source of soluble fiber, which supports the growth of the good bacteria in your intestines.
15 Great Smoothie Add-Ins
Give your smoothie a nutrition boost with some of these great add-ins!
Shake Added Extra #1: Aloe Vera Juice
The Boost: Digestive Support
Shake Added Extra #2: Avocado*
The Boost: Healthy Fat, Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients
Shake Added Extra #3: Cottage Cheese
The Boost: Protein, Vitamins and Minerals
Shake Added Extra #4: Dried Fruit*
The Boost: Fibers, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients, Digestive Support
Shake Added Extra #5: Fruit
The Boost: Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients, Digestive Supports
Shake Added Extra #6: Fruit Juice*
The Boost: Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients
Shake Added Extra #7: Herbs and Spices
The Boost: Phytonutrients
Shake Added Extra #8: Nuts and Nut Butter*
The Boost: Protein, Healthy Fat, Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients
Shake Added Extra #9: Protein Powder
The Boost: Protein
Shake Added Extra #10: Ricotta Cheese
The Boost: Protein, Vitamins and Minerals
Shake Added Extra #11: Rolled Oats*
The Boost: Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Digestive Support
Shake Added Extra #12: Seeds
The Boost: Healthy Fat, Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients, Digestive Support
Shake Added Extra#13: Tofu
The Boost: Protein, Healthy Fat, Vitamins and Minerals
Shake Added Extra #14: Vegetables
The Boost: Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals, Phytonutrients, Digestive Support
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Shake Added Extra #15: Yogurt
The Boost: Protein, Vitamins and Minerals, Digestive Support
*These choices would be best for those who need additional calories.
Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.