How to Make the Healthiest Smoothie

Ditch sugary, calorie-laden fast-food smoothies and make your own healthy concoctions at home with these easy tips.

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Healthy Smoothies at Home

Bursting with fruit, portable and easy to drink, smoothies can be a healthy on-the-go breakfast or snack. But a lot of fast-food and restaurant smoothies are way too high in calories and sugar to be good for you. Follow these tips to make the healthiest smoothie at home.

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

Fruit First

Smoothies wouldn't be smoothies without the fruit. There are so many delicious options that you really can’t go wrong. Bananas are a classic in smoothies, because they add a creamy texture and natural sweetness. But unless that's the only fruit you're using, stick to half of a medium banana (about 50 calories). Other great options? Frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries all work well), chunks of frozen peaches, mango, pitted cherries or apricot, or fresh pear or apple. A variety of fruit will give you an assortment of nutrients, including antioxidants. Use 1 to 1 1/2 cups of total fruit. 

Get the Recipe: Banana Nog Smoothie

Consider Vegetables

Green smoothies have become wildly popular in recent years. Turn your smoothie green by adding a handful or two of fresh spinach or kale. Or, give your smoothie a boost of immune-boosting beta-carotene by trying 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin (make sure to use pumpkin pie spices in this one!). Avocado also makes for a creamy smoothie — it's higher in calories, so stick to 1/4 of a Hass avocado per smoothie.

Get the Recipe: Green Smoothie

Add Calcium

Smoothies are a great opportunity to get calcium in your day by adding dairy or dairy replacement. Use skim or low-fat milk to keep calories in check. Even buttermilk works — it's low-fat and delivers a tanginess that pairs well with sweet mangoes. If you don't eat dairy products, try your favorite milk replacement (like calcium-fortified almond milk or soymilk). Half a cup should do the trick and will give you 4 grams of protein and 15 percent of the daily value for calcium, for only 40 to 50 calories. Orange, apple, pomegranate or grape juice can add natural sweetness and also some antioxidants. Depending on what else is going in your smoothie, use 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Brewed, chilled green tea can also offer a boost of antioxidants.

Get the Recipe: Strawberry-Green Tea Smoothie

Make It Thick & Creamy

If you like a creamier smoothie, add low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt, or soft silken tofu (calcium-set). Either one will add an extra dose of protein and calcium, plus the yogurt offers digestion-friendly probiotics. If you're using fruits that aren’t already frozen, add some ice — it gives your smoothie texture without extra calories.

Get the Recipe: Apple-Nut Smoothie

Supercharge It

So far, you have enough ingredients for a delicious smoothie, but a tablespoon of any of these extras will make your smoothie extra nutritious and flavorful:

Chia seeds or ground flax seeds add heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, along with keep-you-full fiber.

Peanut butter or almond butter: Nut butters offer an extra boost of protein and healthy fats that help power your morning. They're particularly good in a simple banana, cocoa, tofu or yogurt and milk smoothie. Even whole nuts work!

Rolled oats: Who says oatmeal is the only way to enjoy rolled oats in the morning? Try adding 1/4 cup to the blender — it will add a thick texture, along with fiber and a serving of whole grains.

Get the Recipe: Mango, Coconut and Chia Smoothie

Bump Up the Flavor

A tablespoon of cocoa powder, a few drops of vanilla or almond extract or a shake of spice — such as ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg — can transform your smoothie's flavor profile. Fresh herbs, like mint or basil, or a touch of lemon or lime juice can brighten it. You might find that your smoothie is sweet enough from the combination of fruits that you've used. If you want a touch more sweetness, stick to a teaspoon of honey, agave or maple syrup.

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin-Ginger Smoothie

Creative Combos

Now it's your turn to innovate. What creative combinations can you come up with? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Pumpkin-Orange: Pumpkin, banana, orange juice, yogurt, maple syrup, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon

Protein Power: Silken tofu, cocoa powder, peanut butter, soymilk, banana, honey

Green Goddess: Kale or spinach, apple cider or orange juice, pear, ice cubes

Eggnog: Yogurt, milk, banana, flax seed, honey, nutmeg, vanilla

Get More: 20 Healthy Smoothie Recipes

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