Weird-but-Good Stuff You should be Putting in Your Smoothie
Whether you enjoy them as a meal or a snack, smoothies are an awesome way to pack your day with nutrients and sneak some superfoods into your diet. They’re also great if you like to get creative and play mad scientist in the kitchen. As a dietitian, I’m all about weird-is-good when it comes to food, so I always encourage my clients to try out different flavors and experiment. Here, I get some fellow dietitians to share their favorite strange-but-seriously-delish smoothie ingredients.
Healthy Smoothie Basics
To make sure that your smoothie supports your health goals, there are a few basic things to keep in mind. First, decide if it’s a snack or a meal. A common mistake I see clients make is skimping on protein when they need their smoothie to stand in for breakfast. Another slip-up I see all the time: going way overboard with the add-ons when that smoothie is meant to be a post-workout snack. Yes, you need to refuel, but a 500-calorie smoothie can offset a 300-calorie burn without your realizing it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that portions count. Be mindful not to go overboard on fruit. If you wouldn’t eat that much solid fruit in one sitting, don’t throw it in the blender. Most of us wouldn’t eat a whole banana, a cup of berries, and a mango in one go, yet may think nothing of drinking that much in blended form. A lot of “healthy” ingredients like nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and the like are packed with nutrients, but the extra calories can add up quickly. Choose just a few to focus on or use smaller servings if you want variety.
If you can’t get into drinking a meal (I’m right there with you), try pouring your smoothie into a bowl and adding some toppings to turn it into a (wait for it) smoothie bowl.
My personal favorite weird-is-good smoothie ingredient is frozen cauliflower. Still with me? The cauliflower actually lends a creamy consistency without any of that funky cauliflower taste. Because it’s white, it doesn’t impact the color, which is great for vegetable skeptics.
Cauliflower is a bona fide superfood with tons of antioxidants, B-vitamins, potassium, and fiber. Added bonus: it’s an awesome way to sneak extra veggies in if you’re just not into the spinach-in-smoothie thing. This Blueberry Cauliflower Smoothie from dietitian Lindsay Livingston of The Lean Green Bean is a delicious way to get your fix.
Beets have a mildly earthy sweet taste that blends really well with other flavors. They’re also an antioxidant powerhouse. They’ve been touted for their anti-inflammatory benefits thanks to betalain, the pigment that gives beets their bright red color.
For the smoothest blending, steam or roast the beets first and slice them before throwing them in the blender. Looking for a handy shortcut? Buy them pre-cooked—fresh and frozen varieties are both available. Dietitian Gabrielle Vetere of Macrobalanced loves beets in her smoothies. This protein-rich recipe from Vetere pairs beets with cherries, another antioxidant powerhouse—perfect for a post-workout meal!
We often think of pumpkin as a fall food, but this bright orange squash is great any time of year. Adding canned pumpkin to smoothies lends a pleasing, creamy texture and a ton of vitamins like A and C, plus potassium and filling fiber (a half-cup serving boasts four grams).
Dietitian Annette Jochum adds that the flavor is almost undetectable, yet “you get all the benefits of a vegetable!” No pumpkin? Butternut squash and kabocha squash provide similar benefits. Use cooked, canned, or even frozen.
Yes, way. Dietitian Michelle Loy of Go Wellness tosses citrus peels into her blender. “It adds a burst of flavor to the smoothie,” she explained, “and they’re chock-full of fiber and vitamin C. Plus, the peel packs in potent phytochemicals like flavonoids, carotenoids, and limonene.” Just be sure to wash well before tossing in there.
If you haven’t tried avocado in your smoothies yet, you’re in for a treat. Julie Harrington, the Culinary Nutrition Consultant of RDelicious Kitchen, says, “The healthy fat paired with nutrient packed fruits and vegetables, help fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) be better absorbed. Plus, it makes smoothies really creamy—almost like a milkshake consistency.”
In this recipe, Harrington combines avocado with tropical fruits for a delicious treat. Don’t want to hang your smoothie plans on the pace at which an avocado decides to ripen? Next time you go shopping, buy a few extra and then when they hit the sweet spot, scoop out the flesh and store in an sealed bag or container in the freezer.
From personal experience, it’s best if you freeze in single portions—that way you’re not trying to hack off pieces of rock-solid, ice-cold avocado to break off the amount you want. All you have to do when you’re ready to make your smoothie is throw in your frozen avocado and blend away.