While it may seem to us nutrition professionals that smoothies have “had their moment,” many of our clients still see them as a quick and easy meal or snack to increase nutrient intake—and they can be! But clients may still lack knowledge about building a balanced smoothie and therefore may not be getting the appetite satisfaction they’re hoping for.
When giving presentations, communicating with participants in my online course, or working with athletes, I find common pitfalls in their smoothie balance. Let’s touch on what smoothies are often missing—those foods we’d like our clients to include in their meals and snacks.
I often hear clients say they make fruit and veggie smoothies to pack in some nutrition and curb their appetite. While having them in smoothie form vs juice keeps the fiber in, protein is missing. This nutrient is essential not only to maintain muscles, body tissues, and our immunity but also for satiety.
Since protein passes through the digestive tract more slowly than carbohydrate, including it in smoothies is crucial, with the one exception being immediately before exercise. Encourage others to use real food protein sources such as cultured Greek yogurt, milk, soymilk, or hemp protein over processed protein powders. Remind them that many nondairy milks such as almond and cashew don’t always contain the protein that dairy does and so aren’t an effective alternative in those cases.
Many other clients will include fruits and a protein source in their smoothies but choose skim milk, fat-free yogurt, or a fat-free protein powder. As with protein, fat is crucial not only for satiety but also essential for supporting brain health, joint health, immunity, and more. If someone is using fat-free dairy, encourage the addition of nuts, seeds, nut butters, or avocado. These foods also add a creamy and satisfying texture.
You may have a client who creates balanced smoothies that include fruits, veggies, protein, and fats, but is still hungry an hour later or left feeling mentally unsatisfied. For some people, mental satisfaction from food comes not only from nutrients, flavor, and texture but also from the action of chewing and/or consuming their food with a fork or spoon. These may also be individuals who are distracted while drinking their smoothie and consume it so quickly that they didn’t experience its consumption mindfully enough for it to be satisfying. In these cases, suggest the client sit down without distractions while enjoying their smoothie. Another alternative is to make a smoothie bowl. These can include less liquid to make a thicker mixture and be topped with whole nuts, seeds, or granola so clients can eat it with a spoon and chew before swallowing.
On the other hand, smoothies are great for clients with a poor appetite who need to ingest extra energy to gain weight or recover from strenuous activity. Recommend they consume the smoothie at times when nutrient intake is important, but they don’t feel like eating.
— Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a board-certified sports dietitian based in greater Philadelphia. As a media spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and nutrition coach, her expertise lies in performance nutrition, fitness club programming, and intuitive eating. Kelly is the cocreator of the virtual course “Fit Fueling: Intuitive Eating for Active Females.”