Feeling perpetually tired? Experiencing brain fog? Having trouble making it through your work day because of mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump? Many people in our society experience many of these symptoms on a regular basis.
There are many factors that can contribute to ongoing fatigue and low energy levels, and one of them is poor dietary choices. Meals lacking essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and adequate protein can cause lapses in our energy levels throughout the day, and can even impact our sleep at night.
A smoothie is a great way to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your diet, and many people turn to them for a quick and easy breakfast. For good reason: with the right blend of ingredients, a smoothie can become a nutritional powerhouse.
But, where there is a right way, there’s also a wrong way; and if you’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your blender in the morning, it can be easy for sugar content (and calories) to add up. There’s also the common complaints of “Smoothies don’t keep me feeling full” and “I feel like I need to eat an hour after I have my shake”. (More on this below.)
This is the topic I want to address today: how to make a perfect smoothie to keep your energy levels on par until lunchtime rolls around.
First of all, the perfect morning smoothie should have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat, and fiber. It’s these last three that will help keep you feeling full until lunch. Having fat, protein, and fiber in your smoothie slows the digestive process because these nutrients take longer to digest. Adding them to your smoothie slows the emptying of the stomach, and keeps you feeling full for longer.
Let’s address the common mistake of putting a ton of fruit in your smoothie. Putting lots of fruit in a smoothie without the proper balance of healthy fats and protein is a perfect recipe to spike your blood sugar. This is often followed by a blood sugar crash a few hours later. You know the feeling: irritable, difficulty concentrating, anxious, perhaps a bit dizzy or sweaty, dull headache… This crash is what leaves you feeling hungry even if you just ate an hour ago, often resulting in you reaching for a sugary snack to bring those blood sugar levels back up (and the cycle begins again).
Now let’s be clear: this doesn’t mean your smoothie shouldn’t have carbohydrates. They provide a good source of energy for your cells and your brain. All I’m saying is choose wisely, and try to limit it to 1 serving of fruit per shake. (1 serving = 1 medium banana, or 1 cup of chopped/diced fruit or berries.) Avoid using fruit juice as your liquid: this is concentrated sugar and lacks fiber.
As for the rest of your carbs, I suggest throwing in a handful of leafy greens in every smoothie. It’s an easy way to get them in your diet (especially if you’re not used to eating them frequently), and they give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals which are also important for sustaining energy levels over time.
Your vegetable options for smoothie aren’t limited to spinach and kale though. Consider tossing in chopped fresh or frozen zucchini, cucumber, beets, or even shredded carrots. Cauliflower and broccoli can work too, as long as you keep your portion sizes to ¼ to ½ cup. Any more than this, and the flavour can become a little overpowering.
Check out the table for a quick reference guide for your morning smoothie. (There is no fiber category in this table because many of the foods that fall under the protein, fat and carbohydrate categories also have healthy amounts of fiber too, like most fruits and vegetables, avocado, ground flaxseed, chia, and hemp seed.)