A shake or smoothie containing healthy ingredients can be a great way to kick-start the day by providing the body with key nutrients at a critical time. They’re easy and quick to make and can be substituted at any time when preparing a meal is not either convenient or practical. And subbing a shake containing all the components of a healthy meal means a healthy eating plan does not have to be derailed.
What’s best is you don’t have to have the same old shake every single time. It’s simple to change up the flavor while still getting the nutrition. To make the perfect nutritious shakes, simply follow the guidelines below.
- Select a base for the shake from water, coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk, or other nut milks. Use between 1–2 cups (250–500ml) of the liquid selected. Use less liquid for a thicker shake and more for a thinner one.
- Add two handfuls of leafy greens. Typical choices are kale, spinach, or watercress.
- Add healthy fats in the form of coconut oil or 4 teaspoons (20 grams) nuts or seeds. Hemp seeds or oil are great options.
- Add some protein. You can get some from the same nuts and seeds you’ve already added, and even spinach has some, but if you want to be sure you get enough you can add a scoop of protein powder. I like Sunwarrior's Warrior Blend.
- Add a serving of fruit in the form of berries: blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, or a mix of all the berries. Frozen berries will make the shake cooler. Other fruit can be added of course, but berries have a lot of great antioxidants you don’t want to miss out on.
- Add a dessert spoon of chia seeds or flaxseeds.
- And if it’s not sweet enough for you already, add stevia or xylitol to sweeten it up. (Non-vegans might use honey.)
Why are these ingredients chosen?
Choosing a base of water, coconut, or nut milk will depend on the individual's goals, taste preferences, and possible allergens and intolerances. Animal milk may interfere with the absorption of certain antioxidants so all three bases are diary free to allow the maximum absorption of the antioxidants in the shake.
Coconut milk contains, along with other health promoting nutrients, medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are easily burnt by the body, providing a low glycemic fuel for energy. It also offers an alternative to those who have nut allergens.
Almond milk is, obviously, derived from almonds. Almonds may be considered one of the healthiest nuts in the world. Almond milk has a high nutritional content and is low in both calories and fat. It also contains several vitamins and minerals. Other nut milks also have high nutritional values.
Our bodies are mostly composed of water. Water is an essential element that needs to be replenished daily for optimal health and fitness levels. It may be the preferred base for those most concerned with weight management.
Greens are nutrient dense foods that are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Eaten regularly, greens may be considered the number one food to improve health.
Healthy fats are provided by the coconut oil or the raw nuts. Chia or flaxseeds will provide the essential fat omega 3 which is commonly deficient in the Western diet. Seeds high in Omega 6, such as sunflower and sesame, can also be added to provide a more balanced profile of omega fats.
Berries are high in nutrients, especially antioxidants. They may therefore help quicken recovery from exercise. Berries contain the preferred type of carbohydrates for those following a healthy eating program as they have a low glycemic load.
Extra protein is required for anyone following an exercise program. However, protein should still be included in a shake for those who do not exercise as protein is an essential nutrient. Chose a protein, or combination thereof, that provides a balanced profile of amino acids. Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend is ideal as it contains proteins from several different sources.
Stevia or xylitol can be used to sweeten the shake. Both stevia and xylitol are sourced from natural sources and so provide healthier alternatives compared to other sweeteners. Xylitol has a few calories whereas pure stevia contains none.
Follow the guidelines above to make a healthy shake comprising the essential nutrients that form a healthy meal—protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and low glycemic load carbohydrates.
Blend and enjoy!