When the weather gets warmer, I find myself trading my usual breakfast of eggs and avocado for a beefed-up smoothie.
I love “smoothie season” for so many reasons:
Protein: This power macronutrient is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle, skin, bones, and blood. The average American consumes enough protein at dinner but gets very little in the morning, when it is arguably more useful. This is because protein intake is a precursor to the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that contribute to mental alertness and energy. Adequate protein has also been shown to increase satiety and satisfaction, helping you stay full throughout the morning.
Fat: Fat isn’t just for those on a ketogenic diet. Healthy, unrefined, dietary fats such as coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds provide slow burning (sustained) energy that will keep you going until lunch. Fats are essential to your body’s ability to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K and are brain protective. And because we know that proper amounts of healthy fats do not contribute to weight gain, those that are looking to lose or maintain weight need not hesitate.
Carbohydrates: Fats were the nutritional villain of the 90’s but carbohydrates have now taken the lead. Despite the great benefits many have seen on a ketogenic diet, severe carb restriction may not be for everyone. This macronutrient category includes sugars, starches, and fiber. They provide energy for the body and brain, assist in nutrient absorption, and contribute to proper bowel function. They key is choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates and eating them in proper balance with proteins and healthy fats. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole, unrefined grains (for those who are not sensitive) are great choices.
Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients: Those who eat a diet heavy in processed foods, have a hectic schedules or have food aversions, may struggle to get enough nutrients though whole fruits and vegetables in their diet. Vitamins and minerals are essential (meaning you have to have them) and are responsible for facilitating hundreds of processes in your body. Common symptoms of nutrient deficiency are fatigue, a weakened immune system, impaired brain function, eye/vision problems, anxiety, bone loss, muscle cramps, and hair, skin and nail weakness. While phytonutrients (what gives produce their color) are not essential, they are anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, helping to prevent disease.
Too much sugar can quickly turn your smoothie from a nutritional powerhouse into a blood sugar disaster. While a modest amount of whole fruit is a healthy addition to your smoothie, refrain from adding too much or using fruit juice (which is concentrated sugar without the fiber to temper it). Be on the lookout for added sugars in protein powders. We use PurePaleo Protein which is sweetened with stevia but doesn’t have that bite that other stevia sweetened proteins can have.
This smoothie gets made quite often at our house because it is no fuss, packs a huge phytonutrient punch, and is fairly low glycemic.
Add the ingredients in the order listed. Blend until smooth, about 1-2 minutes depending on your blender.
Macros as written (using lower measurements): Calories: 402; Fat: 15.6g; Net Carbs: 25.6g; Protein: 30.8g
Macros adjusted for Ketogenic Diet: Omit PaleoFIber, add 2 Tbsp coconut oil, reduce blueberries to 1/4 cup. Calories: 559; Fat: 42.6g; Net Carbs: 10.1g; Protein: 29.3g
If you’re new to the wonders of a liquid breakfast, I’ll be honest: It may take several days for your hunger cues to get with the program. Here are my tips to giving your smoothie filling power.
Give your brain time to adapt. There is a difference between being hungry and having an appetite. Hunger is the feeling you get when you need to eat because your stomach is empty. An appetite is the feeling of wanting food because you see/smell it, are thinking about it, or are conditioned to having it. When beginning a liquid breakfast routine, your brain will often confuse feelings of appetite for true hunger. As long as you are following the other advice below, your brain should adapt within a week.
Drink slowly. When your stomach has enough food, it sends a signal to your brain to stop eating. This communication can take time. Taking 20 minutes to sip your breakfast gives your brain time to receive the satiety signal as you’re finishing your meal.
Check your fiber. The current fiber intake recommendation is 21-38 grams per day (with women typically needing less than men). Take 2 or 3 days to track your current fiber intake, without making any special efforts to increase it. If you see that your usual diet falls below the recommended intake, or if your bowel movements are not ideal, consider adding more fiber to your morning smoothie. You can do this by increasing your vegetables or adding in a fiber supplement.
Increase your portion size. The average size homemade breakfast smoothie is 8 – 12 ounces. I have found that 20 ounces is ideal for me while my husband likes a smoothie almost twice that size. Just make sure you are increasing the volume in balance. Don’t just add more fruit!
Include adequate amounts of macronutrients. What is “adequate”? The current general recommendations are Protein: 10-35%, Fat: 20-35%, Carbohydrate: 45-65%. The right ratio for you will vary by your individual physiology and health goals. Try using an online macronutrient calculator which gives you a good jumping off point. From there, adjust the percentages until you find what feels the best to your body.
Of course, we do still have solid breakfasts, mostly on the weekends when we can leisurely sit around the table with our boys. But on busy weekday mornings, I'm so happy to have this quick option!