The Dos and Don’ts of Protein Shakes and Smoothies

smoothies

When it comes to quick, convenient and healthy foods, smoothies can’t be beat. But if you’re trying to be truly healthy, you need to take extra care to make sure you pack your cool on-the-go meal with nutrients instead of sugar.

The key to a great smoothie is protein. Protein will help you build lean muscle and keep you feeling full throughout the day. One way to get a good dose of protein in your smoothie is to use dairy as the liquid base. However, using a dairy product with lots of fat will negate the benefits of dairy, so stick to low-fat milk or light Greek yogurt.

If you want a thicker consistency in your smoothie, freeze your fruit first. Healthy smoothie ingredients include berries, greens and even avocados, all of which freeze well. Though avocados in a smoothie may sound unusual, they provide the creamy consistency of a banana without all the sugar.

What if your smoothie is too thick? Skip the fruit juices and go for coconut water, low-fat milk or even a milk alternative like almond milk to thin it out. Dr. Dirk warns that most fruit juices are just empty calories.

If you’re in need of extra protein because you’re ramping up your workouts or recovering from an injury, protein powders can be helpful. Most commonly made from dairy (whey proteins) or soy, protein powders provide an extra boost without the additional calories.

Keep in mind that you probably don’t need to add protein to your diet if you’re an average person exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. Muscle only requires 10-14 extra grams of protein per day to grow, and most powders have 80+ grams per serving. If you determine you need the extra protein, you can add it in small quantities to your smoothies — they’ll be even more hearty and filling.