Build a Better Smoothie


By Danielle Staub, MS, RD, CDN

Nothing’s better than a cold, refreshing smoothie on a hot summer day. 

Smoothies can be nutrient-dense powerhouse’s custom tailored to meet your specific health needs. Need extra protein? Add some protein powder or Greek yogurt. Need extra calories? Add a scoop of hemp seeds or coconut oil. Watching sugar? Cut back on the fruit and up the greens.

With a solution for everyone, let’s get blending!

Start with the base

It’s always good practice to avoid fruit juice as your liquid base because of its high sugar content. Instead, choose protein-rich, low sugar options such as milk (Lactaid milk) or a non-dairy alternative such as almond, soy, coconut, cashew or oat milk. If your potassium is low (due to increased GI  losses), use coconut water as a base since 1 cup contains more potassium than a banana!  If you’re a diabetic best is to stick to water or unsweetened almond milk which contains just 2g carbohydrate per cup!

The Protein and Fat

For a smoothie to be well balanced it is important to include a good source of protein and healthy fat. Add Greek yogurt (15g protein per 6 oz.), Kefir or protein powder (1 scoop of whey protein isolate or plant based protein powder contains ~20g protein). For healthy fats, add a scoop of your favorite nut butter or even a half of a fresh avocado. If you’ve just had surgery or are having chemotherapy, your protein needs may be significantly higher.

The “Produce”

Add ~2 cups of green leafy veggies (spinach, kale) for extra vitamins, minerals and fiber. Best to use low glycemic fruit such as berries with a ½ banana. Frozen fruit works well since it lasts  longer than fresh and makes the smoothie extra cold and creamy. If you’re on a fiber restricted diet, avoid the greens and choose melon, banana, canned pear or peaches.

The Extras

To add even more nutrition to your smoothie, consider some add-ins. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ginger root:   may help with nausea and indigestion
  • Tumeric root:  is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties
  • Chia or flaxseeds:  provide fiber, healthy fats, and increased fullness
  • Pumpkin seeds: are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium
  • Matcha green tea powder: is rich in antioxidants—contains 10x the amount of antioxidants compared to regular green tea’; Matcha also contains more caffeine than traditional green tea, so a little goes a long way in a smoothie!

Mango Carrot Ginger Smoothie 

Recipe adapted from the American Institute for Cancer Research, AICR


  • 1 mango, peeled, sliced into chunks
  • 1/2 orange, peeled, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into large chunks
  • 1-2 cups kale or spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk, plain
  • 1 inch piece, peeled fresh ginger 
  • 6 ice cubes

* Option: Garnish with fresh mint 

Makes 2 servings.  Per serving: 200 calories, 4 g total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 120 mg sodium.


  1. Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.
  2. Pour into 2 glasses. Enjoy!