Nikki Yelton is an Integrative & Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian Nutritionist serving clients worldwide. She offers a personalized functional medicine approach to helping women with GI distress and autoimmune conditions to get to the root cause of the symptoms holding them back so that they can start living the extraordinary life they dream of with more energy, purpose, and joy!
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Balance is so important when it comes to your meals. Especially smoothies, as they’re typically eaten in the morning for breakfast at the start of the day. A balanced smoothie sets the tone for your energy and digestion.
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In today’s world, a balanced smoothie is the epitome of health. Many gravitate towards smoothies in effort to make a “healthy” choice, but are all smoothies actually as healthy as they claim to be?
Truthfully, smoothies can be delicious and nutritious, but not all are. In fact, most smoothies (especially those from restaurants or smoothie chains) are filled with excess sugar and carbs. As a result, you’re likely left with a sugar rush before the inevitable crash. Not to mention, you’ll feel ravenously hungry in a couple hours.
So, what makes a smoothie healthy? I’m going to tell you all the secrets!
WHY BALANCE IS SO IMPORTANT
Balance is so important when it comes to your meals. Especially smoothies, as they’re typically eaten in the morning for breakfast at the start of the day. Your first meal sets the tone for your energy and digestion. Without balancing our meals with the right amount of macronutrients, we can experience indigestion, blood sugar imbalances, slowed metabolism, fatigue, and poor elimination.
Important macronutrients include protein, fats, and carbohydrates. I call this your PFC’s. It’s important to have balanced PFC’s in smoothies to prevent a sugar spike. The fruit in smoothies does have a lot of natural sugar. If you pair fruit (a carb) with a fat, it prevents the sugar from spiking in your blood, which in turn prevents energy spikes and crashes. The protein helps keep you satiated and allows for the smoothie to be considered a meal replacement.
When carbs are eaten on their own, they move through your digestive system quickly and cause a blood sugar spike. Your body then releases insulin to lower sugar levels. This spike and crash can wreak havoc on our bodies, creating inflammation and depriving you of energy. Plus insulin actually tells our body to store fat, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.
Now when you pair a carbohydrate with a protein and fat, they slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. This is because fat and protein aren’t metabolized as sugar. This stabilizes blood sugar levels which then tells your body to release glucagon, a hormone that burns stored fat for energy! When you pair all three macronutrients together, you get the energy you need from carbohydrates with the metabolism boost from protein and satiety from fat.
SMOOTHIES & DIGESTION PREP
Having a pre-digested meal that is easier to break down, such as a balanced smoothie, prepares your digestive tract to slowly “wake up”. Not only is it extremely nourishing and healing for cells to drink a smoothie in the morning, but it helps the gut achieve digestive rest for easy nutrient transport. I suggest a balanced smoothie with the right amount of protein, healthy fats, carbs, and fiber, to keep you full and satisfied. When I make my smoothies, I go down the list to make sure I am getting everything I need to make it a complete meal. This is usually so filling that I am satisfied until lunchtime.
A balanced smoothie also:
Balances blood sugar
Supplies brain power from healthy fats
Provides fiber that keeps you full and aids in healthy motility
Is hydrating for cells and increases water consumption from ice, fruits, and wate
Is energizing + healing for cells
And not to mention, it’s easy to make and take on the go.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF BALANCED SMOOTHIES
The key to a nutritious and delicious smoothie is one that is balanced. Balanced smoothies are packed with protein, carbs, and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals. These nutrients boost overall health and specifically aid in gut function and autoimmunity, including:
Healing the gut lining
Reversing nutrient deficiencies
Boosting brain health
And smoothies specifically help the gut microbiome in many ways as well, including:
Digestive rest and predigested macronutrients
Activates digestion later in the day
Balanced with the right amount of PFC to keep you full and satisfied
Fiber & MCT fats + antioxidants and polyphenols are essential to a healthy & balanced microbiome
Help maximize absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are easily transported to mucosal cell membranes
Improves motility and constipation
Once you learn how to make a balanced smoothie, you can sip on a refreshing, delicious smoothie, while also nourishing your body from head-to-toe.
THE BEST PROTEIN POWDER FOR SMOOTHIES
A key ingredient to balanced smoothies is protein, typically in the form of powder. Protein is essential because it heals the gut lining, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system. However, when gut issues and autoimmunity are present, not just any protein powder will do. Actually, most protein powders can exacerbate these symptoms. So, choosing the right protein powder is necessary to prevent G.I. distress, like bloating, gas, and indigestion, and promote healing. You’ll want to look for protein powders that are not made from whey, contain minimal, non-GMO, organic ingredients, and are tested specifically for heavy metals.
We also love the protein powder Drink Wholesome for those with sensitive stomachs. This protein powder has super simple ingredients and tastes delicious! We recommend this one for those who are not in active healing stage. You can use code wholesome10 for 10% off your order!
HOW TO MAKE A BALANCED SMOOTHIE
Creating a balanced smoothie will not only satisfy your taste buds, but it will also keep you physically and mentally energized for hours. Trust me, your hormones will thank you for keeping your blood sugar regulated and steady! Here’s what you need to make the perfectly balanced smoothie:
Start with a liquid of your choice such as filtered water or a non-dairy milk alternative such as nut milk, coconut milk, almond milk, flax milk, hemp milk, etc. Your base should consist of a dairy-free liquid. I recommend nut milks without gums and fillers, like Malk or you can even try making your own homemade version. You can also make your own and store in the fridge by using an Ellies Nut milk bag.
Including a scoop of superfood powder will drastically increase the amount of nutrients (ie. antioxidants) in your smoothie. Look for superfood powders containing one or more of the following: beets, acai, greens, camu camu, acerola cherry powder, turmeric, cherry, elderberry, mushrooms, pomegranate, matcha, cacao. Superfood powders are not only potent, but they are the highest on the ORAC antioxidant scale. Consuming antioxidants that have a high ORAC score (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) and help fight free radicals can undo a lot of the damage due to a toxic buildup. By incorporating more potent antioxidants into our diet, we experience improved energy, digestion, mental clarity, circulation, and so much more. This helps us age more gracefully too from the accumulation of these free radicals over time.
Adding fruit is key for flavor, texture, and nourishment. And not to mention, a ton of antioxidants. A variety of fruit provides a variety of nutrients that help feed your good gut bacteria. These vitamins are key when it comes to healing the gut. I recommend using fruit that’s in season and freezing it yourself. I encourage you to seek out organic fruit from your local farmer. Locally-sourced produce is often richer in nutrients, juicier and tastier, and more affordable.
Alternatively, you can buy frozen fruit from the store. My favorite fruits include: banana, berries, peaches, mango, and pineapple.
Believe it or not, you can add a handful of veggies to your smoothie without ruining the flavor or texture. These veggies will add a hefty dose of vitamins to your smoothie, like B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. Try a handful of kale or spinach, or even a few florets of cauliflower! My personal favorite is chopped and frozen zucchini or delicata squash because it makes your smoothie nice and thick. It’s a great way to get extra veggies in without sacrificing taste. And if you have kiddos, smoothies are a great way to be a bit sneaky and hide nutrient packed vegetables in your child’s breakfast or snack.
Use 1 scoop (or 1 serving) of a quality protein powder to increase your protein consumption and better balance your smoothie. Protein plays an essential role in the body, as it’s responsible for building and maintaining muscle mass, providing energy, healing infections, and much more. When looking for a protein, I suggest you skip the whey, look for purity & quality, and check for minimal ingredients. Otherwise you mind find protein powder can make you feel more bloated, gassy, and can even contribute to stomach pain and discomfort.
Fats help regulate blood sugar by slowing the absorption of nutrients. Your body needs fat for fuel! Saturated and monounsaturated fat provide essential fatty acids that your body doesn’t produce on its own. Healthy fats are also crucial for staying satiated and keeping consistent energy levels. Including lots of unsaturated fats in your diet supports gut health, balances hormones, reduces inflammation, and promotes healthy cell growth. Add 1 tablespoon of fat, like nut butter, hemp seeds, flax, chia, coconut oil, MCT oil, or avocado to upgrade your smoothie and increase creaminess.
Optional: Boosters + Toppings
Try adding nutrient-rich boosters to your smoothies, like cilantro, ceylon cinnamon, sea salt, cacao nibs, grain-free granola, shredded coconut, etc for additional nutritional benefit and extra healing properties! I love topping my smoothies with Freebird cereal or Purely Elizabeth grain-free granola for some extra crunch. It helps activate digestion through chewing and also makes it feel like I’m eating dessert for breakfast!
Sometimes it can feel intimidating to make a smoothie without knowing what combinations of each layer will taste good. If that’s you or you need some inspiration, look no further. I created this bundle with 35 gut healthy and autoimmune friendly smoothie recipes so you can take the guesswork out. You can grab the booklet for only $27 here!
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Smoothies are such a fantastic way to start your day and it is what I recommend to all my clients once we begin customizing their health journey. If you love the idea of healthy, quick, balanced smoothies but often lack time, I recommend either making them the day before or check out Daily Harvest! They provide organic, pre-made smoothies. All you have to do is throw it in the blender! Use this code for $25 off your first box!
Balanced smoothies can make for a healthy meal or snack, especially during the hot Summer months. Using this balanced smoothie formula will help effectively regulate your blood sugar, encourage healthy digestion, and fuel your body well!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
a note from nikki:
If you are ready to stop wasting precious time, get off the never-ending hamster wheel, and finally surrender trying to figure things out on your own—this is your moment.
You don’t have to settle for just getting by and hoping tomorrow is a better day. We both know you are a woman who deserves better and are made for so. much. more.
are you ready?
Ready to resolve your GI distress, reverse autoimmunity, and live your extraordinary life?