12 Ingredients for a Thick, Low-Calorie Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to fuel your body with vitamins and nutrients while enjoying what’s essentially a healthy milkshake. And when you find that perfect smoothie recipe that’s thick, creamy, and fits seamlessly into your diet, you’ll want to make it every day.
“If you’re drinking a smoothie as a meal, aim for 350 to 400 calories,” says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, “as this is enough to fuel you without contributing to weight gain.” Lakatos also recommends 15 to 20 grams of protein, a maximum of 30 to 45 grams of carbohydrates, six to 10 grams of fiber, and no more than four grams of added sugar in a smoothie as a meal.
By filling your blender with ingredients that meet these targets, you’ll stay full longer, keep blood sugar stable, and even support better gut health. “If you’re having a smoothie as a snack, look to stay around 150 to 200 calories, with a minimum of 10 grams of protein, at least three grams of fiber, and no added sugar,” she says.
As for that milkshake-like texture, here are some of the best low-calorie ingredients to thicken your smoothie.
Frozen fruit not only contributes to a luscious texture, but also provides natural sweetness. "Fruit is generally low in calories, adds fiber, disease-fighting phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals,” says Lakatos. Frozen bananas and mangos are particularly good for creating a rich, creamy texture, but all frozen fruit works well. “Berries are another great option as they’re very low in calories and carbs and have less sugar and more fiber than many fruits, she adds. Tip: Set your blender at its highest speed to blend frozen fruit and measure the amount of fruit you’re adding to control sugar and carbs.
Frozen Riced Cauliflower
Riced cauliflower blends seamlessly and provides a velvety texture with a neutral, slightly sweet flavor. Cauliflower is also packed with fiber, vitamin C, and phytonutrients. “It’s low in calories with only 20 calories per ¾ cup, so it’s perfect if you want to cut back on a little bit of fruit to save calories while still adding bulk to your smoothie,” notes Lakatos.
Peanut Butter Powder
“A tablespoon of peanut powder is significantly lower in calories and fat than regular nut butter,” says Lakatos, “and it adds the same peanut-y flavor.” It’s also a great way to add protein to your smoothie, with most peanut powders packing six grams of protein per serving. Just make sure to check the ingredients list for minimal added sugars and fillers.
Adding rolled oats to a smoothie is the perfect way to make it creamier and more satisfying. Select high quality oats and balance the rest of your smoothie ingredients to mitigate the extra carbs. Try blending oats with low-carb berries and healthy proteins and fats like avocado, Greek yogurt, peanut butter powder, or protein powder. “Oats are especially good in smoothies that replace a meal, since the wholesome whole grain oats are packed with fiber to stabilize blood sugar, keep you fuller longer, as well as provide heart health promoting antioxidants,” says Lakatos. Plus, much of the fiber in oats is soluble fiber, which helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
A splash of unsweetened almond, coconut, or other low-calorie (roughly 40 calories per cup) plant milk gives a smoothie extra silkiness and density. “They are great alternatives to water as they contribute creaminess with very few calories, so they won’t turn your healthy smoothie into a calorie-bomb,” says Lakatos. You can even go half milk, half water or coconut water, if you want.
More Healthy Ingredients for a Thicker Smoothie:
- Silken tofu
- Non-fat Greek yogurt
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Dark, leafy greens
You can easily increase thickness by including one or two of these in your smoothie. “Spinach is one of the best greens for picky palates, since it has a mild flavor,” says Lakatos. “Tofu and yogurt add protein, helping to stabilize blood sugar and add satiety, and avocado contributes healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamin E, as well as other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients,” she says. Just watch the portion of the avocado as the calories add up quickly—one-fifth of an avocado has 64 calories. If you need additional sweetener, try a teaspoon of sugar or honey and if that’s not enough, pop in some Stevia or monk fruit.