How to Give Your Smoothie Some Oomph (!)

July 29, 2016

I rarely ever want smoothies for breakfast.

And yet I want to want them. Because I really do love the way they taste, and as someone who has a hard time encouraging herself to eat more (and different kinds of) fruit, they’re a perfect vehicle. But no matter how good smoothies sound in theory—no matter how many images of brightly colored, creamy, frosty concoctions I’m capable of gazing at on Instagram—when it comes time to actually drink a smoothie I always find myself feeling curiously disappointed afterwards.

This may be totally psychological: I may simply be the sort of person who needs to chew in order to feel satiety with my meals, no matter how much fruit and vegetable volume I’m taking in.

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One solution is to create smoothie bowls, scheming up a slew of decorative, textural toppings for my smoothies. The food stylist in me loves this idea, but it can also feel like a lot of work, and by the time I’m finished loading up my smoothie with heaps of granola and dried fruit and nuts and seeds and other adornments, I have to wonder whether oatmeal or muesli or a couple of slices of avocado toast would have made a lot more sense.

Another solution is to enjoy smoothies as libations rather than meals: a refreshing afternoon snack, say, or a fruity pre-dinner refreshment. Fine, but what about those mornings when it’s 92° F by 8 A.M. and the thought of a smoothie breakfast really does appeal, even if the anticipation of being hungry an hour after breakfast is there and real?

Lately I’m finding that the best solution to my smoothie conundrum is simply to experiment with smoothies that are thicker and heartier and more substantial than some of the lighter fruit and vegetable blends I’ve tried. The addition of some fat or starch to a smoothie—in the form of whole grains, nut butters, avocados, or seeds—can go a long way in enhancing a smoothie’s staying power.

Here are some of my favorite additions:

For protein:

Hemp seeds
Silken or firm tofu
Peanut butter

For fat:

Any nuts or seeds

For thickening:

Rolled oats or buckwheat groats
Flax meal
Chia seeds
A high ratio of frozen fruit and fillings to liquid

I’m particularly fond of adding oats to smoothies, perhaps because they’re such a beloved mainstay in my breakfasts anyway, or because I’m pretty convinced that the soluble fiber in them helps to keep me very full indeed, or because they contribute a lovely thickness to smoothie blends without making them overly heavy (which is what can happen when you go a little too far with the nut butters or flax meal).

This smoothie features a few of my favorite smoothie enhancers, including some chia, some peanut butter, and some rolled oats. Combined with fruit and almond milk, this is a simple blend, but it’s one that tastes amazing and is almost guaranteed to help keep you satisfied. I may never be a “smoothie person”—at least not for my everyday morning meals—but this particular blend makes me very happy indeed, and I know that I’ll be enjoying it often (with combinations of different fruits and berries) for as long as the warm weather lasts.

Gena Hamshaw is a vegan chef and nutritionist—and the author of our Vegan cookbook! You can read more of her writing here.

How do you give your smoothies some oomph? Share your tips in the comments.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.