How to make a smoothie bowl + my favorite recipe

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I love smoothies but I’ve found that when I drink them the whole experience is over way more quickly than I’d like it to be. Things go down fast with a straw! Plus I‘ve been trying to eat more mindfully, i.e. sit at an actual table, focus on my food and eat with no distractions, and smoothie bowls are great for this. They are cold, creamy and the toppings add all kinds of good crunch and flavor.

I will admit that when I eat alone it’s really tempting to scroll through Instagram or check my email but I’m getting better at leaving my phone elsewhere during meal time. I’ve learned that eating slowly helps me feel more satisfied so really focusing on the food (or the conversation when I’m not eating on my own) is becoming a healthy habit. 

Plus, as my friend naturopath friend Louise always tells me, digestion begins in your mouth so it’s important to “chew your smoothie.” Not to mention the fact that everything is just a little bit better better in a bowl.

Don’t get me wrong! I still love smoothies in a cup or glass -  especially smoothies from my fave, Sweetgrass Food Co. Smoothies in a cup are especially great when you’re on the run or taking them to go. But when you have a few minutes to savor your food, I recommend trying a smoothie bowl instead.

Here’s what I love about smoothies and smoothie bowls in general:

  • They’re a great way to get more greens and other veggies into your body.
  • They’re the perfect vehicle for healthy fats, adaptogens and other dietary supplements  
  • They’re freaking delicious.

The secret to making a delicious smoothie bowl is to only use a small amount of  liquid - not more than 4-6 ounces. This is where high speed blenders like a Vitamix or a Blendtec can come in handy, although any blender can do the job. (pro tip: you can often find refurbished Vitamix blenders on Amazon for at least 30% less than a brand new one).  Some blenders come with a tamper stick and others you might need to stop and scrape down the sides as you go along but the less liquid you use the thicker and creamier it will be. Using at least some frozen fruits or veggies can make it be nice and cold as well - almost like dessert for breakfast!

The stickler for most people (me included) can be finding the right protein powder. When I was experimenting with different brands I found that most were either too sweet,  too “chalky” or gritty, or too “weird” tasting. I don’t do well with dairy so I avoided ones that use whey or casein and I'm also sightly sensitive to eggs so I skipped those as well.


After much experimentation I found a couple of brands that I really like;  Ancient Nutrition and Philosophie. Ancient Nutrition is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit which means it packs a low glycemic punch and the protein comes from collagen. I really like the chocolate and vanilla flavors. Philosophie is plant-based and sweetened with mesquite seed pod powder so it’s not super sweet but it has a delicious flavor. It comes in 3 flavors: cacao magic, green dream and berry bliss. The Philosophie products have great ingredients like maca, reishi and other adaptogens as well as superfoods like acai, pomegranate, spirulina and chia.

If you’re not a fan of stevia or other natural sugar-free alternatives, or you prefer to try other plant-based protein powders, there are still lots of options. The Minimalist Baker did a great review of plant-based protein powders a couple of months ago which I found to be very helpful. Many plant-based protein powders use pea protein which is typically derived from yellow split peas. Others use hemp, flax or a combination of all of the above.

If you go with a whey or casein based protein powder I encourage you to choose one that sources organic, grass-fed dairy. One brand that I know and trust is Bulletproof.

Bottom line: there are a ton of options out there! Look for ones with only a few ingredients that you can pronounce when you read them.

Protein powder can be a hefty investment and it’s a big ole bummer to shell out for a tub of something, even if its a good price, only to get it home and not like it. There are lots of companies who offer sample sizes so you can “test drive” until you find a good fit. You can usually find these at places like Whole Foods as well as on Amazon and other websites.

In addition to  protein, here are some of the other things you can add to your smoothie bowls:

Fruit

Bananas, mango, berries, pineapple, and pretty much any other fruit you can think of will go great in a smoothie bowl. Bananas are particularly versatile and adda nice creaminess. Go with seasonal fruits when you can, so peaches, nectarines, pitted cherries and aaalllll the berries in summer, apples, pears, kiwis and plums in fall. Head to a farmers market and freeze some of the goodness yourself when possible or go to Trader Joe’s for a a great selection of already frozen fruit. Frozen fruit helps give smoothie bowls a super-thick and creamy consistency, and works better than fresh fruit. Keep in mind that tropical fruits like bananas, mangos and pineapple pack a big sugar punch so I recommend using only one of those and then adding in some berries if you feel like you want more fruity goodness. You can also find packets of frozen acai and dragonfruit  at Trader Joe’s which are low in sugar, high in antioxidants and add a gorgeous pink or purple color.  I am super sensitive to sugar and use mostly berries for my fruit, but everyone’s tastes are different, so like we say in the wellness biz, “you do you, baby.”

Vegetables

Leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale or romaine are the best for smoothies as they are, hands down, a wonderful addition to your diet. If you don’t like super green smoothies then just add a small handful of microgreens which are even more nutritious than their full-grown versions and can sometimes be less bitter. You can find microgreens at farmer's markets, Trader Joe's and other assorted grocery stores. 

I also use veggies like frozen cauliflower and zucchini because they help bulk up my smoothie without the added sugar of most fruits and I find them pretty bland and flavorless in my smoothies. One of my favorite wellness bloggers, Lee from America, goes so far as to steam (and then freeze) zucchini for easier digestion.


Fats*


1/4 of a small avocado (about 25g) 
1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil, coconut butter, tahini or nut butter like almond or cashew
*Fats are key in helping all the other nutrients be better absorbed so don't leave this part out!

Liquid

About 4-6 oz of plain filtered water, unsweetened almond, hemp or other alternative milk or coconut water (however this can be high in sugar).

Extra Nutrients:

  • 1/2 tsp of adaptogens like ashwaganda, astragalus, he shou wu, maca, reishi or chaga. (great for stress relief, hormone balance and immune boosting).
  • One or two Brazil nuts (great way to get selenium)
  • 1/2 tsp. matcha powder (killer hit of antioxidants)
  • A 1/2 tsp, ceylon cinnamon (helps balance blood sugar)
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice or a big slice of lemon, rind and all (very alkalizing and balancing)
  • A knob of fresh ginger (anti-inflammatory, warming and delicious)
  • A handful of parsley (can help with bloating and is full of antioxidants)
  • Chai spices like cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon (1/4 tsp each or to taste)

Toppings

Cacao nibs, a dollop of coconut yogurt, hemp seeds, a nice sprinkle of granola (I love Purely Elizabeth's  grain-free granolas), a drizzle of nut butter, extra berries (fresh or frozen!), dried goji berries, shredded coconut, bee pollen, sliced fruit like figs, peaches, apples or whatever you have in your kitchen. Lay your toppings on thick - they add texture and flavor and fun!

Play with your favorite combinations or try some of these: 

  • Vanilla protein powder with chai spices and/or a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin for a pumpkin spice smoothie
  • Vanilla or Philosophie Green Dream or Berry Bliss protein powder with matcha and strawberries
  • Chocolate or Philosophie Cacao Magic with almond milk, almond butter and a tsp of chopped almonds on top
  • Vanilla or Philosophie Green Dream protein powder with lemon and lots of blueberries
  • Vanilla or Philosophie Green Dream protein powder with ginger and extra greenness (kale, avocado, green apple, fresh ginger and some spirulina)
  • Chocolate or Cacao magic with frozen cherries and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Chocolate or Cacao Magic with cinnamon and 4-6 oz of cold brew coffee instead of water
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My Favorite Low Sugar Chocolate Mint Green Smoothie Bowl

Serves: 1                                                                                             Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 oz liquid (I use plain filtered water but you could use unsweetened nut milk or coconut milk) 
  • Large handful of leafy greens (I like rainbow chard, stems and all)
  • 1 cup frozen zucchini or cauliflower
  • 1/4 ripe avocado (or 1 tablespoon MCT oil or coconut butter)
  • 1  scoop Ancient Nutrition chocolate protein powder 
  • 1 drop high-quality peppermint essential oil (like doTERRA) or 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 tsp ceylon cinnamon

Optional toppings: Cacao nibs, toasted coconut, sliced almonds or other nuts, hemp seeds, fresh berries, etc. 

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in the blender.
  2. Using the tamper to keep pressing all the ingredients in, blend on high until smooth.
  3. Pour into a bowl, using a spatula to get every last drop.

xo

Lisa