Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian
Smoothies are a great topic to chat about because they can involve ingredients from all the major food groups, they’re convenient and easy to make, as well as being both nutritious and delicious. In today’s blog I’ll cover how they can help you meet your dietary guidelines in certain food groups as well as providing a few recipe ideas to get you started if you like the idea.
When we look at the Australian Dietary Guidelines (for Adults) which are designed to show us how to eat best for health and wellbeing, some people find it tricky to include all the serves from all of the five food groups:
- Vegetables and legumes/beans – 5-6 serves per day
- Fruit – 2 serves per day
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal varieties – 3-6 serves per day
- Proteins – lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/bean – 2-3 serves per day
- Dairy (Milk, yogurt, cheese) and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat – 2.5-4 serves per day
I should point out here in the beginning that it’s also important not to exceed those recommendations, especially if you’re watching your weight, so understanding your energy needs is important. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because something is healthy you can eat as much of it as you like! We need to balance our energy intake with our nutritional requirements for good health. The National Medical Health and Research Council (NHMRC) reminds us: “Energy is not a nutrient but is required in the body for metabolic processes, physiological functions, muscular activity, heat production, growth and synthesis of new tissues”.
So, unless you’re an athlete who needs to gain muscle density or are generally malnourished, I do not recommend adding protein powers and the like to your smoothies. Just use fresh ingredients and you’ll have everything you need. You can read more about our energy requirements in the blog I wrote last week: ‘Energy In/Energy Out – understanding how much you need and where you get it’ and more about the benefits of low-GI foods here which are also a great selling point for smoothies, especially those made on dairy or soy milk alternatives.
In terms of convenience, all you need for a smoothie is quality ingredients and a blender of some sort. I use a stick blender to save on washing up, but any kind will do. They take only between 5-10 minutes to make, so are perfect for people in a rush trying to get the nutrients and energy they need. Perfect too for those who say they can’t do breakfast as there’s not enough time, and they can be consumed on the run (although I wouldn’t recommend that if you can avoid it). They can replace a meal if you’re in a hurry, and are perfect as a snack too.
Meeting your nutrient needs
Many people find the areas that are hardest to include are the vegetables, fruit and dairy and smoothies are perfect to boost those areas. Proteins can also be included in the form of nuts and seeds which are highly nutritious, but watch those portion sizes as they’re also high in energy. (I wouldn’t advise using raw eggs due to related health safety concerns.) Including grains such as oats and quinoa flakes are another good option.
Low fat milk based smoothies (1 cup = 1 dairy serve) made with fresh fruit and berries can create a delicious snack that provides a serve from two groups, and if you use berries you can even minimise the carb serves to about one serve. If you choose frozen fruit, your smoothie becomes a frozen smoothie – so great for afternoon tea on a hot day.
Many people use vegetables such as spinach, kale, tomato and others to boost their vegetable intake, which is actually a very sensible idea if you’re struggling with so many serves and you understand the fabulous health benefits that come from including a variety of plant-based foods, remembering there are over 3000 different plant (phyto) nutrients!!
Helen Edwards, wrote a blog recently on a “pick me up, guilt free, chocolate, banana, blueberry, walnut smoothie”! This one covers dairy, fruit, and protein food groups.
Smoothie Recipe ideas
My favourite online recipe sites are those that include nutrient values with their recipes, so we can keep track of both our carbohydrate numbers and our overall energy intake numbers.
My first call is always the Australian Healthy Food Guide because all their recipes are dietitian approved. Here I found The Breakfast Super Smoothie – loving their tip to turn breakfast into a lunch-time treat: pour smoothie into a drink bottle, freeze overnight and pack it into your child’s lunch box. It’s a little high in carbs for those aiming for 2-3 serves at breakfast, but you could just make a smaller serving or cut some of the juice, oats or the honey out of it.
Australia’s Taste.com.au is another great site for recipes that offers the nutrient values too. They had loads of smoothie recipes, so I chose a veggie-based one to share with you – great to use when you feel that you haven’t had enough of your vegetable serves. Doesn’t this sound yummy?? – Carrot, beetroot, apple and celery juice. And only 34g of carbohydrates 🙂
There are masses of smoothie recipes around, so try a few out and see how you go.
Wishing you all a wonderful, safe and happy festive season! 🙂
Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.