Green monster smoothies have been a staple in my daily breakfast for over eight weeks. Each morning I making a tall glass of green goodness and thoroughly enjoy every last sip. They are filling, extremely good for you, and the fact that my skin is noticeably clearer is a nice little bonus.
The basics are always the same: 1/2 cup kefir, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 Tbsp flax, 1 banana and 1.5 ounces of spinach. For the first four weeks I added 1/2 cup of another fruit (or the whole thing, if it’s small like a plum) and every combination was delicious.
Gradually, my type A smoothie personality has shifted to a type AB. I’m not quite willing to just throw whatever into my smoothie just yet like a full-fledged Type-B smoothie maker, but culinary creativity is starting to show. Here are a few more tried and true combinations. Just add whichever combination that sounds best (or happens to be in the fridge) to the basic recipe.
- Raspberry (1/2 cup frozen or fresh)
- Watermelon (1 cup fresh)
- Pear (1 small)
- Peach Ginger (1 small peach & 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger)
- Apple Ginger (1/2 medium apple & 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger)
- Mango Ginger (1/2 fresh mango & 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger)
- Pear Ginger (1 small pear & 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger)
- Pineapple Ginger (1/2 cup fresh pineapple & 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger)
Let me tell you, the ginger was (and still is) AMAZING!
This process was working well until 4 weeks ago when I started the P90X program. The meal plan associated with this intense workout regimen requires that up to 50% of my calories come from protein (depending on where you are in the program). Instead of following the program exactly as written (because I don’t know if I could even come CLOSE to reaching 140g of protein each day), I’m tweaking it to fit what I’m currently eating, my personal nutritional goals and my budget – starting with the green smoothies.
The basic recipe has 11.5 grams of protein. The typical protein shake has 20 grams or more, and the P90X diet calls for a scoop of protein powder (or the equivalent in a protein bar) at least twice each day.
Is it really necessary to add powdered food just to increase the level of protein?
I’m going to say no, only because there truly are better options available. I’m not saying that protein powder is bad – because I honestly haven’t done any research on them – but there’s just something artificial about adding a scoop of chocolate or vanilla-flavored stuff to my food. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind, but for now, I’m going to try the old fashioned way of getting protein, by simply eating foods that contain more protein.
How can we do this? What foods can I add (besides chicken) to increase the level of protein without sacrificing taste?
Change the Milk
Kefir offers 7g of protein in 1/2 cup. Almond milk offers .5g in 1/2 cup. The first change I can make is to exchange the almond milk for something else – another 1/2 cup kefir, 1/2 cup plain cow’s milk (4g) or 1/2 cup of soymilk (3g) would all be better options. Now that I’m making my own kefir, increasing the amount to 1 cup seems like a logical choice.
Update: I had no idea that Greek yogurt had 6 grams of protein in 1/2 cup! This would be a great combination with kefir too!
Change the Seed
One tablespoon of flax seed offers 1.5 grams of protein. The same amount of pumpkin seeds offers 3.5 grams and sunflower seeds also offer 1.5 grams. Pumpkin seeds aren’t exactly “tasty” in smoothies (trust me), but sunflower seeds are. Although they don’t offer a huge difference in protein, it’s nice to know if flavors need to be altered due to other changes in the recipe.
Change the Fruit
One cup of banana offers 2 grams of protein, but changing this to avocado would offer increase the protein to 3g while still offering a super creamy consistency. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with avocado in smoothies. If you’re a big fan, you’ll probably like it. Guacamole is a must for my fajitas, but not so much for my smoothies. Plus considering the cost, bananas will probably stay put for now.
Up the Vegetable
One cup of spinach has 1 gram of protein. The typical green smoothie calls for two cups of spinach, but this was a bit much for me. My personal preferred spinach is 1 1/2 cups, but if you can handle the extra thickness (and spinachy-ness) of that last 1/2 cup, go for it!
Add a Nut
My current recipe doesn’t call for nuts, but some offer as much protein as milk! One tablespoon of peanut butter has 4 grams and 15 almonds have 4.5 grams. If you have peanuts in the pantry, toss in two hefty tablespoons for almost 5 grams of protein. All of these are good options and would be complimentary to the nutty flavors of flax and sunflower seeds.
Add a Starch
Oatmeal? In smoothies? Believe it or not, it’s pretty tasty! The research on the nutritional benefits of oatmeal led me to add 1/4 to each smoothie. That addition alone added 2.5 grams of protein to the total, not to mention the amazing soluble fiber and adding some “beef” to the smoothie to hold me over to the next meal.
Now this oatmeal has been raw, and this super food can be problematic for some when digested raw, so there is always the option of cooking it first. In fact, using 1/4 cup of oatmeal prepared with milk would increase the protein to 3.5 grams.
This thought led me to consider quinoa too. Rinsed well and prepared with milk, quinoa would add 10 grams of protein for each 1/4 cup!
So then what’s the magical recipe for a high protein smoothie without using protein powder?
Whatever you want it to be! Armed with nutritional facts, you can make your smoothie with as much protein as a shake made with powder, but you’ll be getting the added benefits of the vitamins and minerals of REAL FOOD!
Here’s my new and improved high-protein green smoothie recipe:
1 cup kefir
2 T ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups spinach
1/4 quinoa (prepared with milk)
1 T peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Total Protein: 38 grams
Not only does this exceed the amount of protein in one scoop of protein powder, but it puts a significant dent into the total protein grams for the day. This makes the goal of 140 grams of protein per day much more achievable (albeit still high, lol).