By peoplestaff225
Updated December 03, 2020 01:56 PM
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Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of ten best-selling books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

There’s a difference between your average sugary smoothie and meal-replacement-worthy blended breakfasts. There are plenty of pitfalls in Smoothie-land, so let me pass along my top tips.

Fruit: Good news! You don’t need to labor over a cutting board chopping up fresh fruit first thing in the morning. Frozen fruit is just as nutritious, and the texture is even better for blended beverages. Dark sweet pitted cherries, peach slices and mixed berries are a few of my favorites. Just be sure to get the unsweetened versions, and thaw ’em slightly before adding to your blender — that’ll make them easier to blend.

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Greens: Veggies are a great way to bulk up your smoothie’s serving size for very few calories, and they add fiber. Plus, this is a smart way to sneak vegetables into your diet. Done right, you can barely taste ’em. If you’re new to the world of veggie drinking, start with the mild stuff, like spinach and cucumbers. So refreshing! Then work your way up to more intense greens, like kale. Mint also makes an excellent addition to a fruity smoothie.

Protein: Fat-free Greek yogurt adds creamy texture and SO MUCH protein. Plus, the slightly tart flavor is a nice way to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. I also LOVE vanilla protein powder — such a great pantry staple. Look for options with around 100 calories per serving; there are so many kinds out there, made from whey, soy, and even pea protein. (Quest and Tera’s Whey make some of my faves.)

Liquid: Don’t ruin an otherwise healthy smoothie by sloshing in sugary juice or another beverage with a lot of calories. Most of the time, water is totally sufficient. If you want to make it creamier, use unsweetened vanilla almond milk or light vanilla soy milk.

Sweetener: My advice? Taste your smoothie before adding any sweetener… You might not even need it. If you do, I’d go for a natural no-calorie sweetener, like stevia.

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Ice: Okay, duh, but it’s worth mentioning. Get yourself some GOOD ice … crushed or cubed. If your blender doesn’t take kindly to big ice cubes, whack them in a baggie with a meat mallet (carefully, of course!).

Optional extras: Want to add a peanut butter kick to your smoothie? Add a couple of spoonfuls of powdered peanut butter, a.k.a. defatted peanut flour, for about 50 calories. Looking for a flavor boost for nearly no calories? Hit your pantry for dry spices (hi, cinnamon!) and extracts (coconut, please!). How about some added fiber and thickness? A tablespoon of chia seeds may be just what you need — only about 60 calories. Get creative!

‘Til next time … Chew the right thing!