Smoothies have the ability to fast track nutrients into your body and fill you up in just a matter of sips. By opting for nutrient-dense, protein-packed, fiber-rich, and low-calorie ingredients, you'll be able to fortify your body with the fuel it needs to burn fat, build muscle and control wacky cravings.
So, dust off your blender, skip the local smoothie joint, and start whipping up your own belly busting drinks by adding these powerhouse ingredients to your shopping list. And to lose even more weight—up to 16 pounds in 14 days!—click here to discover The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever!
Native to Peru, Maca has been touted as a superfood credited with enhancing energy, stamina, memory, and fertility. While maca isn't calorie free, it could be your ticket to more efficient workouts. "I would recommend starting out with about half of a teaspoon and work up to about a tablespoon. People find that it gives them a nice buzz without having any caffeine content. Because it's great for energy and stamina I use it a lot with athletes as a pre-workout," says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. The more energy have and the longer you last at the gym, the more calories you're going to burn overall.
Energy levels dictate more than just your mood, they also heavily influence your food choices throughout the day and your ability to actually make it to the gym. "If someone is looking for a boost of energy I might recommend a matcha powder. There's more caffeine in it than regular green tea because it's the whole leaf ground up, but it's also a great source of antioxidants and is virtually calorie-free," says Smith. Match is also one of our favorite ingredients around here at Eat This, Not That! because of its weight loss super powers. It's one of the most popular teas in Kelly Choi's bestselling book, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse—which is why test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
You don't have to wait for Fall to reap the waist-whittling benefits of this super squash. "Pumpkin contains some fiber and is a good source of beta-carotene and potassium, which is an electrolyte [important for proper muscle function]. Remember that pumpkin is not a "free food", but you can think of it as making up half of your fruit portion in your smoothie," says Smith. Stick with unsweetened canned pumpkin and blend with a third of a banana for starters. From there try adding things like cinnamon and greek yogurt for a tasty, filling and diet-friendly shake.
These unassuming seeds boast high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, are a rich source of antioxidants called lignans and also serve up a nice dose of fiber. What's more? A Harvard University study linked the consumption of flaxseed to a 37 percent increase in weight loss. Keep a bag of ground flaxseed in your fridge and add a spoonful to shakes to help melt away the pounds. Why ground? Because you get more nutrition from them that way; learn more amazing tips like that with our exclusive report on How to Prepare Food to Get the Most Nutrition!
When you want to lose weight it would benefit you greatly to turn to fiber-rich foods because they fill you up and help kill off junk food cravings. These small seeds pack a hefty 11 grams in a quaint two tablespoons. Chia is also what's called a hydrophilic food, which means they soak up water—and a lot of it, too! Chia seeds expand to 10 times their size when emerged in liquid, so adding them to your shake will keep your belly full, your appetite squashed, and your silhouette svelte.
Clean Protein Powder
Supplementing with a clean protein powder, free of any artificial additives is a good way to pump up the fullness factor of your shake—just be weary of how much you're using. "Smoothies can be an awesome way to get nutrients, but they can also be a heavy hitter for calories. It's especially important to understand how to order a smoothie out. I suggest that you follow the same rules and regulations that you do when you're making it at home," says Smith. So when you head to the juice bar for your post-workout recovery shake, don't be afraid to ask to see the container the protein comes in or to ask about specific proportions.
Vegan Protein Powder
"Always include one protein or one healthy fat in your smoothies. For protein try a plant-based protein powder or a very clean whey protein—Greek yogurt counts as well," says Smith. Not only will protein contribute to satiety, but it will also assist in muscle growth and repair and encourage greater calorie burning as a result. Plant-based protein powders are a good option if you have a more sensitive stomach. Whether you want the best plant-based or best animal-based protein powders, make our Best and Worst Protein Powders your guide to shopping for what's right for you!
"Some superfoods can be calorie laden and some can contain none at all, [so be mindful of what and how much you're adding in]. Some of my favorite calorie free choices are things like cinnamon or turmeric—both which are very anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants which are very healthy for you," says Smith. Cinnamon helps boost the flavor and nutritional profile of your smoothie, without any added calories or sugar, making it easy for your to stay on track with your diet.
You may be used to spooning ooey-gooey oatmeal in your mouth for breakfast, but start making this fiber-rich staple a regular in your blending routine. No need to cook them up—dump rolled oats straight into your blender with the rest of your ingredients for a thick shake that will keep you full and energy steady thanks to the fiber found in oats. For non-smoothie oats inspo, try any of these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes!
"Turmeric is the active ingredient in curry but it's virtually flavorless, so you can mix it with anything. It's great for your joints and can help regulate blood sugar," says Smith. When you're blood sugar is stable you won't experience drastic highs and lows in energy, and as a result, will make healthier, more waist-friendly food choices, so don't shy away from this brightly hued spice.
Whether you have a thing for almond, peanut, walnut or cashew butter it doesn't matter, they all offer a boost of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study from the University of South Australia, a diet rich in omega-3 fats combined with regular exercise can help you lose more weight than just exercise alone. Just don't go overboard with your scoops. Smith advises a maximum two tablespoons of nuts or nut butters in your drinks because they are considered a calorie-dense food. Check out these 20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin for more helpful advice about nut butters, avocado, oils, and more!
By now it should be clear that if you want to rid yourself of unwanted pounds you've got to rid your diet of unnecessary sugar and calories, and when it comes to smoothies using juice as a liquid base is a big no-no. That's why it's best to stick to liquids like water or low-sugar almond milk when blending. "You want to buy unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and also bear in mind that if you make your own almond milk the calories will be higher because the process is different from how they manufacture it," says Smith.
When you're looking for simple ways to lose weight, you can never have too many veggies—they're low in calories and high in nutrients that help your body function at its highest level. "Always try to add a vegetable or two to smoothies. There's no limit on how many veggies you can put in," says Smith. Spinach is one of the best green options for smoothies because its flavor is less pronounced than other veggies, and it also blends up nicely in shakes so you won't be sipping any green chunks through your straw.
Ginger may be the ultimate upset stomach remedy, but thanks to its soothing powers it also can enhance your weight loss efforts. Adding fresh ginger into smoothies not only will give your drink a kick and disguise any bitter greens, but it will help your body digest the foods you're gulping down. By aiding digestion, ginger helps your body absorb more nutrients and makes your healthy efforts more pleasant overall. It's also a low-calorie way to really enhance the taste of your drink and is especially nice when paired with lemon juice.
Bananas are a smoothie mainstay, but frozen bananas specifically can take your smoothie game to the next level. When blended frozen, bananas turn your shake into a super creamy and thick indulgent shake—and when something tastes great you're more likely to continue eating it. Just be sure to stick to one banana or less to keep calories and sugar under wraps. "I always tell clients to stick with one serving of fruit and when you're ordering out find out how much of that item is in there. For example, I ordered a smoothie out that was very delicious but later I found out that there were three bananas in there and it was nowhere on the label," says Smith. Love bananas? Then you'll love finding out these 21 Amazing Things Bananas Do To Your Body!
Smith emphasizes the importance of fat and fiber to encourage greater satiety, and avocados are rich in both. Avocado is a particularly great source of monounsaturated fats, and a study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that a diet rich in these types of fats may actually help spot reduce belly fat by regulating the expression of certain fat genes. Smith suggests sticking to one-third of an avocado in shakes to keep calories under control while still getting those filling nutrients.
It may seem underwhelming, but using water as your liquid base in smoothies can help you cut down on serious calories and sugar in place of popular juices or milk. It will also kick up the hydration factor of your blend, too. Don't worry about a watered-down flavor either, because if you're adding in all the good stuff—fruits, veggies and creamy nut butters—you won't even notice the substitution.
If you're not one for powdered protein, then turn to this creamy, protein-packed, probiotic powerhouse to get your fill of the nutrient. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those following a low-calorie diet richer in protein gained more muscle and lost more fat than those consuming a low-calorie diet low in protein. Thanks to its creamy, thick texture, Greek yogurt will also transform your shakes into more of an indulgence .
Popular in traditional Chinese medicine due to its high antioxidant content, goji berries have found their way into modern day kitchens of the health-conscious. Though they've been touted as an immunity-booster and as a kind of "fountain of youth" for aging skin, goji berries are a perfect smoothie add-in because they are lower in sugar and a good source of fiber. Spring for goji powder or soak up the berries in water first, then blend. The tang will satisfy your sweet tooth and the fiber will help fill you up and keep you regular. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that consuming goji berry juice regularly can increase general feelings of well-being and happiness.
Acai is another favorite superfood among the svelte and weight-conscious because it's naturally lower in sugar than other fruits and has a taste that's reminiscent of red wine mixed with notes of chocolate. Acai can easily be found in the frozen section sold in small portioned out packets, which are easy to tear open and toss in the blender. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that acai is easily absorbed by the body when consumed as a juice or pulp, which means that you will effectively retain more of the nutrients from the antioxidant-rich fruit. Find out the 15 Most Antioxidant-Packed Fruits & Veggies—Ranked!
Raw Cocoa Powder
Chocolate may actually help you lose weight—yes, help you!—and there's research to prove it. Minimally processed cocoa is low in sugar and loaded with antioxidants and a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the flavanols in chocolate may help reduce body fat. "When choosing a raw cocoa powder you want to look at the label and check how processed it is. The more processed it is, the more ingredients it will have. It will say raw if it hasn't been heated, which is what you want so you get more benefits of the cocoa bean," says Smith
Introducing oils into your diet can be tricky because not all are created equal nor are they by any means low in calories, however, it would benefit your waist to keep coconut oil stocked at all times. "I use a teaspoon of coconut oil in my smoothies. It's kind of sweet and not super strong, and there is some fairly good research on coconut oil being beneficial to thyroid health in small amounts. It also counts as a fat, so it can help keep blood sugar more steady," says Smith. A healthy thyroid and steady blood sugar can both assist greatly in weight loss efforts. Don't know a ton about coconut oil? Find out Why Everyone is Obsessed with Coconut Oil!