Who hates scraping bits from the blender after making a smoothie? Busy, active people need healthy fruit, veggie, and protein mixes that are easier to make – and to clean up.
“Smoothies are not my deal,” Ashley Ellis, RDN, a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition, eating disorders, and gut health for Essential Nutrition in Boulder, Colorado, tells us. “I just hate cleaning the blender, so I really experience this in my own personal life.”
Instead, Ellis employs a variety of easy, no-measure, no-mess alternatives that might work for you, too.
Another smoothie alternative is fridge-friendly soaking oats, ancient grains, and seeds. Start with your favorite dry base: old-fashioned oats will set up with a chewier texture, while the steel-cut variety will maintain more crunch, but also deliver a little more fiber and protein.
You’ll have to play with the ratio, but next cover your grains with a wholesome soaking liquid like almond or cashew milk, which contain the most protein, followed by coconut and rice milk. The benefits of non-dairy milks are a longer fridge life, but always choose the unsweetened kind or you’ll quickly add sugar where you don’t want it.
Then stir in any ingredients that soak well. Try keeping a combo container of energy-sustaining chia and hemp seeds (which contain nine essential amino acids) right in the fridge. Soaking activates full nutrients in both, and it’s easy to add to your overnight container.
You can also add healthy nuts (almonds are awesome) and seeds (pumpkin are well-rounded), plus fresh or dried fruits like tart cherries or coconut flakes, depending on your tastes. Simply stir together ingredients in one container and pop it in the fridge so it’s ready to go in the morning, cleanup free.
If you want protein powder for an extra boost, be sure to add that in the AM, as powders don’t take to soaking. Ellis’ natural, stomach-friendly favorites for taste and texture are EAS, Muscle Milk, BiPro, Vega One, and RAW by Garden of Life, all high in protein and low in sugar.
Her rule of thumb is to look for the National Sports Foundation (NSF) blue circle on packaging. “They’re a third-party tester that deems products safe for athletes, so you can feel it’s safe enough for you,” she says.
The only drawback to soak-and-go oats is people get burned out, says Ellis. “So you have to get creative with things like apple slices and cinnamon so it tastes like apple pie, or what I call the ‘tropical storm,’ with pineapple and coconut, or a kiwi-strawberry mix. If you’re keeping the same base, you’ve got to change up the flavors.”
The Protein Bowl
“These bowls are how I get through my long counseling days, when I have to be out the door at 6 a.m. and may not have a break until 1 p.m.,” says Ellis, a runner and cyclist. “I especially notice that burning hole of hunger on my back-to-back long days, so I take a container and snack on it throughout the morning.”
She suggests loading a to-go bowl with a sweet or savory protein base—Greek yogurt, acai powder, avocado, powdered peanut butter, or, her favorite, cottage cheese. Choose full-fat options for any dairy bases, she says. “Take it in its most natural form. If we remove the fat, we are often adding sugars and salts.”
Then add dried or fresh toppings, depending on how much time you have or what’s on hand. Ellis recommends magnesium-loaded raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which pack a lot of punch, or hardier walnuts and pecans to bulk up your bowl.
Ground flax seeds, wheat bran, and protein powder are other mixers that can customize the bowl to your nutritional needs. Then throw on any small, contained fruits like blueberries or ones you can slice quickly, like strawberries.
“It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Every grocery has a good bulk section now,” Ellis says. “So throw your dried ingredients into containers and take a handful of each in the morning.”
More Smoothie-Ditching Tips
1. If you’ll miss the convenience of drinking your nutrients, experiment with ingredients that mix together in a to-go smoothie shaker, rather than a full blender.
2. When in doubt, add more nuts and seeds. These energy-dense little wonders pack in fiber and protein without the mess.
3. Need more greens? Try a green veggie powder base or pureed baby spinach, which will give you the goods without the grit of kale.
4. If you add greens, remember to balance that bite with something acidic, like applesauce or mushed berries.
5. Nutritional oil is another quick, healthy additive to bowls or shakes. Ellis recommends Barlean’s Total Omega. “I add it to berries, yogurt, oatmeal, even toast,” she says. “It adds almost no taste,” and no unpleasant textures or consistencies.
6. Keep little baggies of dried nuts, seeds and fruits at your desk at work to add to any base you keep on hand in the office fridge.
7. When in a bind, add some vanilla protein powder to your afternoon iced coffee.
8. Watch your fat, protein and carb combinations. “Ice, almond milk, and a banana might fill you up, but that’s not giving you enough nutrition,” says Ellis.
9. On the flip side, remember fats are generally double the calories of carbs. “You might have just added 1,000 calories without realizing it,” Ellis says.
10. In cooler weather, mix up your protein bowl with a warm base, such as hot quinoa or buckwheat groats.