I’m perhaps the biggest evangelist for a green smoothie breakfast. Smoothies take less than five minutes to make and they’re the best way to eat more vegetables before noon than most people eat all week. Because of my fervent passion for my morning green shake, I often find myself in the position of solving people’s smoothie-based hangups—the most frequent of which I hear is, “I’m always still hungry after eating a smoothie!”
Yes, smoothies can you leave you feeling hungry, but no—they absolutely don’t have to. The secret is filling your smoothie with a heaping amount of greens, a good amount of healthy fat, and enough protein to turn off your hunger hormones and keep your blood sugar super stable well past noon. For protein, I tend to eschew protein powders and reach for more whole-food smoothie add-ins. Here are my five favorites.
1. Hulled hemp hearts
Hulled hemp hearts are top of my protein list—each tablespoons packs 9 grams of complete protein in plant-based form. Hemp hearts are also rich in healthy omega-3 fats, which help your body fight inflammation and further encourage satiety. From a culinary perspective, I love adding hemp to smoothies because they become super creamy—if you blend hemp hearts and water, you get hemp milk, so when you add hemp hearts and water to your smoothie, the effect is as if you’d blended in milk. Beyond the creamy texture, the flavor is fairly neutral, making hemp hearts an ideal addition to almost any smoothie.
2. Nut butter
A smoothie bar staple, nut butters also make my list, although because they’re more expensive, I reach for them less often. I like to keep an almond, cashew, and peanut on hand—beyond making a smoothie super creamy and thick, they also add a rich, almost-dessert like flavor that makes them taste extra decadent. Because of the more pronounced flavor, I reserve nut butters for smoothies that highlight the nut butter, like Chocolate Peanut Butter or a Cardamom Strawberry Cashew.
Like hemp hearts, chia seeds offer a one-two punch of protein (4 grams per one ounce serving) healthy fat in the form of omega-3s (5 grams per one ounce serving). Their real power, though, is in their fiber content—a whopping 11 grams per serving. It’s no wonder that famed doctor Terry Wahls, M.D. named them as one of her favorite constipation-busting foods! Chia thickens smoothies quite a bit (think chia pudding), so when I use it, I avoid or go light on other thickening ingredients like banana, cauliflower, and avocado.
Shelled pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have 7 grams of protein per one-ounce serving, alongside a whole host of other nutrients, including 30 percent of the RDI of manganese and magnesium. Magnesium is a powerful mineral that many of us are deficient in, and adding more of it to your diet is a great way to help manage stress and anxiety. Like hemp seeds, pepitas offer a lovely creamy quality to smoothies, although they have a slightly more toasty, nutty flavor. I like to pair them with cacao-based, chocolatey smoothies and some spices (a pepita-spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate smoothie is my favorite blend).
The only non-plant-based protein option on this list, collagen earns its spot through its mega quantity of protein and myriad other health benefits. One 20 gram serving contains a whopping 18 grams of protein, the vast majority of which is comprised from various amino acids that play a role in aiding joint health, helping skin elasticity, and contributing to a healthy digestive system. Because collagen is an animal product, it’s important to be particular about sourcing, and only purchase from suppliers whose products are grass-fed and third-party certified. A good quality collagen will taste completely neutral, and won’t change the flavor or texture of your smoothie in any noticeable way.