Top 12 Must-Have Ingredients for Your Smoothie Bowl
Smoothie bowls are the latest photogenic breakfast food trend and, luckily, they're also pretty healthy. Usually made up of blended fruits with crunchy granola, nuts, and other fruit, a smoothie bowl is nutrient-dense and a great way to start your day.
Smoothie bowls contain fibre, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and carbohydrates - meaning you will hit quite a lot of the five food groups with this breakfast option. Getting all of these food groups at breakfast is a good way to nourish and awaken your body in the morning.
There are many do's and don't's when it comes to smoothie bowls and you need to get the balance right. This means ensuring you're not adding too many high-calorie toppings while also taking your time to eat your smoothie bowl to allow your stomach enough time to tell your brain it is full.
There are also many ingredients that can be added to a smoothie bowl to make them more nourishing, better for boosting your health, and personal to your tastes. We've gathered a list of what we think are the best ingredients for a smoothie bowl, as well as a few other tips and tricks for creating the most nourishing smoothie bowl.
To find out more about smoothie bowls - keep reading now.
What is a smoothie bowl?
A smoothie bowl is essentially a thick smoothie that is topped off with your choice of nourishing toppings. One of the reasons so many people love smoothie bowls is because of how versatile they are. Whether you want to make a delicious smoothie bowl filled with berries and sweetness or you want to make a healthful green smoothie bowl, there is a recipe out there for you.
To make a smoothie bowl, you first need a very thick smoothie. This is usually done by mixing a decent amount of frozen fruit, like frozen bananas, frozen strawberries, and other frozen berries, with milk, or a non-dairy milk alternative. The smoothie is then topped off with your choice of toppings. Great options for this include granola, nuts and seeds, like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, fresh fruit like fresh strawberries, banana, nut butter, and sweeteners like maple syrup.
How do you structure smoothie bowls?
Now you know what a smoothie bowl is, it's time to learn the best way to structure it.
As the name suggests, a smoothie bowl is mostly smoothie - this means the smoothie goes on the bottom! It is best that the smoothie is very thick so that the toppings will sit atop it neatly. To make sure it is a thick smoothie bowl, you need to mix frozen fruit with milk and water, but you could also add yogurt, protein powder, and other superfood powders. Use less liquid and more fruit for a thicker consistency.
For the best smoothie bowl toppings, we recommend something crunchy, like granola, oats, nuts and seeds, along with something fruity, whether a mix of berries or sliced banana and then top it off with something sweet. Remember not to use too much sweetener and choose sweeteners with nutritional value, like honey and maple syrup, rather than white sugar.
Are smoothie bowls healthy?
Smoothie bowls are healthy when done right. They are a good source of fibre, protein, healthy fats, and carbs and they can up your mineral, vitamin, and antioxidant intake. They're a highly nutritious meal to consume, and they have many benefits for your health. These include:
- Unlike fruit juice, smoothies retain the fibre that the fruit contains meaning you get a good dose whenever you choose a smoothie bowl.
- The fibre of the smoothie bowl is also a great way of making you feel fuller for longer and ensuring that you don't overeat. This is great for healthy weight loss too!
- Superfoods are popular in smoothie bowls and they are packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress and free radical damage, both of which can lead to certain diseases and visible signs of ageing.
- Healthy fats, found in nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are used in the toppings of a smoothie bowl. Healthy fats are very good for heart health. Better heart health can protect you from cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
- Protein is a component of smoothie bowls too and can help with muscle repair as well as giving you energy and helping you stay fuller for longer.
Things to avoid in your smoothie bowls
While smoothie bowls are very healthy, they can also quickly become unhealthy. Many people assume that because it is made up of fruit, a smoothie bowl is always going to be healthy but added sweeteners, too many toppings, and too big portions can make your smoothie bowl unhealthy.
Below is a list of some of the big don't's when it comes to making your smoothie bowl:
- Adding too much fruit - Though fruit is very healthy, adding too much to your smoothie bowl can cause a big spike in blood sugar. Fruits have lots of sugar in them, and while it is naturally occurring, a smoothie can sometimes mean you consume too much too fast. Make sure to stick to small portions of fruit and only use enough to make your smoothie thick. This is one of the reasons people struggle to lose weight even when eating 'healthily' because they are eating too much fruit.
- Using too much of your topping - As with fruit, your toppings can add calories quickly too, this means you need to still follow portion sizing rules to keep the calories down while getting all the nutrition you can. Just because the fat in nut butter is a healthy fat, doesn't mean you can't eat too much of it.
- Removing the skin from fruit - Many people are tempted to do this because they don't like the texture but the skin of fruit actually contains lots of fibre and nutrients. Try leaving it on next time you make your smoothie bowl for more macro and micronutrients.
- Guzzling the smoothie down - Smoothies are super tasty which means you're probably likely to guzzle down your smoothie bowl, but eating slowly gives your brain the time to catch up with your stomach and remind it that it's actually full. Take at least 20 minutes to eat your smoothie bowl.
- Adding high-calorie toppings - Toppings are what make a smoothie bowl but adding too many high-calorie toppings in too high a quantity can actually make your smoothie bowl unhealthy. Pick and choose the best of the best when it comes to your toppings.
- Too many sweeteners - We get it, fruit can sometimes be less than tasty and you may want to add a sweetener to make your smoothie bowl more appetising but adding too many sweeteners and too many of the wrong kinds of sweeteners will up the calories with very little nutrients added. If you're going to use a sweetener, opt for one that has some nutritional value, like honey, maple syrup, or rice syrup, rather than plain white sugar. At least then, your sweetener will add some goodness!
Top 12 ingredients you should have for your smoothie bowl
So, what are the best ingredients for a smoothie bowl? Well, that comes down to you and the kind of smoothie bowl you're making. If your base is berries, you might want to keep the topping simple to not risk adding more sweetness. If you're making a green smoothie bowl, you might want to add a little more flavour in the topping to counteract the relative blandness of the (very healthy) green smoothie.
Though there is no set formula on the kind of ingredients you should put into your smoothie, there are some fantastic options that can go well in a range of bowls. Below we've listed our twelve favourite ingredients to add to smoothie bowls. Check them out now.
Almond milk is one of the lowest-calorie dairy-free milk alternatives out there. It is high in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, some varieties are fortified with vitamin D, it contains other minerals like potassium and calcium, and it is low in sugar if you choose an unsweetened variety.
Almond milk is regularly found in smoothie recipes for its thickening ability and, while it is not a great source of protein, it does add other nutrition to the smoothie.
We like almond milk for low-calorie smoothie bowls, particularly for those who are trying to lose weight in a healthy way. Almond milk works with lots of different fruits and doesn't change the flavour of the smoothie. It is a good alternative if you're looking to replace milk and make your smoothie bowl dairy-free or vegan.
Chia seeds are edible seeds from the mint family and are very high in fibre and antioxidants. They are thought to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Chia seeds make a fantastic addition to your smoothie bowl.
Chia seeds can be added to the smoothie itself or as a topping for a tasty and nutrient-dense addition.
Coconut milk is another great milk alternative that can be added to smoothies. Unlike almond milk, coconut milk contains protein as well as MCTs which are known to support healthy weight loss. Coconut milk could also improve heart health and boost the immune system.
Though coconut milk is good for you, you should stick to portion sizes when adding to your smoothie bowl as this milk alternative is high in fat too.
Maple syrup contains quite a few minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, which are all essential for the body. Though it has nutritional value, maple syrup is first and foremost a sweetener. It is a good option to add to smoothies because, while it is still high in sugar, it can provide some vitamins and minerals alongside this.
Be careful when adding sweeteners to your smoothie bowls to not add too much. While sweetness is good, it can also cause a spike in your blood sugar and could cause you to put on weight.
Strawberries contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, both of which support good digestion. They also contain lots of water, vitamins and minerals. They are particularly high in vitamin C and folate.
The reason we suggest frozen strawberries over fresh strawberries is that they're easier to store, they will last longer than fresh strawberries and will make for a thicker smoothie when blended. Freeze-dried strawberries are a good idea for a topping too!
Bananas are great for energy and for fibre, and they contain lots of vitamins and minerals. As with strawberries, frozen banana is going to add a thicker consistency to your smoothie and it will help to keep you fuller for longer.
Bananas are a great base for a smoothie and work well to make thick consistency smoothies that are required for a smoothie bowl.
For a topping, opt for fresh bananas.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of a range of vitamins and minerals as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are thought to improve heart health, bladder health, prostate health, and are thought to reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer.
Pumpkin seeds are a good topping for a smoothie bowl recipe as they will add that crunch on the top!
Frozen mixed berries
Mixed berries are high in fibre, loaded with antioxidants, can help to fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and are good for your skin health. A smoothie made with frozen mixed berries will add all of this nutrition to your smoothie bowl and make for a tasty treat at breakfast.
With vitamin E, selenium and a whole tonne of other plant compounds that help to prevent disease, sunflower seeds are the hero you need atop your smoothie bowl. Thought to reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, the added crunch is only the beginning of the benefits of sunflower seeds on your smoothie bowl.
Almond butter contains lots of healthy unsaturated fat that will give you the boost you need in the morning. This kind of healthy fat is required in a balanced diet and is good for heart health. Add almond butter into your smoothie base or as a topping.
Vanilla protein powder
Looking to start your day with an energy boost? Add a protein powder to your smoothie bowl.
Protein powder is a good addition to your bowl as it can help with energy levels as well as muscle repair. This is a good option if you're recovering from a workout the night before.
And finally, peanut butter.
With lots of protein and high levels of nutrients, peanut butter is a good ingredient in your smoothie base though caution should be taken with the portion size as peanut butter contains saturated fats.
Smoothie bowls are a great way to start your day. Nutrient-dense and packed full of the good stuff, they're the healthy and photogenic option you need to brighten your morning. Try out different recipes, including the ingredients we have listed here, to find your favourite now!
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you put in a smoothie bowl?
A smoothie bowl is made up of a base smoothie, usually a thick consistency smoothie, and is then topped with other ingredients. We recommend adding a topping with a bit of crunch and some fresh fruit. Good topping choices include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, fresh banana slices, and nut butter.
What ingredients should I put in my smoothie?
Your smoothie can be made up in lots of different ways. For a nutritious green smoothie, add spinach, kale, lettuce and almond milk with superfood powders like wheatgrass and spirulina. For a sweet and tasty smoothie, try banana and strawberry with coconut milk. You can also add protein powders to your smoothies and nut butter for added protein and healthy fats.
What makes a smoothie bowl thick?
Thicker smoothies are usually made with less liquid and frozen fruit. You could also add protein powder to your smoothie to make it thicker and some people add yogurt in place of milk. A smoothie in a smoothie bowl needs to be thick so that the toppings do not sink and become soggy. If your smoothie is thin, try adding a frozen banana or a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Are smoothie bowls actually healthy?
Smoothie bowls are healthy if done correctly. To make sure your smoothie bowl remains healthy, there are a few things you should avoid. These include:
- Adding too much fruit, as it will increase the sugar content
- Using too many sweeteners, especially sweeteners with no nutritional value
- Ignoring portion sizes on high-calorie toppings
- Removing the skin from the fruit as this is where most nutrients are stored