Kara’s Real Food Smoothie Bowl
Smoothies have long been known as an excellent way to increase daily fruit and vegetable intake and for good reason. You can pack a ton of produce in the blender and make a delicious, kid-friendly and completely versatile treat!
I’ve recently been intrigued by its close cousin: the smoothie bowl.
Sometimes referred to as an acai bowl (at least at local San Diego restaurants), a smoothie bowl is a thickly made smoothie topped with fresh fruit and granola.
I love this idea because as much as I like smoothies, I actually prefer chewing my meals. Eating the solid food on top provides more satisfaction than just drinking my breakfast. I’m not hunting around for something to eat afterwards is what I’m saying.
Sounds simple enough, right?
That’s what I thought until I started looking up recipes.
What I’m about to say might ruffle some feathers, but please hear me out as I’m about to jump on my dietitian soapbox for a second.
Nearly every smoothie recipe I come across on the Internet includes protein powder or some combination of so-called superfoods like chia seeds, acai, flaxseed, hemp seeds, turmeric, maca, spirulina, or microalgae.
Guess what? I don’t have these ingredients in my kitchen and they aren’t on my weekly shopping list, either.
Now, there is probably nothing wrong with these foods and they might even offer some health benefits, but supplements and powders are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there’s that.
I also prefer to consume real foods instead of expensive protein powders and supplements.
The handful of smoothie bowl recipes that I found without protein powders consisted purely of fruits, vegetables and almond milk, which provides almost no protein at all. This is a recipe for a sugar spike and hunger.
My search left me disappointed and determined to create my own version of this trendy menu item with a balance of carbohydrate, fat and protein with real food ingredients.
I have to hand it to the Internet, though: The Pinterest photos of smoothie bowls are truly stunning, and I am certainly not attempting to win any creativity contests.
My aim here is to show you that it is possible to make a delicious, fruit & veggie-packed, protein-rich smoothie bowl.
With ingredients that you are absolutely familiar with.
½ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I prefer full-fat)
½ Cup Frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
Large handful of spinach (I buy a container of fresh spinach and store it in the freezer)
¼ Cup Water
1 small banana
¼ Cup Granola (preferably homemade- I use this one)
Step 1: Scoop Greek yogurt into blender. This is your protein source! Greek yogurt has a much higher protein content than regular yogurt. With calcium and no added sugars, this is the way to go. Dairy gets a bad rap, but unless you have a true dairy allergy, there is hardly a reason to choose a protein powder over Greek yogurt.
About the blender: Vitamix seems to be the gold standard, but we’ve been using a Ninja from Costco for years, and it works great. We probably don’t know what we’re missing!
Step 2: Add frozen berries. Here you’re getting fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals
Step 3: Add handful of spinach and avocado. Spinach provides an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Folate and Fiber while avocado serves as the heart healthy fat source (and makes the smoothie super creamy!)
Step 4: Add just a bit of water and blend. You want to end up with a fairly thick consistency, kind of like ice cream. Keep the blender on and add water, a little at a time, through the spout, being careful not to add too much.
Step 5: Pour Smoothie into serving bowl. You’re almost there!
Step 6: Slice banana on top. This is your main carbohydrate source. You could definitely switch this up and blend a frozen banana into the smoothie and layer fresh berries on top, but my taste buds happen to prefer a berry smoothie with firm, barely ripe banana slices. There is room for personal interpretation here!
Step 7: Use measuring cup to layer granola on top. Store bought granola is absolutely fine if you don’t have homemade. The key here is the portion-control. Granola is made of oats and high-calorie nuts and seeds, which provides healthy fats, magnesium, and iron, but you only need a small amount. I keep a ¼ cup measuring scoop hooked onto my granola canister for foolproof portioning.
The granola I use contains almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, and unsweetened coconut. Because it is made with honey, vanilla, and butter, it offers just enough sweet for my taste! I can get away with plain Greek yogurt when topped with fresh fruit and this granola.
So, there you have it! A beautiful, delicious, balanced meal with simple ingredients you probably have on hand already.