Maybe you resolved back in January to get a healthier start to your day. And you thought that a smoothie might be your answer to a quick, nutritious breakfast before heading to work. Once you’re seated at your desk, though, your stomach is sounding off with monstrous rumbles the entire office can hear. Yes, this is lowkey embarrassing—but really, it’s just annoying. Because didn’t you just have breakfast?
Here’s the truth: Not all smoothies are created equal. And not all smoothies should be considered breakfast. But there are ways to make smoothies both good-tasting and filling enough to last you through the morning.
To find out how, I spoke to a few experts who told me that feeling full involves a myriad of mental and physical cues. Still, certain foods are known to promote a feeling of fullness, and the difference between a smoothie you’d have with breakfast and a smoothie you’d have for breakfast comes down to three primary factors.
If fullness is what you’re after, then fiber is key. Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach Mia Rigden says, “High fiber foods tend to make us feel fuller longer because they digest more slowly.” And luckily, you probably already have great fiber sources in your kitchen. Those old-fashioned rolled oats sitting in your pantry pack about five grams of fiber per serving. You can throw them into your smoothie raw, or soak them in water for a smoother texture. If you’re the over-achieving type, soak them in almond or coconut milk for added depth, like Anna Stockwell does for this super green smoothie bowl.
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And those apples sitting on your counter? They do double duty in smoothies by bringing fiber and natural sweetness. According to Rigden, using fruits to naturally sweeten your smoothies is the way to go—they’ll help fight two things: a spike in blood sugar and an afternoon crash. Putting a chopped apple in your smoothie adds up to about five grams of fiber—just make sure to leave the skin on.
To get an even bigger bang for your buck, toss in a few pitted dates, which add seven grams of fiber per serving and have a highly concentrated sweetness, so you won’t need to add honey or other sweeteners later.
Liz Moody, author of Healthier Together, says she often reaches for a few big handfuls of greens. “I like to pack in as many vegetables as possible,” she says. “My smoothie base is a mix of greens you can find at any grocery store—you get a ton of fiber from them.”
Pack in the Protein
Roughage isn’t the only thing that can help your smoothie’s staying power. To make an actually-filling smoothie, you need protein, too. Studies show that protein contributes more to sensations of fullness than fat or carbohydrates do, because it reduces levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), while boosting the levels of peptide YY (a hormone that makes you feel full).