If you’ve visited a trendy café recently or been scrolling through your favourite foodie Instagram accounts, you might have noticed that smoothie bowls (and close cousin the acai bowl) are pretty popular right now – and for good reason.
Decadent and packed full of nutrients, smoothie bowls are the perfect way to start your day or give you a delicious boost, while also providing a great opportunity to get creative in the kitchen.
But with so many different flavours and toppings available, it can be hard to know where to start, and what ingredients to choose to maximise the health benefits (and minimise the guilt!).
To help you out, we talked to an expert nutritionist to get top tips on how to create amazing smoothie bowls that are not only delicious, but good for you too.
Watch your portions
As their name suggests, smoothie bowls are a smoothie you eat with a spoon rather than drink through a straw, and frozen fruit is a great way to create a thick and frosty base.
Frozen banana is a key ingredient in many smoothie bowl recipes that not only helps create a creamy texture, but also delivers essential nutrients like vitamins C and B6, folate and potassium.
But bananas are also relatively high in sugar, and if you combine them with other high-sugar ingredients, you may see the sugar levels in your smoothie bowl skyrocket.
Nicole Dynan, accredited practising dietitian and owner of The Good Nutrition Co. in Sydney, says when it comes to creating a healthy smoothie bowl, portion control is key.
“The guidelines suggest we should have two serves of fruit per day, which might be a medium banana and a small punnet of berries,” Nicole says.
“Out of the fruits, mangoes and bananas are quite high in sugar. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have them, but if there’s a whole mango in there as well as a banana, that’s already your two serves of fruit for the day and could be quite a big sugar hit at one time.”
Go green with your veggies
Along with fruits, vegetables – especially the green variety – are a great way to ensure your smoothie bowl packs a nutrient punch.
Leafy green veggies like spinach, silverbeet and super-trendy kale are some of the most nutrient-dense foods around. They contain essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, which is important for healthy eyes and skin, and iron, which helps transport oxygen in the blood.
Research has found this group of vegetables may even help to keep your brain young.
Nicole says avocado – while actually a fruit and not a vegetable as many people believe – is another great green to add to your smoothie bowl mix.
“As well as being high in antioxidants, avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect against heart disease.”
Don’t go overboard on protein
While some people like to add protein powder to their smoothie bowls, Nicole says unless you’re using non-dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk, it’s probably not necessary.
“Your body can really only use 20 to 25 grams of protein in one sitting, so if you’re using cow’s milk or soy milk plus yoghurt, nuts and seeds, that would likely be adequate protein,” she says.
“Non-dairy-based milks other than soy are quite low in protein, so that’s potentially where a protein powder or other source of protein like silken tofu could be useful.”
Boost with herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are a great way to add extra flavour and colour to your smoothie bowl, while also boosting its nutritional goodness.
For example, garnishing your smoothie bowl with mint not only provides a burst of freshness, but also adds antioxidants and may help relieve indigestion.
When it comes to spices, cinnamon is often used to add extra sweetness, which has the added benefit of containing flavonoids that help fight inflammation.
Nicole says turmeric is another spice that can really supercharge your smoothie bowl.
“Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Sprinkle with seeds and nuts
One of the best things about smoothie bowls is adding some toppings, and this is where you can really let your creativity shine.
From coconut flakes and granola to extra fruit and even dark chocolate, the options are endless and limited only by your imagination (or Instagram inspiration!).
When it comes to really giving your body a boost though, Nicole says there’s one topping that’s well worth considering.
“Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is an essential fatty acid. We actually need to get these from our diet as our body can’t make them,” she says.
However, as with everything, Nicole says moderation is key.
“If you top your smoothie bowl with a tablespoon or two of seeds or nuts, that is probably going to be your recommended 30 gram serve for the day.”