The Perfect Meal-Replacement Smoothies

Want to make a healthy meal in under 90 seconds? Grab a blender and get to work.

March 3, 2014
meal replacement smoothie
Marija Neuwirth / EyeEm/Getty Images

A blender: Most of us have one already, but what do we use it for? Maybe a milkshake every month or so, or perhaps some frozen margaritas when it's hot out. Well, guess what? This underappreciated kitchen gadget can be an indispensable part of getting you back on the road to wellness (and hotness) again.

More: Jessica Simpson's Trainer Harley Pasternak Spills Her Fab Leg Workout


Blending is one of the quickest, most convenient ways to prepare food. With a blender, you just throw everything into the jar and press "start," using my guidelines for a complete smoothie. You can create an entire meal in less than 90 seconds! Plus, blenders break down food into molecules that are efficiently metabolized and readily bioavailable, which is to say, absorbed into your body in a manner that it can use. A 2008 study at the University of Toronto found that certain blenders are capable of disrupting the cell-wall structure of plants and significantly reducing food particle size, which may enhance the bioavailability of essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables.

To meet my criteria for a complete meal—one that delivers all the nutrients you need and keeps you craving free until it's time to eat again—each smoothie must contain several predetermined categories of ingredients in addition to the base: a lean protein, a healthy fat, and a high-fiber carbohydrate. Once you understand the science behind the ingredients, you’ll be able to create an infinite variety of meal-replacement smoothies whenever you want. You can exercise a lot of creativity when it comes to making smoothies, and although The Body Reset Diet has dozens of smoothie recipes, here's a basic formula to make your own, depending on what’s in season or just what mood you’re in.

More: Harley Pasternak's Favorite Smoothie

So pick an ingredient from each of the following categories and blend away!


The liquid is the first ingredient you place into the blender when making a smoothie. My smoothies generally use either milk or water as a base, though as you get more experienced crafting your own concoctions, you can start to experiment with non-dairy milks. Remember, it’s all about making every calorie count, so stick to the simplest liquids to get your smoothie started.

Choose One:
Water (add as much as you prefer in your smoothies)
Milk, Dairy: Fat-free or 1% milk (3/4 cup maximum)
Milk, Nondairy: Almond, hemp, oat, rice, or soy (3/4 cup maximum)

Major rule to live by: We need to consume protein every single time we eat because it helps us feel full. Loading up on protein at breakfast in particular has been shown to be especially effective at reducing food cravings and overeating later in the day. Protein is also critical for maintaining muscle tissue. And remember, the more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you'll burn throughout the day and night, independent of any physical activity. Protein also is important for regulating your resting metabolism (the amount of calories we burn at rest), and it contributes to a feeling of fullness, which is important for curbing hunger between meals.

Choose One:
Protein Powder
    Brown rice
    Dairy (whey or casein)
    Egg white
Tofu (I like soft regular or silken tofu)
    Fat-free Greek yogurt
    Fat-free regular yogurt


Some diet books will tell you to shun all fats if you want to lose weight, but in reality, it's not healthy to eliminate fat from our diets altogether. Fat is, along with protein and carbohydrates, one of the three categories of macronutrients that our bodies need to function. Fat is a major source of energy and a big element in satiety that helps the body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat is important for our hormones, nerves, reproductive system, and skin. Our brains need fat, too, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which we can get only through food; the body does not produce these essential nutrients on its own. Most of us get too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s, so we need to make an effort to reverse that imbalance by favoring omega-3–rich fats in particular. These

Choose One:
"Good" Monounsaturated Fats:
    Macadamia nuts
    Peanuts (officially a legume, but we'll group it in nuts)
"Good" Polyunsaturated Fats:
    Chia seeds (always add right before consuming)
    Flax seeds
    Pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted
    Sunflower seeds, raw, unsalted

In its natural form, almost every fruit and vegetable has some fiber content, but we don't eat nearly enough produce, and our diets are frighteningly deficient in fiber. The American Dietetic Association recommends women consume a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day and men consume at least 30 grams, but most Americans get only about 10 grams a day—roughly a third of the recommendations. Ideally, I'd like you to get at least 40 grams of fiber into your daily diet. Fiber's many health advantages are especially important when it comes to weight loss: first, fiber makes us feel fuller longer, which is a key to curbing cravings. Soluble fiber in particular slows the body's absorption of sugar, which steadies the body's insulin levels and prevents those ups and downs that make us so ravenously hungry and lead to such disastrous bingeing. Fiber-rich foods are also more calorically dense than lowfiber foods, i.e., high-calorie foods tend to be low in fiber, while low-calorie foods tend to be high in fiber.

While pretty much anything goes when it comes to fruits and vegetables, you should know that certain fruits have more fiber than others. Blackberries and raspberries, for example, are incredibly high in fiber, while bananas and melons are not. I'm by no means saying that you can't put bananas in your smoothies, but if you do, you also need an additional fiber source like chia seeds (which is also a healthy fat) or psyllium to meet the required nutritional profile.

Highest-Fiber Fruits

Blackberries 1 cup 8 g
Raspberries 1 cup 8 g
Pear 1 medium, with skin 6 g
Orange 1 medium 4 g
Apple 1 medium, with skin 4 g
Blueberries 1 cup 4 g

Certain fruits are also more calorically dense than others, so you'll have to make certain adjustments, principally when it comes to yield. A banana-pineapple smoothie should be somewhat smaller than an apple-pie smoothie, since gram for gram, a banana is twice as calorically dense as an apple with only half the fiber. A smoothie built around raspberries or blackberries, on the other hand, is both high in fiber and low in sugar, so your serving size can be a bit larger.

Highest-Sugar Fruits

Mango 1 cup 30 g
Red seedless grapes 1 cup 25 g
Papaya 1 cup 20 g
Banana 1 medium 20 g

Lowest-Sugar Fruits

Cranberries 1 cup, raw 4 g
Raspberries 1 cup 5 g
Blueberries 1 cup 14 g
Grapefruit 1 cup 16 g

The sky's the limit when it comes to veggies, except when it comes to fat-based veggies like avocados and olives. I'm not saying they're bad—by no means—but for our purposes they belong with the healthy fats, not the high-fiber carbohydrates, and should be used sparingly.

The vegetables that blend best in smoothies are leafy greens. As always, though, I recommend you walk before you run—i.e., go for milder spinach and lettuces before trying Swiss chard and kale.

Leafy Greens
    Lettuce and salad greens (romaine, arugula, rocket, etc.)
    Swiss chard
    Other leafy greens (collards, mustard greens, bok choy, beet greens)

Other Good Vegetables

Flavor Accents
To kick your smoothie up a notch, add...
Herbs (basil, mint)

Adapted from The Body Reset Diet by Harley Pasternak