As our days begin to warm up, smoothies can be a great way to pack in important nutrients. But there are many types out there, and not all of them are good for you.

When we think of smoothies, we often think of fruit and ice. But pay attention to ingredients; the term “smoothie” doesn’t mean healthful. Some restaurants’ concoctions are really glorified desserts, more similar to milkshakes. And on the other end of the spectrum, some store-bought protein shakes advertise their healthfulness but can be heavily processed with mystery ingredients.

According to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, using protein supplements is no more or less effective than getting your protein from food, but they are typically more expensive and can lack nutrients found in whole foods. So how do you to make a nutritious, balanced smoothie? Start with your protein source.

Nutrient profile: Almonds

In any form — milk, butter or whole — almonds provide a combination of fiber, protein and fat that provides satiety, making them ideal for weight management. Just remember to pay attention to portion size, because they’re calorie-dense. Almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin E and manganese and a good source of magnesium, copper, phosphorus and fiber. They also contain calcium, folate and potassium.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nuts such as almonds are not only cholesterol-free but have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim for food labels that states, “Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” These nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.

But nuts aren’t the only way to get protein, fiber and healthful fats in a smoothie. Some other smart options:

●Greek yogurt

●Raw buckwheat groats (soaked overnight and rinsed)

●Chia or flax seeds

●Hemp seeds


Berry Almond Smoothie:

We all know that eating a healthful breakfast sets the tone for the entire day. This gluten-free, vegan smoothie is sweet, thick, satisfying and creamy without that chalky aftertaste that often accompanies protein-powder-based smoothies.

With only natural ingredients, it offers seven grams of protein and six grams of fiber per serving.

The base is frozen berries. Because they’re frozen, the smoothie can be enjoyed any time of year. Berries are known for being packed with antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C, potassium and folate. (Just be sure to find berries that aren’t artificially sweetened.) And one last benefit for busy mornings: This nutritious breakfast takes less than five minutes to make.

Find the recipe here.

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Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthful recipe site Find her on Twitter at @EatingbyElaine .