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After a particularly intense workout, a smoothie is often a great choice for cooling off while knocking out a few of those fruit and veggie servings. But for those of us who are lactose intolerant or stick with a dairy free diet, a simple smoothie can have a major complication: milk. Milk is often used in smoothies to add a creamy, smooth texture. Which is all perfectly fine until it makes you sick later. And nobody likes upset tummies, right? Right.
But, wait, don’t you have to have milk to make a smoothie? Let me answer that with a solid NO. Milk isn’t necessary to have a smoothie that’s cool and creamy. There’s a ton of options out there to make a smoothie just as creamy as a milk-drinker’s concoction without having to sacrifice your eating habits or your afternoon plans that don’t include being huddled in the bathroom moaning in pain.
Below we’ve rounded up the best milk-free options available to you, along with some delicious recipes to take advantage of them. Each of these will give you that sweet creaminess you crave without having to resort to adding cow’s milk to your favorite drink.
Milk Substitute for Smoothies
First, let’s talk options. You know you aren’t all about that dairy life. What could you sub in though? A lot of the time you’ll see yogurt suggested, but again, no dairy. So now you’re stuck and smoothie-less. Bummer.
Let’s change this up a bit. We said no cow’s milk or dairy. But what about other milks? Let’s start with the more common milk alternatives.
Common Non-Dairy Milks
Almond milk is a favorite, and it’s no wonder. This light option is made from either whole almonds or almond butter and water. With a slightly sweet taste it’s a great option if you’re looking to add a little sweetness to your smoothie. It’s also a healthier option than cow’s milk as it has only ¼ the amount of calories and less than half the fat content in dairy milk.
However, you won’t find as much nutritional value as you might think. Almond milk is mostly water, so the protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and fiber you’d see in whole almonds is almost non-existent. It also contains a pesky little substance called phytic acid that can reduce your absorption of certain nutrients like iron. If you tend towards being anemic, you may want to steer clear of this one.
Let start by saying that say coconut milk for smoothies you should not be thinking of canned milk. We’re talking cartons in coolers, not the stuff you use for your curry. Savvy? Alright. So coconut milk has that awesome flavor that brings to mind warm beaches and palm trees. It also has plenty of healthy fats, but lacks a bit on protein and carbs. Great if you’re trying to lower your carb intake, but not so great if you need to add protein to your diet.
Another not-so-great feature of this milk is that it can possibly raise cholesterol levels. This isn’t a definite thing, but there have been a few studies that claim it does. However, just to keep us on our toes, there are also studies that say it helps lower cholesterol and assists in weight loss (more on that here) so take either with a grain of salt. In any case, a reasonable amount of coconut milk in your diet isn’t going to be a bad thing. Plus coconut milk is great for giving your smoothies added volume. On that note, if thick smoothies are your jam, you won’t want to miss our write-up on how to make your smoothies as thick and creamy as possible.
Ah, soy. Such a classic milk substitute. It’s also fairly close to cow’s milk in nutritional value, if you’re looking for that sort of thing. It contains close to the same amount of protein, but around half the fats and carbs as well as calories. If you’re looking to keep protein in your diet, this may be a good option. This milk is a complete protein, meaning it has all the amino acids essential for humans. It also has a great creamy taste, perfect for creating that texture you want in your smoothie.
Soy milk does cause some concern for certain individuals. Isoflavone is a big part of soy, and it can cause some hormonal issues, specifically with estrogen. If you’re worried about this possible side effect of soy, chose one of the other alternatives just to be on the safe side.
Uncommon Non-Dairy Milks
The four milks listed above are readily found in grocery stores today. However there are other milks you could choose from that are just as tasty and with excellent nutritional value. But do keep in mind that depending on where you’re located, the following ingredients can be a bit harder to come by.
This milk is made of mostly water with a very small percentage of macadamia nuts. It’s mainly available in Australia, though you could order it online if you so choose. This milk has only a fraction of the calories and carbs in dairy milk, making it a great choice if you’re watching either.
Milk from oats is sweet and filling, as well as pretty comparable to cow’s milk calorie-wise. It does have twice as many carbs, however, so if you’re cutting back you may want to avoid this one.
Rice milk is a great option if you suffer from a lot of diet-related allergies. This does have a lot more carbs than dairy, as well as only a fraction of the protein and fat. Because of its low protein content, it’s not a great choice to use consistently if the smoothie is intended for someone that needs a lot of protein in their diet.
There are a few non-milk options you can use to really build up your smoothie and make it rich and creamy at the same time. If you’re wanting to steer clear of any milk, check these out.
A banana can add a lot of thickness and creamy texture to your smoothies. While you can add a banana straight from your fruit bowl, freezing it first can add an extra something to your drink. Blend it well and you’ll have a cool, refreshing smoothie that’s so creamy you’ll never know you opted out of the milk.
Bananas are a great addition nutritionally speaking, as well. They’re chock full of potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Delicious and nutritious!
Good ole avocado. You can use this nifty little fruit in so many things. Brownies, soups, salads, and smoothies! Avocado has so many awesome health benefits like healthy fats that help protect against heart and cognitive issues. And they make a great thickener for smoothies while also making a super creamy texture you’ll love.
For single serve smoothies, you typically won’t need to use more than 1/2 of an avocado in your smoothie. These little beauties make flavors much milder and can seriously cut the taste of your smoothie. Since we all love the taste from the fruits we toss into our blenders, we’ll avoid doing that!
Guys, hear me out here. Using a solid veggie in your smoothie can add a ton of nutrition as well as giving your drink a creamy, thick texture. Pumpkin, carrot, butternut squash, and sweet potato are all great options, so don’t be shy to experiment – they can truly elevate your smoothie game.
Dairy-Free Recipes to Try Out
I know what you’re thinking. This is all great and everything, but how do I actually use this stuff in smoothies? Don’t stress, friend. Below are some delicious recipes that you can put together with your milk substitute of choice OR one of the non-milk options we just covered. And don’t forget, you can always meal prep your smoothies and make them ahead of time – but to do so, you have to do it the right way.
Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Milk Substitute
- 1 banana
- 1 ½ cups of strawberries
- 1 cup milk substitute (any listed above)
- Handful of ice cubes
Measure out and put your fruit and milk into the blender. Blend until smooth consistency. Add ice cubes and blend until ice is well crushed. Enjoy immediately!
Avocado Mango Smoothie
An avocado is a great way to get back some of that thick, creamy texture you lose when you ditch the milk. The following recipe uses water and orange juice to make the smoothie thinner, but you could easily cut back on the avocado if you wanted to use less liquid. For an alternate avocado smoothie recipe that tastes delicious, check this out.
- ½ fresh avocado
- 2 ½ cups fresh or frozen mango
- ½ cup of orange juice
- 1 cup of water
Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until smooth, and enjoy!
Banana Berry Smoothie
A smoothie that uses banana to replace the milk is super simple. Just follow this quick recipe for a smoothie that’s ready to take out the door in minutes!
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup of raspberries
- 1 banana
- Optional: ice cubes for less thickness
Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into your favorite smoothie container and seize the day!
This is a hearty, delicious twist on your usual smoothie. Perfect for those fall and winter months, when you need just a hint of some spicy lovin’.
- 1 cup of butternut squash puree (DIY puree below)
- ½ cup of water
- 2 tbsp of maple syrup
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- Handfull of ice icubes
Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until smooth, and enjoy!
DIY Butternut Squash Puree
You can either get butternut squash puree in cans, or do the following to make your own:
- 1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
- Olive oil for brushing over squash halves
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the halves of squash with olive oil, then place each half face-down on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes or until a fork cuts through them. Remove from oven and scoop out fleshy part of squash. Place in blender or food processor and puree.
Ta-da! You didn’t even break a sweat and now you’ve got some awesome puree for your smoothie.