05/05/2017 12:07 EDT

How To Put Together A Healthier Smoothie Bowl

It's worth it.

Scroll through Instagram in the early hours of the morning and you're bound to stumble across a dozen or so perfectly assembled smoothie bowls loaded to the brim.

But smoothie bowls don’t have to be over-the-top or Instagram-worthy, says holistic nutritionist and founder of Joyous Health, Joy McCarthy. "I always aim to have a healthy balance of protein, phytonutrients, good fats and fibre."

Protein can take the shape of chia or hemp seeds, hydrolyzed collagen or protein powders, while phytonutrients can be organic berries, spinach, kale, banana, carrots, beets or powdered greens. The more colourful they are, the better.

"You’ll want to aim for the phytonutrients to make up about 50 per cent of the smoothie bowl," McCarthy tells HuffPost Canada. "Include 1 tbsp of any of the protein sources mentioned above, 1 tbsp of healthy fats and 1 tbsp of fibre."

Fibre, like protein, can be found in all sorts of places. McCarthy suggests using ground flax, chia and veggies. When it comes to adding liquid it's all about personal preference. "I recommend to start off by adding a little bit of liquid (either 1 cup of filtered water or nut milk) and gradually add more until it reaches your desired consistency," says McCarthy.

Why You Shouldn't Worry About Calories

Counting calories shouldn't be the be all and end all. Instead, you should focus on the quality of foods you're eating. "If we focused on calories too much, something like nuts and seeds would be terrible for us when in fact they are packed with so many healthy fats that help to nourish our skin, brain and internal organs. Healthy fats help us feel satisfied quicker too," says McCarthy.

Try More Veggies Instead Of Fruit

"We want to aim for our bowl to be more vegetable dominant than fruit so it’s not a sugar-laden bowl that’s just going to spike our blood sugar levels and then lead us to a crash," says McCarthy. Swap banana for avocado or add zucchini or frozen cauliflower. And if you really want to add fruit, try low glycemic foods, such as cherries, grapefruit, strawberries or oranges, which are lower in sugar and won’t spike your blood sugar.

Skip The OJ

"A lot of people think they need to add something like orange juice or a fruit juice in their smoothie but you really don’t. Simply swap it for filtered water or a nut milk. That’s a super easy way to shave off around 25g of sugar," says McCarthy."

Keep It Filling Without Over-Filling It

"When it comes to filling up, it’s not necessarily about eating more or bigger portions but eating the right foods that will naturally fill you up like protein, fat and fibre," says McCarthy. Protein, fibre and fat take longer to digest and burn which means they will keep you feeling fuller, longer.

Pack It With Protein

Protein won't just keep you full, it's also great for your hair, nails and skin. "My go-to source is Genuine Health’s Fermented Vegan Protein Powder," says McCarthy. "It’s a super clean, non-gmo, gluten-free and consciously formulated protein powder that also acts as a fermented food, meaning it will help contribute to our overall digestion by repopulating our gut with the good bacteria it needs to thrive."

Nutritional Benefits Cancel Out Excess Calories

"Smoothie bowls might be a higher calorie dish, but as long as those calories are coming from high-quality food sources like nut butter, coconut oil or seeds, I wouldn’t worry too much about the calories," says McCarthy. "If you’re sticking to the recommendations above, you won’t have any issues with going overboard with your smoothie bowl."

If you're still worried about making a high-calorie, high-fruit smoothie bowl try switching it up with a veggie-packed omelette and avocado slices, which McCarthy says offer the same nutritional benefits with a unique set of nutrients.

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