Of all the smoothie ingredients in the world, none is more pervasive than the banana. Sweet, creamy, flavorful, but not too flavorful, the banana is something of a ubiquitous enigma for blended drinks (fruity, green, nutty… even chocolate smoothies do well with a banana boost). Combine that with being inexpensive, easy to source, and truly full of nutritional benefits — from minerals like potassium to phytochemicals like tryptophan (which converts to good-mood-inducing seratonin) — and it’s not a stretch to imagine why the banana is so profoundly popular. Personally, when it comes to using bananas in smoothies, I am certainly a member of the guilty-as-charged club.
Yet one question that comes up surprisingly often is “what can I use instead of bananas in smoothies?” I understand. There are several reasons many of us wish to reduce or avoid bananas, such as allergies, controlling blood sugar, or just plain old variety. It’s a bit of a difficult question to answer simply, as although bananas can be tucked in virtually anywhere, few other ingredients can function with such flexiblity … I cannot stress enough how much the substitution depends on the type of recipe. The basic thing to note is that to replace a banana, you’re looking for ingredient(s) that offer creaminess and sweetness. In fruity smoothies, mango often works. In nutty, chocolate, or decadently creamy smoothies, avocado with a little sweetener is a great choice. But there’s one ingredient that’s often overlooked: sweet potato!
Think about the last time you had roasted sweet potatoes – how smooth and luxe and sweet they were. Indeed, all that goodness transfers to your smoothie, making it velvety and rich at a surprisingly low-sugar cost. Vitamin- and fiber-packed sweet potatoes can go with chocolate and creamy smoothies like a dream, and surprisingly, even some simpler fruit smoothies like acai, blueberry, pineapple, or apple, too. Sweet potatoes are phenomenal with protein powders as a workout drink. And, they are inexpensive and easy to store: either bake a couple fresh sweet potatoes (like you would a baked potato: wrapped in foil, baked until very soft, peel discarded), or use a canned variety (BPA-free) for some serious simplicity. As a VERY general rule (again, every recipe is a little different!) I use 1/3 cup baked/cooked sweet potato puree as a substitute for 1 fresh banana.
In terms of liquids to blend with sweet potato, you can certainly use things like almond milk or another plant-based milk. But hands-down, my favorite combination for sweet potato smoothies is maple water. Maple water, which is a highly sustainable, single-ingredient beverage naturally produced by maple trees, is a bit of a “where have you been all my life?” kind of smoothie addition. It has half the sugar of coconut water, is full of hydrating electrolytes (minerals), and has a gorgeously refreshing, lightly sweet maple flavor that highlights smoothies of all varieties. With sweet potatoes, it’s a match made in heaven.
Whether you’re looking for a smoothie for the upcoming fall season, seeking a lower sugar blend, avoiding bananas, or just wanting a switch-up in your smoothie routine, try this impossibly rich, low calorie recipe. Your bananas will understand.
Maple Sweet Potato Superfood Smoothie
Velvety and sweet, this smoothie has some seriously irresistible low-sugar tricks up its sleeve. If you’re looking to reduce the sugar content even further, use 1 tablespoon dried white mulberries in place of the date.
Makes about 16 ounces / 1 serving
1/3 cup sweet potato puree (either freshly cooked or canned)
1 large Medjool date, pitted
2 tablespoons raw cashews
1 tablespoon dried goji berries
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon your favorite vanilla-flavored protein powder*
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Scant 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup DRINKmaple Water (pure maple water)
1 cup ice, or more if desired
In blender, combine the sweet potato puree, date, cashews, goji berries, chia seeds, goji berries, protein powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple water. Blend until smooth. Add ice — 1 cup up to 2 cups, depending on how frosty you like your smoothie — and blend once more until frosty.
*For best results, use the smoothest, most delicious-tasting variety of vanilla protein powder you can get your hands on. For my personal blend, I used Vega Performance Protein with great success.
This post was sponsored by DRINKmaple. All opinions here are 100% my own.