Toppings for Smoothie Bowls to Boost Fiber and Protein

Toppings for smoothie bowls to boost fiber and protein showing granola, seeds and fruit.

Smoothie bowls became wildly popular in the US sometime in the early 2000’s. Discussing the best toppings for smoothie bowls isn’t necessarily cutting edge information. However, I’m going to give it a little different spin from the lens of a registered dietitian who believes creating aesthetically pleasing, tasty, nutritious food is a form of self care. 

When putting together your smoothie bowl the options are endless. You can get really creative with it by considering different flavor combinations, texture, appearance and nutrition. Here are my top 4 toppings for smoothie bowls that always deliver on taste, texture, aesthetics and give me a boost of fiber and protein:

  1. Seeds
  2. Granola
  3. Fruit
  4. Nuts

Seeds

Seeds are a nutrient dense smoothie bowl topping boosting dietary fiber, protein, and heart healthy unsaturated fats. Additionally seeds can be a great way to increase micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) such as magnesium, iron, zinc, b vitamins and many more. I keep my kitchen stocked with these 3 seeds because I enjoy the flavors, texture and versatility with other dishes:

  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp hearts

You can also consider adding ground flaxseeds, poppy, sesame and sunflower seeds as toppings for your smoothie bowl. Choose a combination and variety of seed toppings that you enjoy most! 

Granola

Adding granola as a topping for smoothie bowls brings that crunchy texture and density to your creation. Purchasing a high fiber or high protein granola can also increase the satiety factor as protein and fiber keep you feeling full for longer. If you want to boost fiber I recommend looking for a granola that offers 5g or more fiber per serving. For those aiming to increase protein, look for a granola that offers 7g or more protein per serving. 

A quick note on serving sizes. When comparing granolas you will likely find that serving sizes vary greatly ranging from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. Don’t get stuck on trying to do the math to make the “best” or “right” choice. Instead, pick the flavor that looks the most appealing to you. Either way you are going to increase nutrient density by adding granola as a topping to your smoothie bowl, so don’t stress. 

Fruit

The base of your smoothie bowl is likely going to consist of fruit but I like adding fruit as a topping as well because it brings in So. Much. Color. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, fruit toppings are also going to add dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds found in fruits (and other plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, herbs, seeds, and nuts) and are associated with reduced risk of major chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Phytochemicals function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in the body (1,2,3).

Don’t let fear mongering about the “sugar” content of fruit deter you from getting multiple daily servings of fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals. One of the best ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is by consuming them in a variety of ways. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned or as 100% fruit or vegetable juice are all adding to your daily servings. My smoothie bowls typically include frozen fruit, 100% fruit juice and fresh fruit as a topping. 

Nuts

Topping your smoothie bowls with nuts will boosts the nutrient density of your dish while also adding to texture and flavor. We have decades of research on the health benefits of nuts and their role in reducing risk of many chronic diseases. The nutrient profile of nuts includes: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, essential amino acids (proteins), vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytosterols (a specific type of phytochemical associated with lowering LDL cholesterol) (4,5). 

Each type of nut will offer a different nutrient profile so mix it up! Here are some of my favorites as toppings for smoothie bowls to boost fiber, protein, heart healthy fats and micronutrients: 

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanut butter

Summary

Seeds, nuts, fruit and granola are all toppings for smoothie bowls that are going to boost fiber and protein. Increasing fiber and protein content of your smoothie bowl will not only add nutrient density but will also help you to stay satisfied longer. In addition to nutrition considerations these recommendations add texture, flavor and aesthetic appeal. Food as self care can be creating something that is nutritious AND appetizing!

Modern Nutrition Smoothie Bowl Recipe

In a blender combine and blend the following ingredients until smooth:

  • 1 cup frozen dark cherries
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup liquid (milk or alternative milk of choice)

Transfer to a bowl and top with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, granola, walnuts, sliced banana and berries.

References

1. Liu RH. Health-promoting components of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):384S-92S. doi: 10.3945/an.112.003517. PMID: 23674808; PMCID: PMC3650511.

2. Kumar A, P N, Kumar M, Jose A, Tomer V, Oz E, Proestos C, Zeng M, Elobeid T, K S, Oz F. Major Phytochemicals: Recent Advances in Health Benefits and Extraction Method. Molecules. 2023 Jan 16;28(2):887. doi: 10.3390/molecules28020887. PMID: 36677944; PMCID: PMC9862941.

3. Bradford PG, Awad AB. Phytosterols as anticancer compounds. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Feb;51(2):161-70. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200600164. PMID: 17266177.

4. Gonçalves B, Pinto T, Aires A, Morais MC, Bacelar E, Anjos R, Ferreira-Cardoso J, Oliveira I, Vilela A, Cosme F. Composition of Nuts and Their Potential Health Benefits-An Overview. Foods. 2023 Feb 23;12(5):942. doi: 10.3390/foods12050942. PMID: 36900459; PMCID: PMC10000569.

5. Cabral CE, Klein MRST. Phytosterols in the Treatment of Hypercholesterolemia and Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2017 Nov;109(5):475-482. doi: 10.5935/abc.20170158. PMID: 29267628; PMCID: PMC5729784.

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