Colorful smoothies in glasses surrounded by colorful fruits and vegetables
Nutrition

Supplementing with Smoothies During Cancer Care

Homemade smoothies can help you deal with eating challenges related to cancer and the side effects of treatment. Smoothies are often easier to get down than chewing and swallowing food, especially if your mouth or throat is sore and/or dry. They’re also a great way to get nutrients in when you’re feeling fatigued, nauseated, or experiencing a lack of appetite.  

Sipping a smoothie or protein shake slowly throughout the day can also make getting more vegetables, fruits, protein, and calories less effortful.

How to Make a Smoothie from Scratch

Making a nutrient-rich homemade smoothie involves 3-5 (or more!) ingredients that each offer value to your shake: 

Assemble Your Smoothie Ingredients

Step 1. Choose a Liquid Base

This can be 100% fruit juice diluted 1:1 with water, plain Greek yogurt, kefir, or unsweetened plant-based dairy alternatives (like pea, soy, cashew, or almond milk). If none of those appeal to you, you can just use water.

Step 2: Add Fruits and Veggies

Vegetables that work well in smoothies include: leafy greens (baby spinach, kale, chard, or collard greens), beets, carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower. Fruits of all kinds—fresh or frozen—work well in smoothies, including berries, mangoes, apples, and bananas.

Step 3: (Optional): Add Protein

Protein powder, nut butter, silken tofu, and pasteurized egg substitutes are all ways to boost the protein content of your smoothie.

Step 4: Mix in Fats

Add more calories to your smoothie by mixing in peanut/almond butter, ripe avocado, or 1 TBSP of avocado oil.

Step 5: Finish with Flavor(s)

If the fruit and vegetable combinations you’ve tried aren’t flavorful enough for you try adding cinnamon, fresh ginger root, turmeric, unsweetened cocoa powder, or ¼ tsp of vanilla extract.

Load Your Blender

Put the liquid/base in your blender first. Then add vegetables (especially leafy greens), followed by fruits. Put protein and fats in next, adding any flavor enhancers last. Blend to your desired consistency, adding water to thin and ice or frozen banana coins to thicken. 

Serve and Store

If you’re having smell or taste changes, drink your smoothie from a cup with a lid and straw. Pour small servings (4-8 oz) at a time and store any extra in the fridge. Drink each batch of smoothie within 24 hours, and if you have leftovers after that, pour it into a popsicle mold and pop it in the freezer for later. 

Smoothie Recipes

Banana Berry Vanilla

Recipe: 

  • 1 cup liquid base: plain yogurt, kefir, or plant-based milk 

  • 1 banana, peeled and broken in ½ to fit in the blender

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries 

  • 1 scoop unflavored protein powder 

  • 2 tablespoons nut butter 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

 Instructions & Tips: 

  • Put liquid/base into the blender

  • Add banana and protein

  • Next add berries, nut butter, and vanilla extract

  • Blend until smooth

  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours


Mango Spinach Avocado

Recipe: 

  • 1 cup liquid base: plain yogurt, kefir, or plant-based milk 

  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach or other greens, cleaned (ie: kale, chard, spinach) 

  • 1.5 cups frozen mango chunks 

  • ⅓ avocado, peeled and pitted 

  • 1 lime, peeled 

  • Drizzle of honey

Instructions & Tips: 

  • Put liquid/base into the blender

  • Add lighter ingredients (greens) followed by heavier ingredients (mango and avocado)

  • Drizzle with honey, if desired

  • Blend until smooth

  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours


Carrot Orange Ginger

Recipe: 

  • 1 cup liquid base: plain yogurt, kefir, or plant-based milk

  • 1 orange, peeled 

  • 1 lemon, peeled 

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped 

  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 

  • 1 small knuckle fresh ginger, peeled (or 1 tablespoon grated) 

  • Drizzle of honey 

Instructions & Tips: 

  • Put liquid/base into the blender 

  • Add carrot, ginger, and lemon

  • Pulse the blender to get carrots into small bits. Then, increase blender speed and blend until smooth (30-60 seconds or longer)

  • Add turmeric, honey, and additional water to thin (as desired)  

  • Blend again to combine 

  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours

 

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.