This is an informational website about a Power Smoothie: a blended meal that provides a difficult-to-match combination of convenience, nutrition, satisfaction, ethicality, affordability and taste. I don’t recommend subsisting on Power Smoothie alone (and don’t do so myself), but it’s a nice thing to know how to make.
There is nothing very complicated about the idea of a Power Smoothie or about the specific recipe, but I’ve put a fair amount of thought into how to do it best, and a lot of people have expressed interest in the idea and asked for my recipes and reasoning. So this website provides them.
My name is Holden Karnofsky and I am the co-founder of GiveWell. GiveWell is in no way affiliated with this site; this site is purely a personal project. GiveWell is a more-than-full-time job that I plan to stay at for a long time, and I have no plans to profit from this website or place any sort of “ask” on it. I get no compensation from anyone for any of the work on this site, and I have purposefully not set up any sort of Amazon affiliate account; I link to products I find useful, but I don’t benefit if you buy them. The content of this site is pretty simple and makes no claims of expertise, and you’re welcome to share and remix it, though attribution would be appreciated.
In a nutshell, a Power Smoothie consists of using a blender to combine protein and fat (from protein powder and olive/flaxseed/coconut oil or nuts), fruits and vegetables, and a liquid base. Everything can be used in a frozen or otherwise non-perishable form, and the combination will still taste good. Recipes gives many variations with specific ingredients, calorie counts and cost estimates. Flavors discusses how to change up the flavor using natural ingredients, though the “unflavored” version tastes good so this is optional.
The advantage of a Power Smoothie is that it combines:
- Convenience. It takes 5, maybe 10 minutes to make one, including cleaning the blender and all. All ingredients are either nonperishable or storable frozen, so you don’t need to worry much about inventory management.
- Nutrition. There’s a lot of debate about what ought to count as nutritious, and having read a lot of it, I remain highly uncertain on the details. That said, Power Smoothie has a lot of stuff that nearly everyone seems to think is good (fruits and vegetables; more generally, micronutrients) and has nothing in it that seems to be identifiably bad (the soy milk and whey powder are debatable, but I’m fairly convinced they’re both good or at least fine, and if you’re not there are alternate recipes that can work for you). Importantly, Power Smoothie is satisfying (see below), which is generally a challenge to achieve without involving more hassle-heavy or nutritionally risky ingredients (e.g., meat). Disclaimer: my thoughts shouldn’t be taken as dietary advice and shouldn’t replace any professional advice; your health is your responsibility.
- Satisfaction. Meals with low amounts of fat and protein will be unsatisfying to many. Power Smoothie doesn’t have the drawbacks of a normal smoothie or a salad: it gives you fat and protein, and when combined with carbs (either in the smoothie or outside of it) it really does feel like a meal.
- Ethicality. There are many alleged harms of eating animal products, including environmental and animal welfare impacts. My sense is that these harms are largely real. The only animal product that appears in any Power Smoothie is whey protein, which I believe is minor in terms of these harms. Whey protein can easily be replaced with vegan protein powder for a fully vegan Power Smoothie.
- Affordability. I ballpark the cost of a Power Smoothie at $3-5. It can be made using a $25 blender, though both my housemates and officemates consume enough Power Smoothie that both sites have invested in nicer blenders.
- Taste. Power Smoothie is made out of good ingredients that go well together. Most people seem to rate it somewhere between “pretty tasty” and “very tasty.” There is probably at least one flavor (made from natural ingredients, sweetened by the fruit) that you will quite like.
I don’t know of another way to achieve all of the above things at once. If you cook for yourself and take your time, you can definitely achieve all except convenience, but convenience is a big deal. If you buy from restaurants, I think you’ll generally have a tough time combining satisfaction and nutrition and ethicality (esp. if you’re someone like me who craves fat and protein), and it’ll certainly be hard to do so cheaply/easily/consistently.
Power Smoothie was originally inspired by Soylent, in the sense that reading about Soylent got me thinking about how to accomplish similar but not identical goals. With that said, the products are fairly different. I have never tried living exclusively off of Power Smoothie, and wouldn’t recommend doing so; I have a few a week. I don’t claim that Power Smoothie is nutritionally complete or equivalent on its own to a balanced diet, though I think it’s about as good as you can reasonably expect from one meal. Power Smoothie is made mostly from whole/natural foods, which I see as a positive. And of course, I am a part-time complete amateur and the Soylent people are full-time professionals, so keep that in mind.
- Getting started. What you need to buy and do to have your first Power Smoothie.
- Exact recipes. A bunch of variations, with calorie counts and cost estimates included.
- Flavors. The fruit in Power Smoothie will sweeten anything, so things like unsweetened cocoa powder and lemons come out tasting good, giving you interesting options for changing up the taste.
- Details on making a Power Smoothie. Substantial detail on the thinking behind the ingredients and logistics for Power Smoothies, so you can see why the recommended ingredients are what they are and how you might tweak the recipe for your own needs.
- Micronutrients and nutrition. I give an analysis of the micronutrient composition of the Power Smoothie, a spreadsheet that you can use to generally analyze the micronutrient composition of different diets, and a very brief discussion of different schools of thought on nutrition (low-carb, paleo, Mediterranean, conventional, etc.) and what they have to say about Power Smoothie. In a nutshell, I feel fairly comfortable saying that Power Smoothie is about as generally nutritious and healthy as a meal can get, and to the extent that your particular school of thought objects to aspects of it, these are easily addressed via alternative recipes. Disclaimer: my thoughts shouldn’t be taken as dietary advice and shouldn’t replace any professional advice; your health is your responsibility.
- Ethics. I find the treatment of animals on factory farms to be very disturbing. Power Smoothie has very little impact on demand for such animals (even in its non-vegan version). This makes it a valuable tool for eating ethically, especially for people who crave protein and fat.
- Frequently Asked Questions. Includes tips on what to do if your Power Smoothie isn’t coming out well, and responses to things like “Don’t you think food is something to be savored?”
- Acknowledgements. People who have helped me think about Power Smoothie.
- About/contact. My name is Holden Karnofsky, I made this site in my spare time in order to be helpful, I’m not selling anything, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The About/Contact page just repeats what I just said.