Plus it’s plant-based and high protein!

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Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Especially during warmer months, I love a good smoothie. They are so refreshing and are a great way to add fruits and vegetables into your day. Whether it's a green smoothie or a smoothie packed with tropical fruits, smoothies always deliver lots of nutrients but they aren't always the most filling. Luckily, there is one plant-based, super affordable ingredient that is worth adding to give your smoothies a protein boost: tofu (hear me out!). 

You might associate tofu with more savory dishes, like Mushroom & Tofu Stir-Fry and Mapo Tofu, but it works great for sweeter recipes too. Tofu has a very mild flavor, and once it's blended in the smoothie, you don't really notice it's there. The versatile protein comes in many different textures, as well. While you may choose a firm or extra firm tofu for frying or roasting, the best type of tofu for smoothies is called silken tofu. It has a jelly-like texture, making it perfect for blending. This soft type of tofu has a creamy texture without adding much flavor, so it is an easy addition to the smoothies you already make. Since it's soft, you may not need any extra liquid. If you're like me and don't measure when you throw in your smoothie ingredients, you may need to play around with your fruit, veggie, tofu and liquid ratio. For more recipe inspiration, check out some of our favorite tofu smoothie recipes

Green Tea-Peach Smoothie Bowl
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Tofu is a great choice for a plant-based protein. One half cup of silken tofu (about 100 grams) boasts eight grams of protein, zero grams of carbs, one gram of fat, 394 milligrams of calcium (39% RDA) and 0.9 milligrams of iron (5% RDA). Especially for those who don't eat dairy or meat, calcium and iron can be hard to come by, so tofu is definitely worth a spot in your eating pattern. The protein in tofu partnered with the fiber from the fruits and vegetables in your smoothie will help you feel full and satisfied for longer. Plus, you can even keep tofu in the freezer so it lasts longer. It's cheaper than most protein powders and can be a nice way to ease in to including more plant-based proteins into your diet. Whether you're a tofu lover, or think you hate it, when you blend it into your smoothie-you'll hardly notice it's there. (Here are some easy ways to cook tofu for those who are hesitant.)

To make your smoothies more filling, blend in silken tofu. Protein helps you stay full because it takes longer to digest, so instead of only getting carbs from fruit, your smoothie will be more well-rounded. Not only will it give your drink a protein boost, but it is also plant-based if you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet (or if you are trying to avoid dairy). The creamy texture and subtle flavor lend itself well to any blended drink, try it for yourself today for a refreshing, satisfying breakfast or snack.