How healthy is your smoothie?

August 08, 2016 | by Alanna Elliott, RD, LDN
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Summer is smoothie season.

Warm weather calls for a frosty, fruity beverage, doesn’t it? Many health-conscious people reach for a smoothie instead of a calorie-laden ice cream treat.

We’ve been conditioned to think “healthy” when we hear “smoothie.”

On the surface, it makes sense. Most smoothies are chock full of healthy ingredients such as fruit, greens, grains, yogurt and nut butter. But these healthy ingredients are not void of calories, so it is important to be mindful of the amount of calories you are putting in your smoothie.

Let’s dig a little deeper to get the whole truth about smoothies.

Often smoothies have too much sugar and too many calories to be a feasible addition to a healthy diet. Depending on the size of your smoothie, you can end up eating a lot more fruit than you would if it was whole.

Plus, when you start adding in “healthy” ingredients like chia seeds, flax seeds, peanut butter, whole oats, dates, avocado, before you know it, you could be blending up a 600-700 calorie smoothie without even realizing it!

Blending the fruit also crushes its fiber, making it easier for your body to absorb the sugar from the fruit, which can cause hunger pangs sooner than you’d like. To balance out your fruit smoothie, add a high protein source to help keep you fuller for longer, such as non-fat plain Greek yogurt, protein powder, tofu, PB2 (or other peanut powder), or even skim milk.

Don’t worry, smoothie lovers -- there are tweaks that can salvage your favorite concoction. Keep these tips in mind next time you get ready to blend:

  • Choose unsweetened components. Use plain yogurt, not fruit-flavored or frozen yogurt. Don’t add sugar, honey or fruit juice. Let your whole fruit naturally sweeten the drink.
  • Measure your ingredients. Keep track of what you add so you have a handle on calories.
  • Aim for smoothies that are no more than 300-400 calories. Less if you are having a smoothie as a snack (no more than 200). Be mindful of add-ins, and try to stick to no more than 2 servings of fruit.
  • Always add a protein source. A smoothie that is all sugar (even if it is natural sugar from fruit) will metabolize fast. Slow down digestion and stay fuller for longer by adding in protein (at least 10 grams).
  • Aim for 8+ grams of fiber. While fruit is a good source of fiber, try adding additional fiber-rich foods such as flax seeds, chia seeds, kale/spinach, almonds (watch the portion) or oats.
  • Avoid smoothies you didn’t make yourself. They can contain a lot of added sugar, besides the healthy fruit and protein.

 Try these smoothie recipes as snacks or meal replacements:

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pure pumpkin puree (plain pumpkin, not pie filling)
  • 1 medium banana
  • 6-8 ice cubes
  • 6 oz non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt (I like Dannon light n fit Greek or Siggi’s)
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Blend together until smooth.

Nutrition Facts: Calories:  201 ·  Carbohydrates:  36 grams  ·  Fat:  2 grams  ·  Protein:  14 grams  ·  Fiber: 7 grams

Green Protein Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Handful of ice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla milk
  • 6 oz non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt (I like Dannon light n fit Greek or Siggi’s)
  • ½ large banana (frozen if possible)
  • 1 scoop protein powder ( I like muscle milk light vanilla cream)
  • 1/2 cup peaches, fresh, frozen or canned
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach (or kale), washed

Blend together until smooth.

Nutrition Facts:  Calories:  300 ·  Carbohydrates:  40 grams  ·  Fat:  4 grams  ·  Protein:  29 grams  ·  Fiber: 8 grams

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 2 tbsp PB2 (or Jiffy peanut butter powder)
  • ¼ cup whole oats
  • 1 medium banana (frozen)
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds

Blend together until smooth.

Nutrition Facts:  Calories:  320 ·  Carbohydrates:  50 grams  ·  Fat: 8 grams  ·  Protein:  21 grams  ·  Fiber: 12 grams

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