Smoothies offer a convenient and refreshing way to fuel your day. But certain bad habits will keep you from getting that burst of energy and nutrients a great smoothie provides. Our dietitians recommend avoiding these three common traps when you make your smoothie:
1. Adding fruit juice
“The nutritional magic of fruit is in the fiber,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE. “Juice removes the fiber, leaving just the sugar and water.”
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, adds, “Many of my patients add juice to a smoothie already packed with fruit. This adds way too much sugar to one drink and can actually lead to more hunger not long afterward.”
The added sugars from fruit juice provide calories without much nutrition, says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE. “Consuming added sugars is linked to weight gain. The current recommendation is to keep added sugars to less than 10 percent of your calories for the day, so leave them out of your smoothie.”
To thin out your smoothie, ditch the juice, says Ms. Taylor, and consider adding:
- Unsweetened almond milk: It’s higher in calcium than cow’s milk.
- Green tea: It’s rich in antioxidants.
- Raw fresh or frozen fruit: Its fiber is still intact.
- Water or ice: H2O is nature’s best hydrator.
2. Overdoing the fruit
Think the more fruit you add to your smoothie, the better? Not so much. While fruit is a healthy source of carbohydrate, its calories and carbohydrates add up fast.
“I often see people loading smoothies with fruit,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD. “Too much fruit in your smoothie can raise blood sugar levels faster.”
It’s true that most women need two to three servings of fruit per day, and most men need three to four. “But keep in mind one half cup of fresh or frozen fruit equals one serving, and one banana counts as two,” notes April Verdi, RD, LD.
A better option would be to add one to two servings of fruit plus a big handful of dark, leafy greens, shredded cabbage or bok choy. That will help you get your three to five daily servings of veggies as well.
(Not partial to vegetables? No worries. The fruit helps disguise their taste.)
3. Adding flavored yogurt or milk
You may already know you don’t need to add honey or other sweeteners to a smoothie to satisfy your sweet tooth. But don’t give vanilla yogurt or chocolate milk a free pass, either.
“The fruit in your smoothie will provide plenty of natural sweetness,” says Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. “Flavored yogurts and milks contain extra empty calories in the form of added sugar.”
Leave flavored varieties in the cooler at your supermarket. Opt for plain Greek or regular yogurt, or plain cow’s milk, almond milk or soy milk instead.
These can provide protein and calcium without added sugars.
Want flavor beyond what fruit provides? “One tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder has just 12 calories but will give you lots of flavor,” says Ms. Patton. “You can also add 1 tablespoon of powdered peanut butter, which has about 20 calories compared with 100 calories in natural peanut butter.”
Or trying adding cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract, or other spices.
Now you know which pitfalls to avoid when you fire up your blender for a smoothie. (Oh, except you might want to check that the lid’s on first!)