Quick and super healthy, if you watch out for hidden sugars and fats.
By EDNA COX RICE RD, CSG, LD
Smoothies, popular in the 60s, have made a real come back. They’re available at the natural food store, grocery store and many restaurants. Fruit Smoothies! Veggie Smoothies! What’s not to love about these delicious, sweet drinks? And, they sound sooo natural and healthy ... right?
Sure they contain healthful ingredients like fruits and veggies, but often many of the other ingredients are high in fat and sugar. You could end up drinking 600 calories or more. A 16-20 ounce serving at the smoothie stand or the fast food restaurant are 900-1,200 calories, 50+ grams of fat and 20-30 grams of saturated fat, more calories and fat than a double cheeseburger and fries!
It is possible to enjoy a smoothie that tastes delicious and is good for you. Smoothies make a quick and easy breakfast or snack for anyone who wants to add more nutrition into their daily diet. Making smoothies at home allows you to avoid the high sugar or fat content of the store bought versions. They make a healthy alternative to a fast food breakfast, sugary snacks and convenience foods.
Shape it up at the Smoothie Stand:
- Avoid sugar and honey for sweetening
- Select fruits or fruit juice for more flavor
- Use fruit juice rather than fruit syrups to reduce the calories and sugar content
- Choose fat free dairy products to reduce the calories and saturated fat
- Limit your serving to 8-12 ounces
- If drinking your smoothie as a meal substitute, keep the calories to 300 – 400 calories
- As a snack, keep the calories to 200 or less
Homemade is always best and you can control what you put into your smoothie and there is no limit to the ingredients you can use to make your own. You can pack as much nutrition into your smoothie as you like. Don’t worry about a recipe. Just choose ingredients from all or several food categories.
Protein Sources most often will add some or all of the liquid to your drink. We all need protein daily to build, repair and maintain body tissue.
- Dairy products – skim milk, yogurt, low fat or non-fat cottage cheese add a creamy texture, calcium and Vitamin D.
- If lactose intolerant, use almond, coconut, rice or soy milk.
- 1-2 tablespoons of Nut Butters will add to the texture and offer 6-10 grams of protein.
Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and give your smoothie the sweet flavor you want.
- Any fruit that you like will work – apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, kiwi, melon, pineapple, pumpkin – to mention a few. Always thoroughly wash and peel the fruit. Cut into slices or chunks for easier blending.
- Frozen fruit – berries, peaches, pineapple – will help to thicken the smoothie instead of using ice.
Tip: While sweetening with sugar adds extra, unwanted calories, adding artificial sweeteners turns a natural drink into a partially artificial. Instead, use sweet fruits like strawberries, pineapple, mango or 1/2cup orange or apple juice to sweeten up your smoothie.
Veggies can add a zesty flavor, extra fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to your drink.
- Tomatoes make a great base for a veggie smoothie, especially with a dash of spices or hot sauce
- If using vegetable juices as a base, choose low or no sodium varieties
- Any vegetable fits – carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, chopped celery, even sweet potatoes
Tip: Whenever possible choose organic or locally grown fruits and vegetables. Try combinations based on what’s in season. Buying produce in season will help to lower the cost.
- Apples and bananas are inexpensive year round.
- Spring – strawberries, honeydew, mango
- Summer – blueberries, cherries, peaches, melon
- Fall – pears, cranberries, grapes
- Winter – kiwi, oranges, grapefruit
- Frozen strawberries are always a good buy
Whole Grains will add extra B Vitamins and fiber.
- Rolled oats, whole grain cereals like shredded wheat or toasted oats, place in the blender and pulverize before adding other ingredients
- When using boxed cereals, check the ingredient list and avoid those with excess salt, sugar, and granolas that contain saturated fat
- Oat bran and wheat germ are ready to add to any smoothie
Tip: Give your brain a boost. Add Omega -3 Fatty Acids by including 1 Tbsp. flax seeds or flax seed oil.
Green Tea will add that caffeine kick if you need it. It comes in a variety of flavors and is an excellent source of antioxidants.
- To save time in the morning, prepare a cup of tea the night before and refrigerate
- Freeze prepared tea in ice cubes to quickly add to your smoothie in the morning
- Make tea with a cup of milk or soy milk instead of water for added flavor and protein; the next morning just add fruit
Healthful Benefits of drinking a smoothie as a meal or for a snack:
- Fiber fix for the day; whole fruit or veggies in the blender retain their natural fiber
- Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and aids in digestion
- Feel full with less calories
- Antioxidant boost. It’s difficult to get 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables daily. A smoothie may be the way to achieve this goal.
- Makes a convenient, portable, on-the-go meal
Making smoothies can be fun for the whole family. They’re quick and easy to prepare. Smoothies can provide a lot of nutrition for a few calories. You’ll get out of your smoothie what you put into it!
An easy favorite to try today!
Blueberry/Banana Breakfast Smoothie
1 banana, cut into chunks
¼ cup low fat vanilla yogurt
¾ cup blueberries
½ cup crushed ice (less ice if blueberries are frozen)
¾ cup fat free milk
Blend all ingredients. Makes 2 – 8 ounce servings. 155 calories per serving.