Now that it seems the warmer weather might be here to stay, smoothie ideas are spinning in my brain. There’s something so refreshing about a cool, creamy smoothie. Fresh fruit mixed with protein-packed yogurt, what could be healthier, right? But if your smoothies come from restaurants and not your kitchen, its important to know that not all smoothies are created equal, and unfortunately many restaurant smoothies are a far cry from healthy. Some small-sized smoothies contain more calories than one cup of premium ice cream (even Ben & Jerry’s) and more sugar than two and a half cups of the same ice cream (about 29 teaspoons).
Fortunately you can find smoothies at your local smoothie shop with lighter calorie and sugar loads that easily fit into a healthy eating plan. In addition, they contribute a healthy dose of fiber and protein, making them an ideal mid-meal snack. Because even the healthy ones contain fruit and usually a source of dairy, they still contain natural sugars, but it’s a good goal to choose those with the lowest amounts. A well-chosen smoothie can be a delicious snack as part of a healthy diet or an occasional meal-on-the-go. However, before you start drinking all of your meals, remember the healthiest diet is one made up of a variety of real, whole foods.
Helpful hints. Think about these tips the next time you need a little bit of fruity refreshing.
- Stick with small. Even the most nutritious of smoothies tend to be calorie-dense and contain a fair amount of sugar. The larger sizes can easily contain more than 500 calories and well over 100 grams of sugar.
- Check the fiber. One nutritional benefit of fruit is fiber. Choosing smoothies with adequate fiber–aim for at least 4 grams–is one way you may be able to ensure your smoothie contains a decent amount of fruit, instead of just juice
- Add-ins. A basic smoothie may be simply fruit and yogurt, but these days you can add so much more. Adding vegetables can help boost vitamin and antioxidant content. There are also various powders such as protein, green, and vitamin to enhance the nutritional profile. Some of these powders can also negatively impact the sodium and calorie content.
DIY Smoothie ideas:
Of course, you can always make your own smoothies at home. This gives you total control on flavor as well as nutrition. This is my favorite, go-to recipe because I can change it up based on what I have in the house or what I’m in the mood for. Whenever I have a banana going bad, I peel it and pop it in a freezer bag in the freezer. That way it doesn’t go to waste and its always ready for a quick smoothie.
- 1 small frozen banana (peel before freezing)
- 1/4 cup skim milk (or juice)
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries*
- 6 ounces plain fat-free yogurt**
- dash of vanilla extract*** (optional)
- Add all ingredients to a blender but use only half of the milk/juice. Blend until well combined. Check consistency, add remaining liquids if desired.
- *Choose whatever frozen fruit you like--blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, or a mix of 2 or more
- **Experiment with different flavors of yogurt--raspberry yogurt with peaches, coconut yogurt with pineapple, the possibilities are endless
- ***If you like, try different extracts--almond extract with a raspberry smoothie, coconut extract in a tropical smoothie