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It’s time to rethink your favorite fruit drink.
When you’re craving a sweet midday pick-me-up or post-workout reward, what could be wrong with grabbing a fruit-filled smoothie?
As it turns out, a lot.
Smoothies are one of those snacks that sound healthy, says registered dietitian Amy Shapiro. But depending on where you get your frothy treat, smoothies can be loaded with sugar — and not much else in the nutrition department.
“In your mind, you’re just drinking fruits and vegetables,” says Shapiro. “But many smoothies have enough added sugars and calories that I tell my patients they might as well eat ice cream.”
And if you’re drinking a premade smoothie as a meal replacement, the strategy may backfire, she adds. “Like drinking juices and soda, it will temporarily give you an energy boost, but they’re a quick source of sugar and calories. You’ll be hungry later after your blood sugar has spiked and crashed,” Shapiro says.
Just because smoothies can be loaded with a lot of the not-so-good-for-you ingredients doesn’t mean that you should kiss blended fruit treats goodbye. Done right, smoothies can be a healthy quick snack.
Your best bet? Make it at home. Follow these tips from Shapiro for a delicious, fruit-filled smoothie that can help keep you powered up for a few hours.
Use whole fruit. When you use juice, you lose the natural fiber that helps your body process sugar. You also lose the filling volume of whole fruits.
“A glass of orange juice has the equivalent of four to five oranges, but drinking a glass of orange juice isn’t the same as eating four to five oranges,” Shapiro says.
Try whole or frozen fresh fruit in your next smoothie. Shapiro recommends freezing lots of berries (because of their high concentration of fiber and antioxidants) and just-overripe bananas.
In general, it’s OK to use either fresh or frozen fruits and veggies in a smoothie. But in some instances, you’ll see recipes that specify one or the other. Frozen bananas, for example, lend a specific texture that you can’t get with fresh slices. Fresh chunks of fruit, meanwhile, are really acting as a liquid ingredient, because they quickly become juice in the blender. Feel free to use what you have on hand — but be ready to add some more liquid or ice cubes to reach the consistency you’re looking for.
Be smart with liquids. The added fruit juice that comes in premade smoothies provides unnecessary sugar, without any of the fiber or volume. Shapiro recommends using unsweetened almond milk for creaminess. At 40 calories per cup it’s “really nutritious and tastes great,” Shapiro says.
Make it heart healthy. Boost the nutritional power of a smoothie by including a heart-healthy fat, like a tablespoon of almond butter or ground flax seeds.
Go green. “You can put in any greens you want because they are pretty mild in flavor, but high in nutrients,” Shapiro says. Because they’re low in calories, feel free to add as much as you’d like. Try spinach, kale or cucumber, which have a natural sweetness.
Use filling protein. Protein is what transforms a smoothie from snack to meal. “Our body takes the most time to break down protein, so it’ll keep you full for a longer amount of time,” Shapiro says.
She recommends using protein powders. But you can also add a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt or your favorite nut butter.
Ready to give these ideas a whirl? The five quick-and-easy blends below follow Shapiro’s advice to a sweet ending.
Basic preparation steps: For each smoothie, add the ingredients to a blender in the order listed — liquid and soft ingredients first, frozen ingredients last. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour and enjoy!
Smoothie #1: Creamy Peach
Greek yogurt adds creaminess and a boost of protein, making this a great post-workout snack.
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 container (5.3 ounces) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 small banana, sliced
- 2 cups frozen sliced peaches
- 1 teaspoon honey
Serves 2: Calories: 202, Total fat: 1.5g, Saturated fat: .5g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Sodium: 90mg, Carbs: 37g, Dietary fiber: 3g, Sugars: 28g, Protein: 13g
Smoothie #2: Pineapple Mint
A bright, refreshing drink to get your day started right. Look for calcium-fortified almond milk to help support your bone health.
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 medium banana, frozen
- 6 ice cubes
- 1 pinch salt
Serves 1: Calories: 287; Total fat: 2g; Sodium: 160mg; Carbs: 71g; Protein: 4g
Smoothie #3: Berry Tahini
This dairy-free, vegan drink is packed with good-for-you produce to keep you fueled for the day ahead.
- 2/3 cup unsweetened oat milk (or other unsweetened milk)
- 1/2 small banana
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh kale, stems removed
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- 4 medium fresh strawberries, stems removed
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
- 5 ice cubes
Serves 1: Calories 378; Total fat 21g; Sat fat 2.5g; Cholesterol 0g; Sodium 100mg; Carbs 44g; Fiber 11g; Sugar 15g; Protein 11g
Smoothie #4: Green Berry
The addition of lemon, vanilla and cinnamon lead this smoothie into dessert territory. Experiment by swapping the berries and/or banana for stone fruit or fresh apples.
- 1/2 cup milk
- Dash lemon juice
- Dash vanilla extract
- 1 banana
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- Pinch stevia powder, or to taste
- Pinch salt
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup frozen spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen berries
Serves 1: Calories: 339; Fat 8g; Sodium 595mg; Carbs 56g; Protein 18g; Carbs 56g
Smoothie #5: Carrot-Orange-Ginger
Here’s another great post-workout sipper. Credit goes to the addition of fresh ginger, which studies show helps aid exercise-related muscle soreness.
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
- 1½ Tbs orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 Tbs fresh grated ginger
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 cup coconut water
- 4 ice cubes
Tip: Pop the ginger in the freezer the night before and it will be much easier to grate.
Serves 1: Calories 86; Total fat 0.4g; Sat. fat 0.3g; Cholesterol 0g; Sodium 165mg; Carbs 19.9g; Fiber 3.1g; Sugar 11.7g; Protein 1.8g
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