How to Build a Healthy Smoothie
Smoothies can be a quick meal or snack on the go. And with the temps hitting 90 degrees, they can be so refreshing. And they can definitely be a healthy choice … or they can be a calorie and sugar bomb! For example, Juice Generation’s Mr. Greengenes smoothie has 51 grams of carbs and 240 calories and XO coco smoothie has 66 grams of carbs and 395 calories. And while the Pink Dragon juice from Juice Press is not excessive in calories (190 cal contains 45 grams carbs and 190 calories!) Check out dietetic intern Rachel Feldman’s guest blog post on how to build a healthy smoothie.
So how can a drink containing fruit and other supposedley healthy ingredients pack in so many calories and sugar? It often comes down to just too much fruit and maybe fruit juice, large portion sizes of nut butters and other healthy stuff. But the good news is that you can slim your smoothie, cut back on sugar and up the nutritional content by following these simple tips and tricks whether you will be making your own smoothie or buying one at a local juice shop. And if buying a commercial smoothie, make sure to read the nutrition label or check out the nutrition content online.
How to build a healthy smoothie
The goal is to make the smoothie more “balanced” by adding in protein, fiber, moderate amount of fruit, maybe a little fat, and greens for good nutrition. The type of smoothie will keep you feeling full longer, help stabilize blood sugar and promote better energy levels. And of course, when building your smoothie, you also want to like the way it tastes. Not everyone wants kale and chia seeds in their drink!
Adding a protein source to the smoothie can help you stay full longer, aid in muscle formation and prevent muscle loss, and can provide calcium and vitamin D (if using dairy sources or fortified non-dairy) for strong bone health. Options include:
-Yogurt: Greek yogurt, low fat yogurt or nondairy yogurt of your choice. Greek yogurt provides the most amount of protein as compared to most non-dairy yogurt. Ideally choose a plain yogurt as the fruit flavored yogurts are high in added sugar.
-Protein powder: See my blog post about choosing a protein powder: here
-Nut butter: Peanut, almond, cashew or any nut butter of your choice (Nut butter also adds fat – see below)
Fruit is a source of carbs and provides energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber, disease fighting phytonutrients and flavor. But here is where it can get tricky. On one hand, you want a flavorful smoothie but on the other hand most of us don’t want to consume a drink with over 50 grams of sugar. If you are watching your carbs, aim for ~ 1 cup of fruit. Options include:
– Fresh or frozen fruit of your choice (Berries are a great choice here because of the high fiber content and antioxidant properties)
Fats are a great way to make your smoothies creamy and satiating. Additionally, fat slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, helping you feel fuller for longer while maintaining a steady blood glucose level. This can be especially helpful when managing diabetes and PCOS as we like to have a steady rise of blood glucose levels as opposed to spikes. But just keep tabs on portion sizes as the calories add up quickly!
– Nut butter: Peanut (natural), almond, cashew, pumpkin, coconut or any nut butter of your choice (1 Tablespoon contains 100 calories)
– Avocado: ¼ cup avocado or ¼ of avocado. (one portion contains 100 calories)
Fiber can help slow the rise and fall of blood sugar, keep you feeling full longer, and may help cultivate a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, there have been studies that shown certain kinds of fiber (see below) can help lower your cholesterol levels.
– Flax/ Chia/Hemp seeds: In addition to fiber, these little seeds provide alpha linolenic acid (a plant based omega 3 fat) which may help decrease inflammation, as well as protein may help you stay full for longer
– Psyllium husk
–Wheat bran/oat bran
– Glucomman powder. See our previous blog post on benefits of glucomman.
Provide increased fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, Vitamins K and A, potassium and calcium. Not to mention, plenty of antioxidants that help keep your skin plump and clear!
-Green of your choice
Options include water, coconut water, milk, non dairy milk etc. Look for unsweetened liquid options if possible to save on carbohydrates and added sugar.
7. Optional add ins:
–Fresh grated ginger
-Fresh grated nutmeg or allspice
-Pumpkin pie spice (unsweetened)
-Apple sauce (unsweetened)
-Vanilla extract, almond or peppermint extract
-Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
-Unsweetened coconut shavings
-Dates/Maple Syrup/ Honey – For added natural sweetness. Be careful if you have diabetes or PCOS as these may raise your blood sugar and/or insulin levels significantly.
We’ve love to hear how you make your favorite healthy smoothies!
I‘d like to thank Rachel Feldman for writing this post. Rachel Feldman is a graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Rachel is currently a Dietetic Intern with Priority Nutrition Care Distance Dietetic Internship. She enjoys hiking, cooking, yoga and has been following a vegetarian diet for the past 3 years.
*All photos in this blog post besides header courtesy of Rachel Feldman*
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.