by Jessica Remitz
Drinking a nice, cold smoothie is both healthy and refreshing on a hot day, right? Unfortunately, many of those smoothie recipes we love to swap—or order from a nearby store—are loaded with unnecessary ingredients that can make them just as much of a diet-buster as our favorite desserts, like milkshakes or a bowl of sherbet. We’ve asked Erica Giovinazzo, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at CLAY Health Club and Spa, to share her tips for getting the most out of your smoothie.
The Smoothie Health Trap
Although smoothies sound like a healthy drink or meal replacement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re made that way. Many recipes or smoothie shops tend to use a lot of fruit juice, which has less fiber than whole fruits, or frozen yogurt and sherbet, both of which have lots of refined sugar, Giovinazzo said. Starting your smoothie base with one of these options can add unnecessary calories to your drink in addition to an excess of sugar, which can increase your blood sugar level and cause your body to crave even more sweet foods.
A lack of protein in many smoothie recipes can also make them an unsuitable choice for a meal replacement. While you may be getting a 16-ounce serving of healthy fruit out of one, the sugar from the fruit goes right into your bloodstream without having protein to balance it out and slow its digestion. “You’re also more likely to then store those calories as fat,” Giovinazzo said. In addition to dessert-like base ingredients, you’ll also want to avoid adding honey, agave, or any other sweetener to your smoothie—the fruit itself should be sweet enough.
Revamping Your Smoothie Recipe
The best thing you can do to make your smoothie more healthy—while remaining delicious!—is to use whole fruit over juice and add some type of protein to the mix. Any type of whole fruit will work, Giovinazzo said, and will help reduce the amount of sugar in your drink while getting you the fiber you need. Protein can be added in the form of plain Greek yogurt or a protein powder like whey. For a heartier smoothie, like one that will serve as a meal replacement, add a tablespoon of nut butter for protein. You can also add fish oil or green powder to your smoothie for additional vitamins and minerals, keeping in mind that your smoothie should never be one hundred percent fruit.
“If you’re using whole foods like fresh, whole fruit and a good quality protein, you’re giving yourself a pretty balanced meal,” Giovinazzo said. “Just remember that you need veggies in your diet too, so they shouldn’t take the place of all meals. A diet that has a lot of variety is going to be higher in vitamins and minerals.”
Try this easy recipe, courtesy of Giovinazzo, for your next smoothie:
- 1 scoop protein powder of your choice
- ½ cup berries (strawberries, blueberries and/or rasberries)
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup kale
Blend and serve immediately
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