There are so many reasons to love smoothies. They’re easy to prep, easy to drink, and a way to get more fruits and vegetables when you don’t have time to cook a meal. But it’s no secret that smoothies aren’t always healthy, especially the sugar-laden ones at some smoothie shops. A better option is to make your own at home using a high-speed blender and carefully choosing your ingredients. Let’s look at some simple ways to make your homemade smoothies healthier.
Choose low-sugar fruits and vegetables
To make your smoothies healthier, choose low-sugar fruits and vegetables. For fruit, berries are among the lowest-sugar fruits and are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. In contrast, bananas are a popular smoothie ingredient, but they’re high in sugar.
If you add banana, use less ripe bananas (lower in sugar) and add a smaller amount — half a banana rather than a whole one. Avocado is a lower-sugar replacement for bananas when you’re trying to create a creamier texture.
Include more leafy greens, like kale and spinach, for extra nutrients in your next smoothie to reduce the total sugar content. Don’t worry, it won’t taste like grass! The fruit will mask the flavor of the greens.
Don’t drink a smoothie with a meal
Most smoothies provide enough calories and sugar to be a meal, and if you add the right ingredients, they contain enough nutrition to be a meal substitute. Don’t drink a smoothie with a meal, or you run the risk of consuming too many calories.
Instead, drink a smoothie for breakfast or as an afternoon snack to tide you over until dinnertime. For example, don’t eat breakfast, and then wash it down with a smoothie. It’s easy to discount the calories we drink. Drinking a few smoothies each day in addition to meals could lead to weight gain. Plus, liquid calories aren’t as satisfying as eating whole foods.
Choose unsweetened yogurt
If you add yogurt to your smoothie, choose a low-sugar version to avoid adding more sugar to your smoothie. You can also use unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk, or coconut water instead of yogurt to keep your smoothie healthy and low in sugar.
The good news is more brands are realizing their customers want less sugar in their yogurt and are responding by reducing the quantity. Some companies have lowered the amount of added sugar in their products even further than the FDA recommendation by offering low-sugar options with no added sweeteners at all. Read the label carefully.
Flavored yogurts often contain more added sugars than plain varieties, so be wary of buying yogurt with fruit on the bottom (it’s mostly sugar) or other flavored yogurt. Choose plain yogurt for your smoothie. You can add cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg to a smoothie to flavor it without adding sugar. Some research shows adding a pinch of cinnamon to recipes helps with blood sugar control.
Don’t overdo it with the nut butter
The best way to avoid adding too many calories to a smoothie is to be conservative with the nut butter. Smoothies are great because they’re a convenient way to get your fruit servings in at breakfast or snack time. If you’re using too much nut butter, you’ll end up with more calories than you bargained for. You only need a small quantity of nut butter to get the taste. Don’t add so much that you overwhelm the other ingredients and double the calorie content of your smoothie drink.
Don’t use fruit juice as a base
Fruit juices are high in sugar and not as healthy as whole fruit. For example, pulp-free 100% orange juice contains no fiber to reduce the blood sugar rise you get from drinking liquid sugar. Use sugar-free plant-based milk as a base instead. This will help you cut back on the amount of added sugar in your smoothie. You’ll also get less than one-third of the calories compared to using orange juice as a base. Use whole fruit instead of sugary fruit juices, along with leafy greens, to lower the sugar content of your morning smoothie.
Avoid added sugars like honey, agave nectar or brown sugar — they’ll spike your blood sugar levels. If whole fruit doesn’t offer enough sweetness, add a pinch of a natural, calorie-free sweetener like Stevia or monk fruit. They won’t cause a rise in blood sugar either.
Make sure there’s fiber in your smoothie
The more fiber you add to your smoothie, the easier it will be on your blood sugar. Fiber also makes a smoothie more satiating, so you’re less likely to need a snack to go along with it. Consuming more fiber-rich foods may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes too. Increase the fiber content of a smoothie by adding ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or hemp seeds. With these choices, you’ll also get plant-based omega-3s, vitamins, minerals, extra protein, and antioxidants. Protein is a bonus too since, like fiber, it helps reduce hunger. If you’ve just done a workout, add a scoop of whey protein to your smoothie to help with muscle recovery.
Don’t drink a smoothie every day
Smoothie lovers often take their smoothie fondness too far, to the point of drinking one every day and using them as meal replacements. Instead, eat a diverse diet that includes a variety of whole foods, rather than using a blender to prepare your meals. A well-rounded diet includes diverse whole foods, not just smoothies. Smoothies can add extra fruits and vegetables into your diet, but they shouldn’t be the only way you consume produce.
Smoothies make a delicious, satisfying snack or meal. They’re a fun way to get lots of fruit and vegetables into your diet, along with the other important nutrients that these foods provide. That said, smoothies are often high in calories and sugar. Think before you blend and follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to making healthier smoothie choices that still taste great!
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