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6 Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Smoothies

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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6 Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Smoothies

Few things can beat the sweltering summer heat better than a cold smoothie, even if you’re watching your sugar intake. Not all smoothies are created equal: The average restaurant fruit smoothie carries anywhere between 10-20 teaspoons of sugar!

The best way to enjoy this sweet treat is to prepare your own, and to sip it in moderation (we’re talking about a 1-cup serving). To slash sugar in your homemade smoothies, try to use as little of these common high-sugar smoothie ingredients as possible:

Common High-Sugar Smoothie Ingredients

Common High-Sugar Smoothie Ingredients (serving size)CaloriesSugar (g)
Apple Juice (1 cup)11324
Orange Juice (1 cup)11121
Cranberry Juice (1 cup)11731
Pineapple Juice (1 cup)16032
Honey (1 tablespoon)6417
Agave nectar (1 tablespoon)6314
Table sugar (1 tablespoon)4813
Maple syrup (1 tablespoon)5214

Instead of turning to the refined forms of sweetness listed above, play with the smoothie’s fat, protein and texture. Start blending lower-sugar smoothies with these tips:

1. Start with a creamy base. Forgo the fruit juice, and add fat to your smoothie! Chances are you’ll be more satisfied with the taste, and feel fuller after drinking your smoothie. Even if your smoothie is higher in sugar, upping the fat helps slow down digestion, which prevents your blood sugar from skyrocketing. If the creaminess is too much for you, use half as much creamy base, and make up for the reduced liquid with water.

DairyCaloriesFat (g)Sugar (g)Non-dairyCaloriesFat (g)Sugar (g)
Reduced-fat, 2% milk (1 cup)122512Unsweetened almond milk (1 cup)3030
Reduced-fat, 2% buttermilk (1 cup)220212Unsweetened soy milk (1 cup)10046
Plain yogurt (1 cup)150417Silken tofu (1/2 cup)*15192
Plain kefir (1 cup)9037Avocado (1/2 medium) *161151

*Use with 1/2 cup water

2. Spoon in your favorite nut butter. Peanut, almond, sunflower and cashew butters are a great way to add both protein and healthy fats into your smoothie. Calorie-dense nut butters will make the smoothie more satisfying, and give you a good dose of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (a.k.a. the “healthy” fats). If you’re mindful about sugar, look for nut butters where “sugar” isn’t listed as an ingredient.

Nut Butter (serving size)CaloriesFat (g)Protein (g)Sugar (g)
Peanut butter (1 tablespoon)100842
Almond butter (1 tablespoon)98931
Sunflower seed butter (2 tablespoons)100932
Cashew butter (1 tablespoon)94830

3. Sprinkle chia or flaxseed to vary texture. Both chia and flaxseeds are a great way to play with texture and add more omega-3 fats into your diet. Omega-3 fats are essential but we typically don’t get enough of them in our diets. These fats are commonly found in fish (hint: don’t add this to your smoothie!), and are stored in the oils of seeds like chia and flax. Sadly, you don’t get omega-3 fats by eating the seeds whole, but if you break into the seeds (think high-power blender), you release the omega-3 fats.

Seed (serving size)CaloriesFat (g)Omega-3 Fats (g)Sugar (g)
Chia seeds (1 ounce)138950
Flaxseeds (2 tablespoons)110930

4. Toss in some mild vegetables. Smoothies are a great way to hide vegetables, especially if you’re someone who turns up your nose at salads! Slice up mild-tasting vegetables and tuck them in your smoothie so you can get valuable vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber.

Vegetable (serving size) CaloriesCarbs (g)Fiber (g)Sugar (g)
Spinach (1/2 cup)3110
Kale (1/2 cup)4110
Cabbage (1/2 cup)11311
Bell peppers (1/2 cup)18422
Carrots (1/2 cup)26623
Beets (1/2 cup)29725

5. Spice it up! The same baking spices you use in desserts can make your smoothies smell “sweet” without actually adding very many calories, carbs or sugar. Play around with some of these spices to enhance the tastiness of your lower-sugar smoothie: vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice.

6. Choose lower-sugar fruits. Even if your agenda is to slash sugar from your diet, fruit is the the last place we’d pick (this is why it’s our last tip). The amount of sugar in fruit is low, and fruit is naturally packed with valuable vitamins and minerals. If you’re still concerned, then reach for lower-sugar fruits. Here’s a list of smoothie-friendly fruits listed from less to more sugar (in grams) for your convenience:

Fruit (serving size)CaloriesCarbs (g)Fiber (g)Sugar (g)
Raspberry (1/2 cup)32843
Strawberry (1/2 cup)25624
Peach (1/2 cup sliced)30817
Blueberry (1/2 cup)421127
Kiwi (1/2 cup sliced)551338
Pineapple (1/2 cup chunks)411118
Orange (1/2 cup)852129
Banana (1/2 cup sliced)671729
Mango (1/2 cup pieces)5013212
Grapes (1/2 cup)5214112

2 Kitchen-Tested Lower-Sugar Smoothies

Make a delicious tasting smoothie under 15 grams of sugar (that’s less than two tablespoons of sugar)? Challenge accepted! Here’s two tasty kitchen-tested lower-sugar smoothies from the folks at MyFitnessPal.

1. BERRY PEANUT BUTTER SMOOTHIE

Berry Peanut Butter Smoothie
Photo Credit: Demi Tsasis

2. SILKY STRAWBERRY-BANANA SMOOTHIE

Silky Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Photo Credit: Demi Tsasis

Do you make lower-sugar smoothies? If so, share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

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26 responses to “6 Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Smoothies”

  1. Avatar Kay says:

    Great article

  2. Avatar MonicaP says:

    Yum, I’ll be making the Silky Strawberry Banana Smoothie ~ soon !!

    Monica.

  3. Avatar Pete Read says:

    If I make fruit smoothies I always use the frozen fruit in my freezer….as good as fresh fruit but you already have the cold factor built in

  4. Avatar debstead says:

    are ice cubes absolutely necessary, especially if you are using frozen berries etc, and could i add raw nuts rather than the nut butters (expensive here).

    • Avatar Lorena Thiessen says:

      You could use a food processor to turn nuts into nut butters. Pinterest has several posts explaining:)

    • Avatar Insomaniac says:

      Ice cubes aren’t necessary, they just add some “slushiness” to the smoothie. I add frozen strawberries, so I don’t add cubes either. It just depends on your preference.

      As for the nut butters, I’m not sure that adding raw nuts would go so well – unless you grinded them well before mixing it again with your smoothie. If not, maybe try making your own (as was mentioned) or getting it shipped for cheaper from Amazon?

  5. Avatar Anuja says:

    Hi, I take avacado smmothie everyday. Do you recommend avacado (1/2) combined with any low sugar fruit smoothie? please let me know.

  6. Avatar Debra says:

    3 ingredient smoothy.
    Non fat milk, mango, ice cubes. Blend.
    No sweetener needed.

  7. Avatar Insomaniac says:

    This is actually quite helpful! My go-to smoothie is a ripe banana, a handful of frozen strawberries, almond milk, and spinach. It doesn’t look so nice, but I love how spinach doesn’t taste like anything (so it tastes like your average amazing strawberry-banana smoothie) yet has so many benefits. And thank you for the non-dairy alternatives as well! (:

  8. Avatar Teri says:

    My go-to base is a scoop of whey protein and 6-8 ounces of water. I usually add spinach and ice and either a low-sugar fruit or 1/4 c oatmeal. Depending on the flavor, I may add peanut butter or pb2. I have also thrown in walnuts or other nuts.

    • Avatar Lia says:

      do you just put the oatmeal in the smoothy plain not cooked and what kind – Instant or original?

      • Avatar sonia says:

        Lia, i also use oatmeal in my smooties, i use instant, plain or sugar free flavors. i mill it first and then blend it with 1/2 the liquid i will use in the smoothie the night before i plan to have it. i feel doing it this way allows the smoohie to become thicker with a milkshale-like texture.

  9. Avatar Melissa says:

    Favorite:
    Cashew milk unsweetened
    Kale
    Small green Apple
    6 almonds
    Tsp chia seeds
    Frozen mango (just a few pieces)
    Vanilla
    Cinnamon
    Ice cubes

    So good!

    • Avatar Kandy says:

      Melissa – I haven’t tried kale in my smoothies yet but have wanted to try it. How much Kale do you use? Also, how much Cashew milk, vanilla and cinnamon? And is your “recipe” above for 1 serving? It sounds so good, I wanted to be sure that I made it the way that you’ve enjoyed it! Thanks! 🙂

  10. Avatar Laurie says:

    My favorite recipe is: 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, 1/2 frozen banana, 2 tsp of flaxseed, 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp of agave syrup. Sometimes I add a splash of orange juice too.

  11. Avatar Nicole says:

    Interesting how in the article you talk about avoiding extra sugar from honey but both recipes above add it.

    • Avatar Bobo Ketchup says:

      I think it`s because one is a tablespoon and the recipe is a teaspoon. They should have said honey is ok, just use less. It`s great in my smoothies!

  12. Avatar Merrily says:

    My go-to smoothie is:
    1/2 cup frozen blueberries
    1/2 medium banana
    1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    2 tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    1 (or 2 depending on my mood) tbsp. unsweetened natural peanut butter
    2 tbsp. gluten free rolled oats

    Sooo good, and it keeps me satisfied until lunch!

  13. Avatar Michael Barton says:

    Here’s one I love:
    1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk
    1/2 cup raw, natural almonds
    1 cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt
    1 tbsp. peanut butter powder
    1 tbsp. dark chocolate chips
    1 cup ice

  14. Avatar Michael Barton says:

    I also love this one:
    1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    1 cup ice
    1 cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt
    1/2 cup raw walnuts
    2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
    as someone who loves maple walnut ice cream…this tastes like a maple walnut milkshake…

  15. Avatar Joe says:

    I’ve been making smoothies for over five years and didn’t know that the sugar content was that high. Thank you so much for this information because I’ve always tried to monitor my sugar intake. Never new that I was getting it from smoothies.

  16. Avatar j_sets says:

    unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    10 frozen strawberries
    1/2 cup fresh blueberries
    1/4 banana
    1 scoop whey protein powder (I like vanilla)
    blend until creamy
    Optional-kale, spinach, other fruits
    Delish

  17. Avatar Angela says:

    I use one cup of coconut milk, 3 tablespoons of plain unsweetened yogurt, 5-6 fresh strawberries, and one frozen banana. Someday I add 14 cup of fresh beets. Or you can add spinach or kale. It’s very tasty.

  18. Avatar Techno Spice says:

    I start with a tofu base, not a dairy one, since I’m lactose intolerant:
    – 2.5 oz Tofu
    – Half a scoop of my favorite vanilla protein powder
    – 1/2 c. some kind of fruit
    – 1/3-1/2 c. Almond milk to help it blend and thin it up a little
    – Fill the rest of the blender with leafy greens like spinach and kale and mild veggies like Cucumbers, Zuccinis, squash, and sweet bell peppers.

    This is a high protein smoothie. Usually the fruit and protein powder are sweet enough I have zero desire for any additional sweetening. I never thought of adding nutty butters or seeds before, though. I might try that out sometime.

  19. Avatar zxuser says:

    Easy! 5 Strawberries sliced then frozen
    1/2 banana sliced, then frozen
    8 ounces ocean spray Cran-pomegranate DIET juice (5 calories)
    Blend
    Calories come from. Strawberries= 15
    Calories from Banana. = 110
    Calories from Ocean Spray. =. 5

    No soy, no whey, no Almond milk, no OJ, NO ICE , (takes up space) no nuts, no peanut butter, no tofu, no yogurt, no honey, no powered anything
    No maple syrup, no oats, no chocolate chips, no potato chips, no shoe leather, no kale, no flaxseed, no oatmeal , no kale. Simple, just used as described above . Frozen sliced fruit makes it cold to woof down.
    NOW, if you want to use any of the above ~GO for it…its your smoothie!!
    Enjoy. @ 130 calories!!!!!!!

  20. Avatar Damo says:

    I have a simple base for smoothies, frozen bananas and either whole milk or yogurt. I can eat it plain and it will be a banana smoothie–I sometimes add a leafy veggie (does not effect taste). I can also add vanilla extract and it tastes like vanilla milkshake. Everything else I do is a variation of this. Peanut butter or raspberry or whatever is added to make different flavors. I never add sugar except for what is in my fruits.

    My favorite is frozen lemonade made from the above base with frozen mango and juice from one lemon. This tastes like lemonade, and no added sugar.

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