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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