Portable, sippable and loaded with nutrients, it’s no surprise smoothies have become the trendy beverage of choice — not just as morning fuel, but also as a tasty afternoon pick-me-up. Although they’re popping up on restaurant menus around the nation, smoothies can easily blur the line between a healthy drink and a dessert shake with ingredients like syrups, frozen yogurt and questionable flavorings.
These tasty tips ensure your deliciously cold cocktail isn’t sneakily sabotaging your diet.
Leave the sweetness to the experts — the fruit, that is. Instead of adding fruit juice as your liquid, use unsweetened non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, cashew, etc.), good old-fashioned H20 or unsweetened green tea.
CHOOSE FRUIT WISELY
While fruit-free smoothies (errr … soup?) are as trendy as ever, we’re not warding off bananas any time soon. It is possible to include fruit in your blend without going overboard on sugar.
Choosing higher fiber fruits, like antioxidant-packed berries, helps mitigate any blood sugar spikes. Sweet and tangy frozen raspberries (one of the lowest sugar berries) have a whopping 9 grams of filling fiber per cup. If frozen bananas are your jam, try subbing in a portion for some avocado or even frozen cauliflower for the same creamy consistency. As a general rule of thumb, keep the fruit to around 3/4 cup or less.
DON’T FEAR FAT
Heart-healthy fats are not only essential for that creamy mouthfeel we all know and love, but they also score high in the satiety department. Simply blending together fruit and veggies won’t keep you full for long.
Ward off hunger by adding a quarter to a half of an avocado, a tablespoon of hemp or chia seeds, two tablespoons of walnuts, a tablespoon of nut butter or two tablespoons of coconut meat. Fats also help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in all those lovely fruits and veggies.
BOOST THE VEGGIES
If you think frozen fruit is the only way to add body to a smoothie, think again! Frozen zucchini, peas, cauliflower florets and spinach all add volume and creaminess without the sugar.
You can also try adding fresh leafy greens like spinach, chard or kale. Don’t knock it till you try it!
BE WEARY OF SNEAKY SUGAR
Add-ins like vanilla yogurt, protein powder and even superfood powders can pack in the added sugar. Aim for an unsweetened protein powder (or one with stevia) free of artificial colors and flavors.
Even though sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are “natural,” they still have around 16 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Pure vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and cacao powder add tons of flavor to ordinary blends without any of the sweet stuff.
TOP WITH CARE
Sometimes turning a regular old smoothie into a smoothie bowl with fun toppings is the best part! To avoid added sugar, swap granola for equally crunchy puffed quinoa, cacao nibs or brown rice cereal.
As a refreshing alternative to the typical sliced banana, try a few cubes of fresh mango. It’s packed with immune-boosting vitamin C and A and pairs delightfully well with toppings like flaked coconut and hemp seeds.
Written by Alexis Joseph, a Columbus-based lifestyle coach and media personality specializing in nutrition communications, eating happy and balanced living. She founded Hummusapien, a multi-faceted food, wellness and lifestyle brand in 2011 and co-founded Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe in 2014.