The Do’s and Don’ts For Healthy Smoothies

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
by Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
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The Do’s and Don’ts For Healthy Smoothies

Smoothies can be amazingly refreshing after a tough workout or hydrating on a hot day. If made the right way, they can be full of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If not, smoothies have the potential to be a calorie bomb high in added sugar and low in protein, setting you up for a blood sugar crash and energy slump.

The good news is, by following a few simple guidelines, you can get the most bang for your buck with quality nutrients in each sip.

The Do’s and Don'ts For Healthy Smoothies

Fat is an important satiating nutrient and helps the body with hormone production and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. A tablespoon of nut butter in a smoothie is a great add, as well as an avocado or seeds like chia, hemp or flax.

Protein takes longer to digest, keeps blood sugar stabilized and helps us stay full for longer. Protein is also important for muscle recovery if you’re having the smoothie after a workout. Try plain Greek yogurt (this also adds creaminess to the smoothie), simple protein powders like whey or pea, cottage cheese or silken tofu.

Many smoothie shops use juice as a base for their smoothies, and this can add a ton of unnecessary added sugar. Instead, opt for plant-based milk or water, and rely more on the natural sugar from whole fruits for sweetness.

The Do’s and Don'ts For Healthy Smoothies

Instead of flavoring smoothies with honey, agave and maple syrup (which are considered added sugars and can cause blood sugar spikes), opt for flavor boosters like cinnamon, ginger or cocoa powder. These contain antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and won’t spike your blood sugar.

Fruit is full of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, but when packed into a smoothie, can also yield more sugar than you might think. Try aiming for no more than 1 cup (150g) total for a good balance, whether that’s from frozen bananasblueberries, raspberries, mangos, peaches or a mix.

The Do’s and Don'ts For Healthy Smoothies

Adding leafy greens to your smoothie can provide more nutrients, without any extra sugar. It’s also a great way to boost your daily veggie servings. Try a big handful of spinach or kale — the taste is often masked by the other ingredients in the smoothie, making it a win for picky eaters.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re at a local smoothie shop, don’t feel pressured to order off the menu. Ask for substitutions (such as almond milk instead of juice for a base) or omissions (hold the honey). Your health and taste preferences are important and these small tweaks can make a big difference.

Smoothies can add a variety of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, protein and healthy fats to your diet. They can be a nourishing addition to the breakfast rotation, a lunch on-the-go or a perfect post-workout refueling option. Just make sure to keep an eye on the fruit and added sugar content, add in some extra leafy greens and opt for a plant-based milk or water base.

Product: Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.

About the Author

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
Kelly Hogan, MS, RD

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD is an NYC-based registered dietitian specializing in women’s health, sports nutrition and plant-based eating. She is passionate about helping people develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies, and uses a non-diet approach in her practice. When she’s not talking or writing all things nutrition, Kelly can be found running in Central Park – she’s run 11 marathons and counting! – cooking recipes new and old, handstanding at the yoga studio or hanging with friends and/or her rescue dog, Peanut.

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