Over the last 5-10 years, smoothies have been trending. Vibrant photos of smoothies litter social media feeds, entire books are dedicated to smoothie recipes, and smoothies are a staple menu item for many “healthy” restaurants. But, are they truly healthy?
At Vitality, Nutrition and Wellness Center, we often recommend smoothies to our clients. For one, they can be a fantastic way to help increase intake of fruits and vegetables. Research continues to uncover the powerful ways fruits and vegetables improve our health, so if you’re falling short, it’s a good idea to try to change that. For those of you who may be confused on just how much you should be eating, aim for 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day.
Some of the most common reasons we hear from clients struggling to achieve this include: lack of time to prepare, lack of availability on-the-go, difficulty keeping fresh produce in the house, and the palatability of vegetables (especially raw). Introducing smoothies can be a game changer when it comes to increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
- They require minimal effort and time to prepare
- They are easily consumed on the run
- Frozen ingredients are great in smoothies
- Mixing vegetables with fruit improves taste
Hot Tip: Kids who refuse to eat vegetables will often eat them in smoothies.
So, the short answer is, smoothies can be very healthy! One catch, it all comes down to how they are made. Unfortunately, many commercially available smoothies are little more than a sugar-laden, caloric beverages; which will certainly not do anything to enhance our health.
Read on to learn tips for keeping smoothies healthy!
1. Whenever possible, make at home. This will be your best bet for making sure they do not have unwanted ingredients.
2. Prep ingredients ahead of time: Take a little time at the beginning of the week to wash and cut ingredients making it easier on busy days.
3. Consider frozen ingredients. We’ve all heard the saying “fresh is best?” Fresh is great, but frozen ingredients are great in smoothies and keeping frozen produce on hand can make a big difference in achieving regular consumption of fruits and vegetables. Getting in this habit can help prevent poor food choices during those inevitable times when grocery shopping gets delayed.
Hot tip: Notice your fresh fruits or veggies going bad? Freeze them for smoothies.
4. Don’t forget the Veggies. Many people load up on the fruit but forget the vegetables. Smoothies are a great place to sneak in several servings of vegetables. For people who have a hard time finding vegetables they like, this can be a life saver (literally). Adding in handfuls of spinach, kale and other greens will do very little to alter the taste (don’t be fooled by the color). Chances are the more you drink smoothies, the more adventurous you will get so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Hot tip: Feeling bold? Try adding in flavorful veggies/ herbs like arugula, mint, basil or cilantro.
3. Put on your detective hat when purchasing out. Some places make wonderfully healthy and delicious smoothies, but you have to do your investigative work. This means looking closely at ingredient lists and ASKING QUESTIONS!
Questions to ask when ordering a smoothie:
- Is the fruit fresh or frozen or is it packaged in syrup or preservatives?
- What kind of base is used? If its juice, ask to substitute with water or low-fat milk. If they use non-dairy milks, like almond or soy, is it sweetened? Is there added sugar anywhere else? Many places will use simple syrup or sneak in extra sugar in order to make smoothies taste better, so be on the look-out.
- Can vegetables be added? Don’t be afraid to request added greens or other vegetables even if it’s not in the recipe!
4. Stay away from bottled smoothies. Anything that is sold on the shelf in a bottle labeled as a smoothie is not going to be a healthy choice.
5. Bulk up smoothies with healthy fats, proteins and fiber. Nuts, nut butters, flax, hemp or chia seeds, avocado, and unsweetened low-fat yogurt, all make great additions to smoothies. Adding these ingredients can help smoothies keep you full longer and boost nutritional content.
Hot tip: Stick with 1-2 at a time in order to keep calories down.
What about smoothie or acai bowls?
Like smoothies, acai and other smoothie bowls can either be a fantastic source of nutrients or nothing more than a dessert disguised as a health food. Unfortunately, many places use acai sorbet instead of unsweetened pure acai. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is! One is nothing more than a dessert with 30gs of sugar/ cup, and the other is a superfood with 0gs of sugar/ cup. So remember to ASK QUESTIONS!
Bottom Line: Smoothies and smoothie bowls can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet and deliciously satisfying! As always, be mindful of what you are putting in your body, you’re worth it!