Ask the Expert: Smoothies the Healthy Way


Admittedly, I prefer to chew my food, not drink it. There is even some research to show that taking in the same amount of calories in liquid vs. solid form can easily lead to consuming more calories later.  Liquid does not satisfy the same way solid food can, in particular due to the fact that food is stripped of some beneficial nutrients such as fiber. I realize this preference for chewing is not held by all and I admit smoothies can be quick and easy solutions for people who might otherwise be skipping meals (or not eating their veggies).

Just as not all meals and snacks are healthy simply because they contain fruits and vegetables, smoothies are no different. Simply containing healthy ingredients does not make a healthy smoothie. Nutrient composition is crucial. Just as well balanced meals and snacks make up a healthy diet; smoothies need to be just as well balanced. If you wouldn’t eat 3 pieces of fruit for a meal or a snack, you shouldn’t be drinking them together in your smoothie either. Think of your smoothies as a convenient way to get the nutrients you need.

Here are some tips for creating smoothies the healthy (and waistline saving) way:

  1. Use a liquid other than juice as your base. Juice has a ton of sugar and adds little nutritional value. I like to use unsweetened almond milk or soy milk as my base (soy will provide additional protein and a little fat). Non-fat plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese are also great to use – and pack some satiating protein power as well.
  1. Use 1 serving of fruit to add natural sweetness. You reap the benefits of the natural fiber fruit contains plus all those good vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Frozen fruit is a convenient, economical and means you don’t need to add ice! I also like to use a teaspoon of raw agave syrup or 1 date to add a little extra sweetness.
  1. Be sure to add some fat and protein. These take longer to digest, will help fill you up longer and also slow sugar absorption. The same goes for fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of. Examples include Greek yogurt, avocado, nuts, nut butter and if you’re vegan, try a pea or hemp based protein powder for some extra oomph.
  1. Portions are KEY. Figure out whether this smoothie is replacing breakfast or being used as a snack and create accordingly. You wouldn’t necessarily eat 3 pieces of fruit, a yogurt, milk, and peanut butter for a snack. So consider what your snack or meal would consist of normally and build your smoothie that way. For example, my favorite breakfast smoothie includes 1 6oz container low fat Greek yogurt, a handful of spinach, 1 tablespoon almond butter and an apple, because typically, this is what my breakfast usually consists of (minus the spinach)!

Dana Pitman

Dana Pitman is a Registered Dietitian and a New York State Certified-Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York City. She serves on staff as a Clinical Nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to her clinical role, Dana is an active member of both the Employee Wellness Committee and the Community Education Program, lecturing on a range of nutrition related topics and also driving a number of hospital wide initiatives.

Topics: Featured, Nutrition
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.


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  1. I’m a type 2 diabetic. I’m looking to drop weight, and hopefully not hurt myself with too much sugar. I made my first smoothie today. It was blueberries, strawberries, flax seed, kael, and water.

    Is this ok? Or is my diabetes going to kick in here?

    1. Hi Glen, great question! Dietitian Dana Pitman says: “There was definitely not too much sugar in this smoothie (I’m guessing – without knowing the exact amount of fruit you put in). Given that berries are lower in sugar than other fruits this is an excellent choice. Stick to roughly 1 ½ cups to be safe. The kale is chock full of vitamins and minerals and the flax seed is an excellent source of fiber and omeg-3 fatty acids. What you ARE missing is a satisfying dose of protein to round out this smoothie. Not only does it help to fill you up and keep you satisfied, but the combined protein and fiber will help stabilize blood sugar. If you’re a yogurt fan, ½ -3/4 cup of plain, low fat greek yogurt is an excellent addition. You could also add ½ low fat milk or soy milk plus 1 scoop whey protein powder to pack some protein in.”

  2. Do u have any advice I can pass down to my 47 year old daughter who cannot gain any weight…she is lactose intolerant and has IBS and weights 97 pounds…not much she can eat….
    Thank you

    1. Hi Angela, thank you for reaching out. Dana Pitman, Dietitian, says “it’s worthwhile to consult with a gastroenterologist, but your daughter should consult with a nutritionist as well.” For more information on nutrition services at Hospital for Special Surgery, please visit or call 212.774.7638 and speak with one of our nutritionists.