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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.