They’re fruity and full of dairy calcium, and they seem so virtuous. No wonder smoothies are popular for breakfast, snacks or even as meal replacements.
But don’t be lulled into thinking these tasty combos of fruit and milk necessarily deliver the best nutrition for your calorie budget.
Adding it up
A smoothie has calories, and it’s important to view a smoothie in terms of your calories for the day. If you don’t watch portion size or ingredient add-ins, your smoothie can end up with as many calories as a milkshake—and it could have other drawbacks as well, say nutrition experts.
When you sip a smoothie made with fruit flavoring and not real fruit–which is the formula for some commercially made drinks–you’re missing out on essential vitamins. These flavorings are high in sugar and lack the dietary fiber your body needs. And even though you feel full right away, you could have a mid-day crash because you’re not eating solid food.
You can still indulge in smoothies, nutrition experts say, as long as you remember that you may need to cut back on calories elsewhere to compensate. Here’s what you should know to be a savvy smoothie consumer, whether you’re ordering out or making your own drink.
- Look for a nutritionally balanced smoothie with nonfat milk and whole fruit for fiber.
- If you’re buying a smoothie, ask whether the vendor uses real fruit or fruit flavorings. Stick with fruit and avoid fruit juice or artificial fruit concentrate. Fruit juice without fiber will cause a spike in your blood sugar so you’re soon hungry again.
- Frozen fruit is fine, and in fact makes smoothies frothier and thicker. But use plain, no-sugar-added frozen fruit to save calories.
- Opt for fat-free dairy products to get calcium, vitamin D and protein without the fat.
- Decide whether you really need the add-ons that some commercial shops put into their smoothies. For example, you might be offered a concoction with caffeine, protein powder or an antioxidant cocktail. Experts cautions against drinking smoothies with added caffeine and also questions whether you need antioxidants in your drink.
- Watch serving sizes. Experts recommend an eight-ounce portion.