Smoothie 101

Smoothies. Those fruity, refreshing, icy-cold beverages that just scream, “summer.” But if you buy the ones at the market or from the local smoothie shoppe, you could be taking in far more calories than you bargained for. And on top of that, you could be short-changing yourself on your nutrition.

What? How could a seemingly innocent blend of fruits and juices be a poor nutritional choice? Aren’t we supposed to be eating more fruit? Yes, it’s ideal to eat 3-5 servings of fruit a day, but getting it from a bottled smoothie drink isn’t the best way to go. Read the ingredient list on the smoothie bottle label. What kind of juices go into it? Apple juice, white grape juice, pear juice. Cheap and lacking in important nutrients. These mild juices make a great neutral base for a smoothie as they don’t overpower the flavors of the fruit going in. They would be so much better if they were made with pomegranate or tart cherry juice, brimming with antioxidants. And don’t forget to read the label before you down that smoothie. One serving has 150-200 calories and one bottle has two servings. Most people I know will drink the whole bottle, quickly consuming 300-400 servings, and that’s usually in addition to the meal they’re drinking it with.

Another problem with the bottled smoothie is that most of them are just pure carbohydrate, which will boost your energy level, but won’t sustain it for a long period of time. It’s missing both protein and fiber, the two important elements to balancing your blood sugar and sustaining your energy level. Plus, liquid calories empty out of your system faster than calories from food, leaving you hungry sooner.

All that being said, a smoothie can be a great way to get a great snack or meal, especially if you are on the go or short on time, or a great post-workout recovery meal, but you have to make it yourself. That way you control the quantity and quality of the ingredients and ensure that you’re getting a good balance of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber.

Here’s our smoothie “cheat sheet”. Pick one food from each category and put it together to make one great smoothie. Make sure you have a good quality blender to handle some of these ingredients.  Our favorite is the Vitamix!

Group A – liquid base

  • 8 oz. juice: orange, pineapple, pomegranate, tart cherry
  • 8 oz. nonfat milk, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, or nonfat soy milk

Group B – fruit & vegetables

  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/2 -1 banana (frozen makes for a great smoothie consistency)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh or frozen mango and/or pineapple
  • 1 cup leafy greens – kale, spinach
  • 1/2 sliced cucumber
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 -1 cooked sweet potato

Group C – added protein

  • 1 scoop protein powder – whey, egg, pea, hemp, rice (about 15-20 grams protein)

Group D – healthy fat and fiber

  • 1 tbs. ground flaxseed, chia seed, or hemp seed
  • 2-3 tbs. slivered raw almonds or walnuts
  • 1 tbs. almond butter or natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. old-fashioned oats

Group E (optional) – flavor enhancers – a little goes a long way

  • pure vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon
  • espresso powder
  • cocoa powder


How to make your smoothie:

1. Place your liquid (Group A), 2-3 ingredients from Group B, one scoop of protein powder, one to two items from Group D, and any optional flavor enhancer from Group E into a high-powered blender. If the fruit chunks are frozen, pulse about 10 times to break them up. Then turn the blender to HIGH and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy.

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