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Myth: Smoothies are a good, low cal, on-the-go snack.

TRUTH: Not entirely a myth but let’s discuss. I’m going to start with the bad and finish with the good.

Why I don’t promote smoothies:

  1. In general, drinking your calories is not the healthiest option.  Drinks are often sweetened with sugar (or artificial sweeteners).  If not high in sugar, they often contain excess fat (i.e. milkshakes, lattes, etc) or contain several highly processed items (i.e. Muscle Milk or other protein drinks).  Drinks have little (if any) fiber and are usually small in volume but high in calories.
  2. Smoothies can vary greatly in their ingredients and nutritional profile.  A “fruit smoothie” made with strawberry ice cream does not count as a serving of fruit.  Consider this: a real fruit smoothie is not just one piece of fruit and some low fat yogurt.  Usually, it’s several servings of fruit plus a serving or two of yogurt, totaling 300-600 calories (for the smallest size).  That’s not a snack, that’s a meal!
  3. Smoothie companies have capitalized on the supplement craze and offer different combinations of nutrients (often called “enhancers”) to appeal to a wide range of clientele.  For instance, they often offer some kind of immunity booster, a protein blast or energy booster “enhancer”.  They don’t care about your health – they want your money, so what they won’t tell you is that a lot of these “enhancers” don’t enhance all that much. The vitamins and minerals aren’t in sufficient quantity to have the effect they claim and your body would absorb the extra nutrients better and more efficiently if they were from foods, rather than a lab-synthesized powder.

Why smoothies can be a good option:

  1. They can be a good meal replacement.  Don’t have time for lunch?  Grab a handful of nuts and a low-fat fruit or vegetable smoothie (made with skim milk or non-fat yogurt) for a quick meal on the go.
  2. Smoothies are a great option for people who don’t tolerate breakfast.  Substituting a smoothie for breakfast can be a quick and easy way to pack in some energy.
  3. You can make a variety of flavors with only a few ingredients.  And, if you’re someone who doesn’t like vegetables, you can sneak ‘em in without a very vegetable-y flavor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Smoothies are a good option when you consider the added calories and select a healthy blend of fruit and yogurt.  Choose smoothies that:

  • Don’t have added sugar (like fruit juice, sorbet, or honey)
  • Are low in fat (contain non-fat yogurt instead of frozen yogurt)
  • Contain real fruit (instead of canned fruits or fruited ice cream)

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. Eating Well – Healthy Smoothie Recipes
  2. The Conscious Cook article: Why smoothies aren’t healthy (and how to make one that is)

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