Smoothie nutrition tips

smoothies at home (photo: USCPSC via Flickr)

Hot summer weather and smoothies go together like, well.. PB & J?  Anyway, enough with analogies.  It’s a great time of year for smoothies because they’re cool and light and refreshing and the weather is hot.  Another plus: there’s lots of fresh fruit in season.  They can substitute for a meal, or fill in as a snack.  But what’s the best smoothie?

While I can’t personally review and rate every single smoothie shop on the planet, I can give you some easy tips for maximizing the nutrition and health credibility of your smoothie, and minimize the junk factor.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of drinks out there masquerading as “smoothies” that are really just extra-thick soft drinks.  My basic criteria for healthy smoothies:

  1. whole fresh fruit, or vegetables, if you’re going for a less sweet taste sensation
  2. 100% juice, if a juice is used
  3. milk or quality yogurt, whether you’re using a dairy ingredient or soy versions
  4. bare minimum of added sweeteners, if any

Other than these basics, I think all those pricey add-ins you can choose at smoothie shops are mostly a waste.  And are particularly unnecessary if you stuck to #1 – 4 above.  Fresh fruit and juice already has plenty of vitamins and antioxidants.  Milk and yoghurt already has protein.

When purchasing a smoothie, use these tips to get the most nutritional bang for your buck:

  • Read through the ingredients lists.  Avoid the smoothies made with sherbet, fruit syrup or fruit concentrate
  • Be sure you see 100% fruit juice listed
  • If the store has a section of fresh fruit smoothies, make sure the rest of the ingredients in those are quality, not fruit syrup.
  • Yogurt should not be frozen yogurt.
  • “Blasts”, add-ins, “boosters” -meh
Many of the national chains label smoothies as “low fat” or “wellness”, but unfortunately they still contain frozen yogurt or unnecessary add-ins.  Jamba Juice, at least, lists several smoothies that aren’t loaded with extraneous ingredients.  I particularly like the All Fruit and Fruit & Veggie varieties.  Many small local smoothie shops will offer similar products.

If you make your own smoothies, you control the ingredients and the amount of added sweetness.  It’s almost too easy to whip up something healthy, assuming you have a blender.  Basic recipe for one serving: put 1-1/2 cups of fruit chunks or whole berries in the blender.  Pour enough juice/milk over to cover the fruit.  Optional: add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of yogurt and turn on the blender.  Some cool combinations:

  • carrot juice and mango chunks
  • orange juice and strawberries
  • pineapple juice and banana
  • pomegranate juice and raspberries
  • apple juice and blackberries
If you just want something cold and refreshing and light, blend 1-1/2 cups watermelon chunks, 3/4 cup small ice cubes (or 1/2 cup crushed ice), juice from 1/2 lime and a dash of sugar.
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