In short—yes—smoothies can absolutely be healthy.
When made with fruit, veggies and low-carb bases, they deliver tons of nutrition. But—just as easily—they can turn into a liquid dessert.
One of the major problems with smoothies is the form they come in. Studies have shown that when people drink something, they are less satisfied. And when you’re still hungry…they first thing you reach for is more food. Satiety for dieters is of utmost importance to stay on track with their weight loss goals.
For people seeking a healthier lifestyle, this paradox can be problematic. If the calories you’re consuming in a smoothie aren’t replacing another snack or meal, you’re overeating. And for those trying to lose weight, this makes for a frustrating experience.
When Losing Weight Is the Goal
If your primary goal is weight loss, you’ll need to tread carefully around smoothies. In fact, the only beverages you should be consuming ought to be water or non-sugary clear liquids. The simple fact is this: drinking your calories will never curb your appetite as eating can. For example, eating a salad will feel more satisfying than drinking those exact ingredients, blended.
As with most rules, there are some exceptions. When it comes to smoothies, meal replacement shakes are one caveat to the “steer clear of smoothies” rule. For example, swapping out a sugary cereal with a protein shake for breakfast is great! And this will definitely help you to lose weight.
Smoothie Ingredients: What to Look For
Smoothies are an attractive food option these days. There are smoothie chains on every street corner—even frozen smoothie delivery services! When weighing your choices, there are several things to look for.
Ingredient lists are the first place to start. If they’re not available (like fast food offerings)–skip these smoothies entirely! Instead, look for real fruits and veggies as the first ingredients, with no added juices or sugar.
Smoothies that are heavier on their veggie content rather than fruits are better, too. Fruits naturally contain more sugar and are thus higher in calories. For those trying to lose weight, this is not a good thing. Even if a smoothie contains almost all veggies, adding one type of fruit will sweeten it up a great amount!
If you are making smoothies at home, use almond or soy milk, or Greek yogurt as a base. Chose bases that are sugar-free, or advertised as low-carb. When adding in protein powder, check to make sure the carb content isn’t off the charts. Not only will this sneak in extra calories, but the sugar crash you’ll experience will have you reaching for more snacks sooner. Instead, try out full-fat versions of yogurt and mix with ice.
Smoothie Ingredients: What to Avoid
Prepackaged smoothies, in particular, are not great for you. Even with labels boasting about “no sugar added!” juices made from concentrate can make sugar content soar. The refined nature of processed foods, in general, detracts from their health benefits.
Be wary of smoothies that claim to provide you with multiple servings of fruit. While it’s true that juice can “count” as one serving of fruit, there’s way more benefits to eating whole fruit.
One reason fruits and veggies are so good for you is their high-fiber content. When these foods come bottled, they have undergone an extensive refinement. This depletes them of all their fiber goodness.
The lack of natural fiber contributes to a lack of satiety, too. Even when blended at home, the mechanical breakdown of fiber is never as good as your teeth doing the job!
Lastly, most prepackaged smoothies contain multiple servings. For label-conscious folks, they know to read not just the calories, but also the servings provided. This will give you the actual caloric (and sugar) content of the entire bottle. How often have you only consumed 1/3 of a bottled drink? Not much, probably!
Returning to our original question—yes, it’s possible for smoothies to be healthy. But it’s more likely for them not to be unless you know what to look for. Chose smoothies with whole ingredients. Opt for bases that are high in protein and fat but low in carb content. Drink a smoothie in place of a snack or meal, not in addition.
And finally—consider eating all the same ingredients in their whole form!