It has fruits, veggies, yogurt and protein powder. Your breakfast smoothie is healthy, isn’t it?
Take a second look, dietitians say. More often than not, smoothies are packed with sugar and too many calories, threatening to sabotage your weight loss efforts.
“Many people love starting their day with a tasty, nutrient-packed smoothie. However, getting lost in the hype and not paying attention to portions can result in a smoothie that can easily account for a third to half your daily calorie needs,” Susan Macfarlane, an Ottawa-based registered dietitian, told Global News.
“If we’re not careful, breakfast smoothies can be a sugar bomb and can lack nutrients that are satiating — protein and fat. We often consume smoothies fast [and] this is problematic as [it] can prevent us from feeling full,” Nicole Osinga, a Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian, told Global News.
Here’s a look at five ways you’re sabotaging what’s supposed to be a healthy smoothie snack or meal.
You may be guzzling down a smoothie as a snack before mealtime not realizing that it’s enough for an entire meal.
Decide if your smoothie is a meal or a snack and adjust your portions, ingredients and cup size accordingly, suggests Krista Leck Merner, a Halifax-based registered dietitian.
A smoothie with one cup of berries, ¾ cup of Greek yogurt and water makes for a tasty snack, but a smoothie with a banana, spinach, nut butter, hemp hearts and almond milk is a meal-sized smoothie, for example.
These days blenders can hold up to two litres. Your job is to practice portion control.
Tip: Measure your ingredients as you add them instead of just loading up the blender. You can also create “smoothie packs” ahead of time that contain pre-measured ingredients. This will save you time and keep your portions in check.
There’s a reason why your smoothie tastes so good: a large smoothie made with orange juice, frozen fruit, and flavoured yogurt easily has as many as 20 to 25 teaspoons of sugar, Macfarlane warns.
If you’re making a chocolate smoothie, you could be adding chocolate chips or cacao nibs to your smoothie. Others add honey or maple syrup.
Tip: Instead of using juice, or sweetened milks, stick to water, coconut water, ice or unsweetened almond or soy milk. Rely on a dash of cinnamon or a splash of juice as flavour enhancers.
When it comes to fruit, don’t go overboard. Keep in mind, a medium-sized banana has about 100 calories.
“Smoothies can often get fruit-heavy. Between a banana, berries, and loads of juice, we can easily get over four full fruit servings in one smoothie,” Leck Merner said.
“I am not one to restrict fruit intake. However when fruit is consumed in a smoothie, it is digested much more quickly and can result in excessive blood sugar spikes in individuals with diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia,” Macfarlane notes.
Tip: Macfarlane recommends one to 1.5 cups of fruit per smoothie. And go for options that are high in fibre and antioxidants, such as berries.
Osinga suggests just half a cup of fruit. If you’re adding fruit, you don’t need maple syrup or honey for sweetness.
There’s flaxseed, chia seeds, goji berries, turmeric, kale — are all of these ingredients going into your smoothie? While these are nutrient-dense options, adding too many ingredients can also come with too many calories.
Tip: Don’t go crazy on these ingredients and choose one or two at most for your smoothie, the experts say.
You have to strike the right balance when it comes to protein: too much is not better and too little could leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
Too much protein could mean too much protein powder, topped with peanut butter and Greek yogurt. If you’re blending ice with fruit and almond milk, you may not be getting enough protein at all.
Tip: As a general rule of thumb, aim for a protein intake in your breakfast smoothie of about 15 to 30 grams, depending on your size and activity level. Go for one serving of Greek yogurt or one scoop of protein powder, Osinga suggests.
Smoothies are some of the easiest ways to sneak vegetables into your diet. You could be piling up fruits into your smoothie without considering spinach, kale, arugula, and even collard greens into your drink.
They add more nutrition to your smoothie without too many calories or sugar.
“I love adding a handful of spinach to my smoothies as it’s relatively tasteless. A few scoops of pureed pumpkin works too, if you can’t stomach a green smoothie just yet,” Osinga said.
Tip: Add a handful of greens to your smoothie. Keep them frozen for easy usage.
Are you still hungry after having your smoothie as a snack or meal? Research suggests that food in semi-solid or solid forms are more filling and satiating than drinking liquids.
“If you find that you are hungry soon after your morning smoothie, you may want to opt for a breakfast of oatmeal with nuts and berries or whole grain toast with fruit,” Macfarlane suggests.
Tip: See how you feel after your smoothie. Are you still grazing? If so, you may be better off with eating the ingredients whole instead of blending them into a drink.
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