When you're just starting to get healthy or familiarizing yourself with weight loss, it's easy to assume that smoothies are always healthy.
After all, they're just fruit and milk, right? What's so bad about that?
So, are smoothies healthy? Well, they can be. It depends on what you put in them.
"You're saying I need to fill my blender with green goo, aren't you?"
No, definitely not! You can make healthy smoothies that taste amazing too. Here's everything you need to know.
Are Smoothies Healthy? It Depends on the Ingredients
Unfortunately, more often than not, smoothies are absolutely not healthy.
Why? They're loaded with added sugar -- total sugar bombs -- and provide barely any protein or nutritional value.
Don't trust the smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe or Jamba Juice. Read the sugar content first because most of them have more grams of sugar than two cans of soda. (1)
Which Ingredients Should You Avoid?
Sadly, most of the dessert-type smoothies you see are nothing more than glorified milkshakes.
These ingredients contain a ton of sugar which can jack up the calories and grams of sugar in your otherwise healthy smoothie.
Believe it or not, most premade smoothie mixes or restaurant smoothies include several tablespoons of the white stuff.
Added sugar pulls out the taste of the fruits and adds that extra "oomph" to smoothies.
You can sweeten up your smoothie with low-calorie options like stevia or monk fruit.
Fruit juices like apple, pomegranate, cherry, or orange are common in smoothies.
While liquid is important in smoothies, fruit juices also boost the sugar content without adding any fiber or nutritional value.
Some fruits contain more sugar than others.
Although the sugar content in fruit is natural, it still skyrockets the calories, spikes your blood sugar, and goes straight to your waistline.
High-sugar fruits include cherries, bananas, apples, figs, pineapples, and mangoes. (2)
One frozen banana can improve the texture and flavor of your smoothies but limit yourself to one per smoothie.
Good Ingredients for a Healthy Smoothie
You can still make a fruit smoothie that fits into a healthy diet. Choose from the healthiest ingredients below.
Fruit is a must in any smoothie but choose wisely from low sugar fruits like these: (3)
- Honeydew melon
Frozen works better in smoothies because fresh fruit can leave your drink too liquidy and no one wants cold fruit soup.
If you're grabbing a bag of frozen fruits from the freezer section at the grocery store, make sure it doesn't include any added sugar or juice. Sadly, that’s often the case with smoothie kits.
Veggies or Leafy Greens
Did you know that most Americans -- 95% -- don't get enough fiber? (4)
That has disastrous effects on heart health and cholesterol.
You can sneak more fiber into your diet by adding some veggies or leafy greens to your smoothies.
Kale, spinach, carrots, and beets all blend well into smoothies and offer some extra fiber. (5)
Coconut or Almond Milk
When making a smoothie, you'll need some type of liquid to make it drinkable.
Skip the fruit juice and dairy milk (which is loaded with natural sugar) in favor of low-sugar options like sugar-free almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk.
Green tea also makes an awesome liquid choice for smoothies because it has a light flavor and plenty of antioxidants.
Choose green tea over almond milk when you're looking for more of a slushie rather than a milky smoothie.
Healthy fats are important for keeping you satiated between meals.
You have plenty of options here.
Avocados blend excellently into smoothies with a creamy texture and provide way more potassium than a banana. (6)
Chia seeds and flax seeds also make awesome additions to smoothies due to their high omega-3 and fiber contents.
Like healthy fats, protein is also important for bulking up your smoothie and providing energy to power you through the day.
If you have it on hand, protein powder will do. Stock up on unflavored protein powder so it's versatile enough for all of your healthy smoothie recipes.
Almond butter makes a great choice too because the flavor isn't as overpowering as peanut butter.
Of course, Greek yogurt also provides over 20 grams of protein per serving as well as countless probiotics.
Let's address the elephant in the room.
A smoothie should taste sweet. Artificial sweeteners can certainly cut the calories, but the jury is out on whether they're dangerous over a long period of time. (9)
Instead, cut the calories, carbs, and grams of sugar in one fell swoop with either stevia or monk fruit.
Maple syrup and honey are also great natural sweeteners. But when you're already eating a blender full of fresh fruit, you want to cut sugar calories everywhere you possibly can.
8 Healthy Smoothie Recipes
Are smoothies healthy if they still taste great? Absolutely! Here are a few ideas.
- Pumpkin pie: Pumpkin puree (not pie filling), oats, pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 frozen banana, Greek yogurt, stevia
- Red velvet: Frozen blueberries, unsweetened cocoa powder, almond milk, stevia, protein powder
- Banana bread: 1 frozen banana, nutmeg, cinnamon, oats, almond butter, stevia
- Brain booster: Frozen beets, banana, blueberries, cauliflower, lion's mane mushroom extract, ice, non-dairy milk
- Anti-inflammatory: Cauliflower, orange, lemon, black pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cordyceps extract, water, ice
- Avo-launcher: Dates, kiwi, avocado, banana, spinach, ice, non-dairy milk, Thrive 6 mushroom extract powder
- Hero: Non-dairy milk, blood orange, mango, banana, hemp seeds, flax meal, cordyceps extract powder
- Shamrock: Frozen banana, spirulina, coconut milk, stevia, chia seed, peppermint extract
Are Smoothies Healthy? The Bottom Line
Are smoothies healthy? Yes and no. It depends on what you put in them and most of them are loaded with added sugar.
Skip the ones with ice cream from your local Jamba and invest in a small Ninja to make your own with fresh fruits and stevia.