Thick and creamy or thin and slurpable, a whole meal replacement or a midafternoon snack, smoothies are versatile and may be adapted to suit almost any palate. And in warmer weather, smoothies can be a great way to cool off.
But not all smoothies are created equal. For the carb– and calorie-conscious, some smoothies may be a dietary pitfall. With all that blended fruit and yogurt, the carbs and sugars can really add up quickly. Whether you’re buying a smoothie at a store or making it at home, consider all of the ingredients.
All about that base
There is no rule that says smoothies must be made with yogurt. Any amount of dairy, be it yogurt or milk, is going to add some carbs to the mix. Greek yogurt has less natural sugar and much more protein than regular yogurt or milk, so it’s a good option for dairy-based smoothies. Dairy-free choices include almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk. Or you can go the high-octane route and use iced coffee or tea. Just make sure that whatever base you use, it has no added sugar. And it’s best to avoid fruit juices as they add plenty of sugar with few added benefits.
The fruit route
Fruit smoothies are the standard and it’s no wonder as they taste delicious. But some fruits are surprisingly high in natural sugars, while others have far fewer carbs and much more fiber. It may be best to avoid tropical fruits like bananas, pineapple and mango. On the other hand, most berries are low enough in sugars to add a nice big handful to the blender. Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon can be good choices, too.
Vegetable smoothies may not be quite as popular as their fruity cousins but that doesn’t mean they are any less flavorful. Adding veggies to your smoothie may increase the nutritional content. As with fruit, choose your ingredients wisely to avoid adding a lot of sugar. Leafy greens, cucumbers and other low-carb veggies are your best bet. If you want to hide those greens to make your smoothie more appealing, a handful of dark blueberries may do the trick. A tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder also works.
Thick it up
If you prefer smoothies that are so thick you need to eat them with a spoon, you’ve got plenty of healthful choices to thicken them. Adding natural nut butters or some avocado can give you the creamy thickness you crave. A spoonful of chia seeds or flaxseeds can help, too. And all of these additions add healthful fats and fiber to your diet.
Get a protein boost
Adding extra protein to your smoothies can turn them into a great pre-workout snack or a post-workout recovery drink. However, it’s always good to check the labels on protein powders, as some contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners. A little pasteurized egg white can also give you a protein boost.
Smoothies can be a great way to enjoy all the fresh produce summer has to offer. But keep in mind that when it’s all blended up together, it can go down very easily and you might overconsume without realizing it. Being mindful of portion sizes may help you enjoy your smoothie without a lot of added calories.
Carolyn Ketchum is a writer, runner and the mastermind behind All Day I Dream About Food, a mostly low-carb, gluten-free food blog. She has a master’s degree in physical anthropology and an extensive background in higher education administration. Ketchum is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience