All smoothies are healthy, right? Not so fast — some smoothies can unknowingly be a calorie bomb. Whether you’re trying to shave calories, or increase your nutrition, smoothies can be a great way to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, but it’s important to be aware of what you — or your local smoothie bar — put in your smoothie. Get the nutrients you need — without the extra calories by knowing where the calories hide.
Vega advocates getting more bang for your buck (in the figurative sense) with the foods you eat. That means getting the most nutrition in the fewest calories. Smoothies can help you maximize nutrient intake, but can also add in a lot of caloric density if you aren’t careful — some smoothies can have as much sugar as a pint of ice cream or sorbet! (And let’s face it–wouldn’t you rather save that for dessert?) If you make your smoothies at home, you control what goes in, but even some common smoothie recipes you’ll find on the web pack in excess calories. Here’s how to keep your smoothies in your target calorie zone:
There is no reason to add commercially made juice to a smoothie — especially if you’re using fresh (or frozen) fruits and veggies. Fruit has far more nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber than juice, for a fraction of the calories. Instead, try:
- Light coconut milk
- Almond milk
Watch powdered supplements
Many commercial protein powders have excess calories and loads of hidden sugars. A nutritional supplement, powdered vitamin drink, or protein powder should not have more than 150 calories or more than 3 grams of sugar per serving – otherwise it’s probably got extras you don’t need.
Avoid smoothie ‘mixes’
Many stores sell frozen smoothie packets for you throw in the blender with a little liquid. However, these often have lots of added calories in the form of various added sugars, so you’re better off making your own using the unsweetened frozen fruit a few feet down the aisle.
Go for unsweetened fruit
Be mindful if you’re using frozen fruit – make sure you purchase unsweetened in lieu of sweetened.
Mix in some greens
Although they are nutrient dense, fruits do have a few more calories than veggies. So if you are trying to lose weight — or just trying to get more greens — gradually cut back a bit on the fruit in your smoothie and slowly add in some spinach, kale, celery, parsley, or other greens.
Set the base
Even if you like it thick, never, ever get a smoothie that uses sherbet, ice cream, or frozen yogurt as a base—these make it more of a milkshake than a smoothie. Instead, try:
- Unsweetened frozen fruit
Focus on fats
Adding essential fatty acids or nut butters is common in smoothie recipes and a good option, but if you are aiming to reduce your caloric intake, save those for your salads.
It’s easy to get carried away by throwing the kitchen sink into your smoothie, so be mindful of portion size – it’s an easy way to save calories without changing your favorite recipe. An easy way to manage your smoothie size (if they tend to grow out of control) is to measure all your ingredients in the cup you plan to drink it out of — before you put it all in the blender.
If you use coconut milk, try the light version (same with other milk alternatives).
Try plain, or natural
Whether it’s your drink mix, fruit, or protein powder – opt for a plain or natural flavor with no sugar added – like any flavor of Vega One® Organic All-in-One Shake (we sweeten our protein powders only with stevia). We even have a Plain Unsweetened option which contains no sweetener, so you can feel free to add a little bit of maple syrup or agave nectar in a quantity you can control. Remember to compare nutrient facts labels when you’re at the store to see the variance in flavors and calories.