Nutrition FAQ: Are Smoothies Healthy?
FAQs - Did You Know? Nutrition
Morgan Medeiros MSc
March 30, 2017
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Are Smoothies Healthy

Are Smoothies Healthy?

If you’re considering hitting up your local smoothie joint for a light snack to get you through the midday slump, you might want to reconsider: while smoothies provide a punch of produce, they also tend to be Calorically dense and high in sugar.

Once regarded as something of a health food deity, smoothies have become a relatively common foodstuff, one that has been bent and broken in the current consumer marketplace. It’s easy to assume that a smoothie provides a healthier alternative to a sugary soda or fountain beverage, but many smoothies are actually higher in sugar, Calories, and fat than the average fast food milkshake.

What could be so bad about blended fruit and yogurt?

Nothing, in theory. However, supersize portions and high-Calorie, high-fat, and/or high-sugar add-ins have negatively impacted what was once a nutritious treat.

Whenever you blend or juice fruit, you’re condensing a large amount of natural sugar into a smaller unit. While a whole cup of strawberries provides significant volume, a pureed cup of strawberries provides significantly less, yet the Calories and sugar remain the same. Smoothies and juice both require a large amount of fruit to create a finished product.

Forty or fifty years ago, serving sizes were much smaller, meaning that even relatively high-Calorie foods could be consumed without as much threat of weight gain. In today’s consumer environment, inflated portion sizes have created the expectation of large portions across nearly every category of food. The average consumer in the 1970’s would have been satisfied with an 8-12 oz smoothie- today, that portion is considered a child’s size.

Of course, not all smoothies are created equal. In general, smoothies made at home without added sugar do have the potential to be healthier than those that you might purchase outside of the home. Many smoothies feature unhealthful inclusions that have them erring more towards milkshake than smoothie- a medium Chocolate Moo’d Smoothie from Jamba Juice, for example, contains 570 Calories and an astounding 103 grams of sugar!

However, there is a consumer tendency to believe that all homemade products are nutritionally superior to those purchased outside of the home. In reality, many consumers prepare foods in their own kitchens that are on par with the beverages that you might purchase in a food court.

Consider that a 16 oz homemade smoothie containing 1 cup of strawberries, 1 banana, ½ cup of nonfat greek yogurt, and 8 oz orange juice contains 380 Calories, while a 16 oz strawberry smoothie from Jamba Juice contains the exact same number of Calories.

Are Smoothies Healthy When Made at Home?

If you want to step up your smoothie prep, always focus on whole fruits, nonfat yogurt, and skim milk. Skip sorbet, seeds, oils, nuts, and juice, all of which dramatically increase the Calorie and/or sugar content of your end product. Always drink a smoothie as a meal rather than as a beverage.

Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).

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