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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

Smoothie Smarts

Simple, Healthy, and Delicious Treats

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
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Dig out the blender! (Don’t worry, nothing high-tech.) Throw in a few simple, nutritious ingredients, give it a whirl and you’ve got a super-quick breakfast, snack, or mini-meal. Who can resist these icy cold, frothy concoctions, fondly known as “smoothies”? Kids as well as adults love them! Follow these simple guidelines and blend up your own batch today.

For the Calorie Conscious
To help keep calories under control, avoid smoothies made with high-fat and high-calorie ingredients like ice cream, whole milk, and cream. Instead use low fat items such as skim milk, low fat yogurt, fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt, frozen ice milk, fruit juice, silken tofu, soymilk, soy yogurt, and rice milk. When a recipe calls for peanut butter, use it in moderation. (Although high in protein and the healthy monounsaturated fat, the calories can add up quickly, due to the total fat content.) And be careful with the portion size—one cup (8 ounces) is the standard, not the entire contents of the blender.

The very best smoothie is creamy and thick, NOT watered-down or icy. A great trick for adding thickness to your smoothie—without adding additional calories—is to freeze the fruit before making the smoothie (or buy frozen fruit). Start in the fresh produce section of the grocery. Select berries, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, plums, mango, anything. Grab the familiar as well as the unusual. When fresh stuff is unavailable or too pricey, check out the fruit choices in the freezer section. Canned fruit can also be used as a nutritious, tasty alternative, without the extra expense. Once you arrive home:
  • Immediately place frozen fruit in the freezer.
  • Open canned fruit and rinse off syrup.
  • Lightly rinse the fresh fruit.
  • Peel and remove the skin if necessary (banana, kiwi, melon, etc.).
  • Cut larger fruit into (ice-cube size) chunks.
  • Lightly spray a cookie sheet with a baking spray and arrange fruit in a single layer.
  • Place cookie sheet in freezer.
  • Once frozen, remove fruit from sheet, place in freezer bags, and return to freezer until ready to use.
Luscious Liquids
If your smoothie doesn’t contain fruit, you may want to freeze the liquid ingredients to add thickness and creaminess, preventing a watery consistency. All liquids work well, including juice, milk, and coffee. Freeze the liquid in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can store the cubes in freezer bags until ready to use.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

    Hello, I wanted to share my most common smoothie recipe. 1 scoop vega sport protien powder, 1 scoop vega complete meal, spinach, kale, frozen berries for sweetnes all organic with lots of water for a full vitamix. I am trying to just have one a day. I used to have 3 a day - 2/18/2014 1:59:42 AM
  • We have been making the following smoothies every morning for several months:

    1 cup of fruit - berries, apples or peaches - frozen
    2 bananas - frozen
    2 Tablespoons of flaxseed
    2 Teaspoons of Chia seeds
    1 serving of yogurt
    2 cups of water
    3 or 4 ounces of spinach - I know that is a lot.
    6 to 10 ice cubes

    Put in a good blender with frozen food on the bottom and blend till smooth. Add more water if it is too thick.

    Makes enough for 3 people...or more. I give a large glass to my wife and I drink a few large glasses every morning.

    Of course, the color will vary a lot depending upon the fruits. If you use apples it will come out green. If you use red berries it will come out closer to brown.

    I mix up the fruit (besides banana) in order to get mixed vitamins and minerals. Also I throw in some almonds once in a while for the oils. We buy fruit when it is in season and use that when possible.

    I have added pumpkin puree some weeks too.

    We bought a Blendtec Wildside after making smoothies in our old cruisinart for a few months. Nice that they are fully blended now in much less time.

    We are able to buy fresh banana's that are seconds for $1 or $2 for a flat. I wait for them to get nice and ripe and then peel them, put them on a cookie tray in the freezezer and then finally bag them up. Then every morning I can take out a couple, break them into thirds and throw them in the blender.
    - 10/20/2013 6:59:50 PM
    I, too, discovered the wonder of smoothies about 6 months ago when I changed to a more healthy diet. I use organic, frozen fruit, a handful of organic baby spinach, some greek yogurt, and, either 100% cranberry juice plus water or rice milk for the base of most of my daily smoothies. I also add a little flax. I never add sweeteners but I do put in some fresh fruit if I have it, such as a banana, or local fresh fruit in season such as a peach or apple. Carrot is also good. It's one of the best ways to start the day & it's nice to know you've had a couple servings of fruit & a serving of veggies before you've even left the house! - 8/10/2013 3:50:19 PM
    I'm on a total smoothie kick lately. I have a hard time finding the time for breakfast in the morning, so I'll portion frozen berries & other fruit in the freezer, add greek yogurt, flax, and SPINACH. If it's a tad bitter I'll add a wee bit of agave nectar. I've never been a spinach fan, but you can't even tell that it's in there. :) - 8/10/2013 11:45:19 AM
  • I enjoyed the article, I find using a 5 to 1 ratio of 5 veggies to 1 fruit works well for me. My favorite is 5 parts kale, and 1 part pinapple:) - 8/10/2013 11:20:58 AM
  • Great article. Love smoothie. - 7/28/2013 10:11:41 PM
  • I got hooked on smoothies three years ago when I broke my jaw. I ate through a straw for eight weeks. You can make just about anything into a smoothie, but there are some things that should be ingested in their traditional state. Trust me on this. - 12/24/2012 11:23:48 AM
  • I feel like the only person on earth who does not like smoothies. However, I'm glad there are so many options for those who do. - 12/24/2012 7:57:48 AM
  • I've been doing smoothies for about six months. They are not fancy. What I buy are either the frozen strawberries or frozen raspberri mix. Reason being I get a lot more strawberries frozen than the fresh produce.

    I started off putting a little bit of yogurt and milk. But now I've eliminted the milk and put one scoop of greek yogurt. At times I don't put anything at all. I want to start makking the veggies ones. - 12/24/2012 7:21:47 AM
  • I used to never like to eat in the morning but then I discovered smoothies. I use my food processor rather than the blender -- I think it's easier to clean. My standard smoothie lately has been 1/2 C frozen blueberries, 1T unsweetened cocoa, ~6 oz greek yogurt or Kefir (non-fat and unsweetened), a generous shake of cinnamon, and a scoop of Vanilla protein powder. Then I stuff in as much spinach as I can. I often add ground flaxseeds or a small piece of ginger root, and a tsp or so of orange-flavored fish oil or even olive oil to get my healthy fats. If it needs to be sweeter I'll add some Truvia or a different blend of fruits.
    I was excited to find fresh cranberries back in the stores yesterday -- this morning's smoothie include 1/2 C of them.
    I blend until very creamy, adding water if needed, or a slash of almond or coconut milk.

    They tend to be a little high in calories, but breakfast is when I can afford them, and it lasts me until lunch. - 10/4/2012 5:34:30 PM
  • I make this yummy smoothie every day. It only takes 2 minutes from ingredients to a delicious and filling meal!
    1 C frozen unsweetened strawberries
    1 C Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk
    1 Tbs ground flax seed
    2 scoops Carb Solutions vanilla protein shake mix
    3-4 ice cubes
    Blend all ingredients on high and enjoy!

    Any fresh or frozen fruit works well, since the shake mix and almond milk are neutral flavors and go with anything.
    If I'm out of shake mix, I'll use 1/2 cup of nonfat greek yogurt. Vanilla is great, or plain with a little non-caloric sweetener. - 9/19/2012 12:21:31 PM
  • Loved the article and love smoothies:) I use skim milk, frozen fruit, splenda and some ice cubes and yummm. - 1/31/2012 1:35:38 PM
  • I love to have a Goin Green Smoothie in the morning. I get a helping of veggies and fruit in one drink. It is pretty filling as well. As for the added sugar, I understand the concern but truthfully speaking some people will add sugar. May as well get a few tips. For those that are not suffering with diabetes and who can add sugar to their smoothy it is probably OK to do within reason. The alternatives mentioned here are a far better option than the ones sold at those chain stores that claim to make healthy smoothies. - 9/24/2011 3:39:13 PM
  • Sugar? Why would you add sugar to your smoothie? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of it being healthy. Other ingredients such as fruit juice are probably not a healthy alternative since fruit itself would be the purest form and most fruit juices have added sugars.. I also wouldn't add canned fruit that has syrup in it - more added sugars even when draining the syrup, it leaves the sugars behind on the fruit.

    I'm all for low-fat but many people don't realize that sugar turns into fat especially when you take in too much. For those of us who are diabetic, it's not an option. It's great that this article states to steer away from smoothies made with ice cream, whole milk and cream, but why would you then state to add sugar or maple syrup (unless it's sugar free)?

    Fresh or frozen fruit would be the best options and if you need more sweetness, add a little sweetener. Sweeteners such as Stevia are much more sweeter than sugar and don't affect your blood sugar or turn into fat. - 9/2/2011 7:29:34 PM
  • Made a good one yesterday in Magic Bullet:
    1/2 cup canned apricots with the juice
    1/2 banana
    6 frozen strawberries
    Ate with spoon.
    - 4/18/2011 10:19:57 PM