Nutrition Articles

Smoothie Smarts

Simple, Healthy, and Delicious Treats

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.

Yogurt Benefits
Many smoothie recipes use yogurt as a main ingredient. Yogurt adds body and creaminess, as well as protein and calcium. Since yogurt is a cultured product it also contains live, active, friendly bacterial cultures such as L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, and L. Acidophilus. These help to keep the stomach and intestinal tract healthy and the immune system strong.

Soy Alternatives
Perhaps you prefer the non-dairy route when creating your smoothie. Soy products add creaminess and protein while also helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart disease and some cancers, improve bone health, and help with menopausal effects. Try using soymilk, soy yogurt, and soft silken tofu.

Nutrient Boosters
Because of healthy ingredients (milk, fruit, juice, etc.) most smoothies are naturally nutrient-dense. However, if you feel you need to boost the nutritional value even further, you can add protein, soy, or non-fat dry milk powders to your smoothie. Smoothies are also perfect ways to sneak in some ground flaxseed or wheat germ too.

Sweetening Power
If you find the smoothie to be a tad on the tart side, then add a little sweetness of your choosing: sugar, maple syrup, fruit spreads, or artificial sweeteners all work well.

Spicing It Up
Spices and flavorings give your smoothie zest without adding a lot of extra calories. Try adding vanilla, almond, coconut, or lemon extracts. Sprinkle in some nutmeg, cinnamon, malt powder, coffee (instant or brewed), coconut, or cocoa powder.

Leftovers for Later
You don’t have to toss leftovers down the drain. Simply pour the smoothie mixture into Popsicle molds and freeze. Watch your children come running for this special, after-school treat. You’ll find them refreshing too!

Ready, Set, Go!
To get you started, try one of the following recipes:

Blueberry Orange Smoothie: A frosty treat that's low in fat.
Tropical Smoothie
: You don't have to go on vacation for a taste of the tropics!
Strawberry Soy Smoothie
: This dairy-free smoothie packs protein and calcium into one tasty package.

Then move onto other SparkPeople smoothie recipes. Check your local library for recipe books dedicated to the creation of smoothies. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun by adding different fruit combinations and coming up with your own fabulous concoctions! Have you found that blender yet?

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Member Comments

  • I love adding smoothies to my meal plan using my vitamix. It may be very old, but that vitamix still works great and with a vitamix you get all the benefits (including the fiber) from your fruits and veggies vs juicing them.
  • I freeze fresh or canned fruit in ice trays. They don't stick. Once frozen I put them into a ziplock bag. Then just grab what you'd like when you are ready to make a smoothie!
  • I love smoothies.... I buy frozen fruit, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries... I use 1/2 a small banana, almond milk, 1tsp ground flax (I use a coffee grinder), rice protein powder, sometimes add vanilla extract... sometimes even add some ground rolled oats... and my favorite green Kale!
  • ANNAS7
    Thank you all for all the info! Really helps. I kept gaining and gaining instead of losing! So I had given up and was eating everything! I'm so short, it all shows up and I get inflammation really bad on my knees! So I've started back again! I couldn't even get in any jeans. I hate when I feel so much inflammation. But I feel alittle better already, lost 2 lbs so far, better than gaining 2! Thanks for all the encouragement.
    My recommendation is to use fruits that equalize blood sugar, such as, blueberries and cherries, and to stay away from yellow fruits such as pineapple and banana, which are high in sugar and can cause a blood sugar spike. Maintaining an equalized blood sugar helps to cut cravings. I have been very successful losing weight this way - it has been miraculous - I have lost 76 pounds since January - still have more to go, but am thrilled that I don't have to starve and can finally lose weight - Good luck to All!!
  • Another point: if you are on a number of medications, double-check with your doctors before using supplements such as chia, hemp or flax seeds, masa, goji berries, protein powders, and any form of grapefruit. Most of these either affect the absorption ot interfere with the metabolism of many medications. For example, chia seeds can create a gel in your stomach, which can keep medications from being properly absorbed. The nutritionist at the hospital or clinic you go to , or your pharmacist *might* know about this, and can recommend alternatives. I am on life-sustaining immunosuppresants after a kidney transplant; I sure don't want anything to interfere with those! Just be cautious.
  • For fantastic creaminess, use some lowfat cottage cheese with a little less than the yogurt called for. With these two ingredients, the thick texture will knock your socks off!
  • Once my Banana's are a little past ripe, I just cut them up, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in a large zip lock bag. I can pull one pouch out and there is my banana with Almond milk chia and flax and 1 TBLS Organic PB... yum!
    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
  • 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.
    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!
    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. :)
  • 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:)
  • Great article. Love smoothie.

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.

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