Maybe you’re a smoothie fanatic and take one to work every single morning, feeling virtuous as you skip the butter and jam croissant. Or maybe you’re more a scrambled egg person, who sees those smoothie-drinking people on your morning commute or at your desk. If you’re the latter, you’ve probably got a few (pretty legitimate and sensible) questions. What’s the deal with smoothies anyway? Surely you could just eat that apple and be done with it? Why do you need to drink it?
It’s easy to see why so many are sceptical of the blending fad, but also why so many are converts. If you’re an athlete, or just a health conscious individual, you might be wondering whether they’re worth it. In our opinion, yes. Fruit and vegetable smoothies can definitely form part of a healthy, balanced diet if you do it right. Let’s look at the pros and cons of smoothie drinking, as well as how to do it the right way. After reading up a bit, you can decide for yourself if it’s a lifestyle change you want to buy into.
First thing’s first, there are very different types of smoothies. Some are veggie based, others fruit based, some a mixture of the two. Then there’s the ones which start off healthily but go on to add lots of honey, syrup, chocolate, ice cream or sweetened peanut butter. Obviously, the last group should be avoided if you’re looking to add extra nutrients to your diet, lose weight, or up your healthy food intake.
Then, you should consider that smoothies and juices aren’t the same. Smoothies, which don’t skip out the pulp, fibre or skin of the vegetables and fruits, are healthier than juices. Drinking juice means you don’t get any of the nutrition benefits, and nor do you get the satiety aspect, so they won’t do much to stave off hunger pangs. The added fibre in smoothies also helps to control absorption and digestion, so you won’t get the sugar spikes and slumps which come with juices.
For athletes or busy people, being able to blend and freeze in advance or quickly toss something together for a post-workout snack or morning traffic meal on the go definitely has some huge benefits. You’ll be able to get your fuel in, and will be less tempted to grab that chocolate bar. A blender that allows you to blend and use that container as the cup saves even more time and makes less mess, so they can be a good investment if you’re pressed for time, or just averse to doing dishes – aren’t we all! You can even go as far as freezing ingredients for two weeks or so of smoothies. Just cut everything up, put them in freezer bags and then simply blend them up in the morning or the night before. No more wasted produce, and no more faffing with preparation and washing each morning. Win win!
Smoothies are definitely a good way to get to your five-a-day easily and quickly, and kids in particular love them. If you struggle to get your kids to eat fruit or vegetables, a breakfast smoothie could be just the right compromise. You can obviously pack in far more fruit than if you were eating it – say, a banana, some berries, and half a mango/papaya/pineapple. However, this is a double edged sword. While fruits are “healthy” items, they also contain a lot of sugar. Because of this, it is far better to follow a few rules:
Add vegetables to your smoothies to lower the sugar content
Leafy greens are particularly good, and eventually vegetables should form 50-80% of your fruit and vegetable mix for smoothies. To begin with though, try adding a handful of mild tasting vegetables to your smoothie. Baby spinach is an easy choice, as you can barely taste it and any strong tasting fruit will mask the taste. Avocado is great too, as it is mild tasting and adds a lovely creaminess, meaning you can skip the sugar-laden banana. Another easy and ‘barely there’ vegetable to try is cucumber – just remember to reduce the liquid you add as they have a high water content. You get lower sugar levels, extra nutrients, and a great tasting smoothie. Another option is carrot, although it is also high in sugar. When you’re used to the idea of vegetables, try kale, celery, romaine lettuce, beetroot (it’s great with apple!) and rocket.
If the green colour puts you off too much, try adding a tiny slice of beetroot at the end. It makes the smoothie much pinker, doesn’t change the taste, and for some people that alone is enough to make them happy to drink it! It might help to convince the kids or a sceptical husband!
Choose fruits with lower sugar content
Not all fruits are created equal. To avoid sugar highs, spikes, and possible weight gain use fruits like berries, citrus fruits and apples in your smoothies. Limes, for instance, are very low in sugar but pack a great flavour punch when mixed with apples, mint, vanilla or even leafy greens. Lime, apple and mint smoothie with a handful of spinach? Yes please! Add a bit of coconut milk for a lovely tropical taste. Fruits like bananas, dates and pineapple are very high in sugar and should be used sparingly.
Skip the juice
As we mentioned earlier, juice is very high in sugar and fairly lacking in nutrients. You need a liquid base for your smoothie, but use water, milk, a milk substitute or greek yoghurt for your liquid. Almond milk, soy milk and even light coconut milk or coconut water are great options if you’re dairy intolerant. If you like a thick smoothie (and you should, because research shows that drinking a thick, dense smoothie leaves you feeling more satisfied) there’s an easy way to add bulk without calories. What is it? Ice.
Add protein and good fat
Adding protein and healthy fat to your smoothie will keep you fuller for longer. You can use protein powder, but if that isn’t your thing then you’ll need to add a combination of chia seeds, hemp seeds, cottage cheese, flaxseed, greek yoghurt, silken tofu, soy, skim or almond milk, whole almonds or brazil