Smoothies are often touted as a wonderful health food - and for good reason! A healthy smoothie can be a nutritional powerhouse, delivering a lot of nutrients quickly. And they're great for getting in those superfoods that alone don't taste too great (I'm looking at you spirulina).
However, as a nutritionist, I often see people making huge mistakes when it comes to adding smoothies to their diets. These mistakes can mean smoothies are doing more harm than good for your health.
Mistake #1: A smoothie is a quick way to get your fruit
Don't worry - I am not about to advocate that all smoothies should be fruit-free (after all, fruit is usually what distinguishes a smoothie from soup!). However, if you go into smoothie construction thinking it is a quick and healthy way to get in your daily servings of fruit, you may be making a huge mistake.
Fruit is full of fructose, which is sugar. Of course, the sugar from fruit is healthier than table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and unlike fruit juice, smoothies contain the fiber to help slow the absorption of that sugar, but that doesn't mean you should throw the whole produce section into the blender. I have seen some smoothies with sugar content that rival the largest sodas!
So how much fruit should you put in? This will differ for each person depending on how much sugar they eat overall, how well their body processes sugar, and which fruit we are talking about (for instance, berries have less sugar than bananas). Even the time of day influences how much fruit one should put in a smoothie!
My rule of thumb is usually to add the least amount of fruit needed to make the smoothie taste good. And if you find you need more than 1/2 banana or a cup of berries, rethink your smoothie ingredients or whether smoothies are right for your diet.
Mistake #2: Every smoothie needs protein powder
When making a smoothie, whether as a meal replacement or snack, including protein is important. However, the body can only handle 20-30 grams of protein at a time. Depending on what else you include in your smoothie (seeds, nuts and milk/yogurt), you may have already reached that level without a protein powder! Feel free to save your money and that protein powder for another smoothie or even your morning coffee.
Mistake #3: Not adding fiber
Fiber is very important to your overall health, but it also helps keep you feeling full and curb cravings. Using whole fruits and vegetables in your smoothie will add fiber, but a smoothie is also a great opportunity to get additional fiber from chia seeds or ground flax seeds! I always recommend getting fiber from real food instead of supplements. Add 1-2 tablespoons of chia or flax seeds to your next smoothie and see if that helps keep you fuller longer.
Mistake #4: Skipping the fat
The "fat makes you fat" myth has been busted, but news is traveling slow. Healthy fats are so important to curbing hunger and giving you energy. They are needed for brain health, supporting proper hormone balance, and delivering fat-soluble vitamins. And a smoothie is a perfect place to add fat! Especially if you're using the smoothie as a meal replacement, fat will help slow the absorption of the fruit sugar to help keep your blood sugar stable and keep you full until your next meal.
My favorite fats to include in a smoothie are nut/seed butters (also add protein!) and coconut (either milk, flakes, frozen chunks, butter or oil).
Mistake #5: Not chewing your smoothie
What?!? You want me to chew my smoothie? Yes!
Digestion - the breaking apart of food into usable parts for the body - starts in the mouth as food is mixed with saliva. The enzymes in your salvia start the process, and make it easier for the rest of your digestive system to continue the process. However, with a smoothie, you can just drink it down without mixing it with your salvia at all. This also means you may drink your smoothie much faster than you would otherwise eat the same foods and not recognize when you are full.
When drinking your smoothie, take your time and swirl it around in your mouth a bit to allow the food to mix with your salvia to start digestion off on the right foot!