Smoothies are all the rage right now – from the classic smoothie to the divine smoothie bowl.
As they become more mainstream, some unusual flavour combinations have started popping up everywhere, as more people look for ways in which to get all the right nutrients easily while on-the-go. In an attempt to be healthier or even to loose weight, many turn to liquid diets (generally short lived results) or substituting meals with liquid alternatives – but before you consider this, (or any new eating plan) it’s a good idea to do your research!
I have made a list of a few things to consider before you jump onto the smoothie bandwagon. Keep in mind that I absolutely love smoothies and have at least one smoothie a day, but you really need to consider what is in your smoothie – especially if you are not making it.
• Excess sugars
Be really careful to consider the sugar content present in your smoothie, even if all the ingredients seem to be fruit based. Fruits themselves have their own sugars (fructose), never mind the addition of fruit juices, honey, syrups or other sugar alternatives. Again, if you are making your own smoothie at home, consider the ingredients you use carefully – because your ‘healthy’ drink every morning may in fact be setting you back. Sweetened yoghurts, tinned fruits, large fruit portions or the addition of sugar alternatives like honey need to be considered/ avoided.
• Portion sizes
Think about this – you just made your world famous breakfast smoothie and have included a full apple, a full banana, a handful of nuts, chia seeds, some oats, yoghurt, a spoon of protein powder and a couple other additions. You pop the lid on and happily pack it into your lunch bag as a midday snack. Perhaps it’s time you consider your portion size! Your smoothie may in fact be 2 or more portions, depending on the amount of ingredients you include. Therefore you may need to adjust your portion size depending on your goals (lose weight, gain weight or detox). The size of your smoothie is just as important as its contents.
Choosing the right base ingredient is very important to ensure that your smoothie is nutritious vs sugary and unhealthy. For icy smoothies go with liquids such as water, ice, coconut water and green tea, while creamier smoothies could include Greek yoghurt (no added sugars), almond milk or Kefir. AVOID fruit juices, as these just add additional and unnecessary sugar.
Secondly, determining the purpose of the smoothie will help you decide what to add to it. Is it a breakfast, a snack or a pre-/post workout meal? For example; cut out the oats if it’s a lunchtime snack; reducing the additional calories, or increase the protein content if it’s a post workout meal.
Lastly, choose more than just fruit. There are tons of other healthy and nutritious alternatives that you may be skeptical to try but really do taste amazing. Try adding veggies like kale, spinach, beets, cucumber and carrot; or spices like cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper or turmeric. Then of course there’s always seeds and powders (maca, matcha, chia, flaxseeds, hemp seeds), the list is endless. Start experimenting but make sure you do your research, especially to avoid ingredients that are marketed as being “healthy.”
• Smoothie vs juices
What’s the difference between a smoothie and a juice? Well, the most obvious difference is the consistency. A smoothie is thick and icy, while a juice is thinner and pourable. Juices are made by extracting the liquid from the fruit or veg and basically removing the pulp/ fibre, while smoothies on the other hand keep both the juice and the pulp. Fibre is vital in aiding digestion and promotes a healthy gut, making smoothies (in my opinion) a healthier option in comparison. Healthy smoothies are also far more ice and water, making them lower in sugar then the average juice. Be careful when purchasing juices – especially those that boast a wide array of fruits; because even if there’s no added sugar, the amount of fruit sugar will be high!
• Feeling full?
Don’t give up chewing your fruits and veg altogether. Whole fruit and veg is still the best way to get an adequate amount of nutrients and fibre, as a large portion of fibre can be destroyed in the blending process. Eating whole foods also fills the hunger gap far more than a juice or smoothie can. According to studies, people who eat whole fruits/veg as a midday snack are more likely to eat less at lunch time, versus those who just drink a juice/smoothie. So every now and then go back to basics.
The cost of a smoothie can be quite pricey depending on where you buy it and what ingredients it includes. The addition of nut butters, berries, seeds and powders can push the price up to absurd amounts. Therefore before you buy that 55 rand smoothie, consider the cost of purchasing the exact same ingredients and making the smoothies at home. Sure – it may take a while to get the taste spot on; but once you’ve nailed it, you can make that store bought smoothie six times over! To make it even easier to recreate your favourites, grab a take-away menu from each restaurant so you know exactly what they are made up of.
So next time you grab a smoothie on-the-go, consider whether your choice is a healthy one, because you may just be adding to your waistline!