Just because your smoothie is packed with fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean it’s low in calories or good for you. Even green smoothies can cause weight gain if you aren’t careful about what you put in it. Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, your favourite blended beverage might be disguising unwanted calories, sugar, and fat.
Are smoothies as good as eating fruit?
Yes and no. If you load up on too much fruit and use fruit juice as your base, then you run the risk of consuming too much sugar and calories, Taub-Dix says. However, if you limit your fruit intake to no more than two servings in your smoothie, then you’re getting a healthy amount of fruit while reaping their antioxidants.
Now that you know how to turn a smoothie into a healthy meal, here are some other ways your smoothie can be sabotaging your weight loss—and how to fix it.
The mistake: You may feel virtuous gulping down a hefty smoothie, but you’re easily eating more than you realize. Smoothies can contain a pound or more of produce—significantly more than you would ever eat raw. All of that adds up to extra calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. A smoothie should be no more than eight to 10 ounces, according to Groppo. Most pre-made or made-to-order smoothies are nearly twice that at 16 or 24 ounces. Some smoothies are also overloaded with other foods, like granola and more fresh fruit. But in reality, you don’t need these add-ins.
How to fix it: Measure out 8 ounces and freeze the extra for later. When you order out, order the kid’s size—it’s usually closer to 10 ounces. Or, ask for two cups and divide it up so you aren’t tempted to drink the whole thing in one go. You can always freeze or share your uneaten portion.
Your smoothie has too many ingredients
The mistake: Even low-calorie foods—like fruits and vegetables—add up. And many smoothies include ingredients like yoghurt, whipped cream, sweeteners, sorbet, or even ice cream that increase the calories. Bottled and made-to-order smoothies can easily pack in 300 to 600 calories in 16 ounces. “Don’t assume that one package or one bottle is one serving,” says Groppo. “Look at the nutrition label to see how many servings are in it.”
How to fix it: Keep an eye out for smoothies with added nut or seed butter, coconut oil, or avocado, as these all add significant amounts of calories. If you grab a smoothie for a snack, don’t forget to include it in your total calories for the day.
Your smoothie is loaded with sweeteners
The mistake: Your taste buds don’t lie: If your smoothie tastes sweet, it’s likely full of sugar—many store-bought options have almost as much sugar as a soda. Jamba Juice’s banana berry smoothie, for instance, has a whopping 59 grams in 16 ounces. The problem is, many store-bought smoothies have added sugars, often in the form of white sugar, syrup, honey, or maple syrup. Excessive sugar can leave you tired and cranky a couple of hours later and wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
How to fix it: Make sure your smoothie has more vegetables than fruits, and opt for low-sugar vegetables like kale, spinach, cucumber, and zucchini. Stick to no more than two servings of fruit in your smoothie.
You’re not eating your smoothie with a spoon
The mistake: The rush of sugar from a smoothie spikes your blood sugar and leaves you feeling tired and hungry just hours later. A lack of protein and healthy fats also means you get hunger pangs sooner.
How to fix it: Slow down. Eat a smoothie with a spoon instead of slurping it up with a straw. Plus, when you actually sit down and chew your food, your body secretes hormones that help increase satiety (or how full you feel), says Groppo. Adding fats and protein will help make you feel full longer. Half of an avocado is around 117 calories, and half a cup of Greek yoghurt is around 100 calories. An extra boost of fibre and protein from hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax meal can also help keep you full.
You’re drinking a smoothie at the wrong time
The mistake: Your body is better able to handle sugar at different times of the day. The more active you are, the better your body can process and absorb sugar. Better absorption means that your blood sugar won’t spike as much and you won’t be left tired and hungry hours later. Some people like to drink a smoothie first thing in the morning or as a meal replacement.
How to fix it: Enjoying a smoothie post-workout is best, but otherwise stick to lunch or another part of the day when you’re the most physically active. Taub-Dix says that liquids are more readily digested than solids, which makes it great as an after-workout beverage when you need quick carbs, protein, and sugar.