It’s important to know what you’re really getting out of that drink.
These days, the word smoothie can mean a LOT of things. While smoothies can definitely be done right and fuel your body, there are many ways they can be done wrong. This is something I never fully realized until about a year ago, and I want to share this knowledge with anyone who doesn’t understand it yet. Not to mention, it’s so easy to feel confused about what you should and shouldn’t accept as a smoothie these days because many are marketed differently than they should be.
My first rule of thumb is this: never purchase a smoothie at a cafe/restaurant/etc. that you don’t know and trust. When I think back on some of the smoothies I purchased years ago from restaurant and cafe chains it makes me sad. How was I supposed to know what was healthy and what wasn’t!? Well, that’s exactly what those chains want to happen. Oftentimes, they use superfood buzzwords and confusing health terms to mask excess amounts of added sugar and artificial ingredients.
When I’m thinking about ordering a smoothie from a restaurant or cafe, I first ask if the listed ingredients are everything that goes into the blend. Here, I’m looking for non-artificial ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables, any kind of supplement or add-in (including natural nut butters or oils), and a non-sweetened liquid.
So let’s break that down for a second: when I saw fresh fruits and vegetables, I mean, 1. there actually are fruits and vegetables in the mix, and not a fruit concentrate or fruit flavor, and 2. the fruits and vegetables are going to fuel me in a positive way without a big insulin boost from high-carb fruits like bananas and apples. When in doubt, go for berries, citrus fruits, coconut, or avocado. As far as greens, try to incorporate a handful of fresh spinach or kale; you won’t even notice a difference! When it comes to add-ins and supplements, I’m usually looking for something with protein, fiber, or fat, but not sugar. My favorites are raw almond butter, coconut oil, collagen protein powder, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. These are all supplements that will level-up the nutrition you’re getting, and will make you feel full for longer. Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of your smoothie liquid. For YEARS, I was drinking smoothies with loads of sugar that I didn’t even realize because of apple juice, orange juice, sweetened almond and coconut milks, etc. This can also include yogurt and frozen yogurt that many places will add into a smoothie (a huge no!). So don’t be afraid to ask: “Is your milk unsweetened?” before placing that order! It will make all the difference. Stay away from fruit juices and sweetened milks, and stick to coconut water, unsweetened dairy-free milks, or even just water! The other elements of your smoothie will provide enough of a sweet taste without a sweetened liquid.
This may seem like a lot to take in, but it’s all about making little changes to the way you order. Start by asking about the liquid if that’s what you feel comfortable with, and then begin to play with some of those superfood add-ins. The goal is to finish your smoothie and feel fueled, rather than have a sugar crash in a few hours.
When you make your own smoothies (the cheapest and best way to be sure you’re getting real, natural food) try and follow these same guidelines. As you begin to get more comfortable with making them, try to lower the amount of fruit and increase the amount of greens in your smoothie. Kelly Leveque’s “Fab Four Smoothie” is a technique I’ve been following that ensures no insulin spike and a drink that will actually keep you full. I totally recommend the Fab Four approach for anyone that wants to drink smoothies often as meal replacements.
Ultimately, smoothies can fuel you or set you up for failure, depending on what ingredients are being used. So, start to be mindful of those ingredients, and know exactly what you are putting into your body! Any restaurant or cafe that has confidence in their ingredients will be happy to educate you on what they offer, so stick to those places.
As always, this is how I’ve been able to improve my experience with drinking smoothies, but everyone experiences their eating habits differently. Leave me a response below if you have any questions!