Is It Healthy? Fruit Smoothies.

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Since the two KEY components of a healthy diet are FRUIT and VEGETABLES,  I decided to continue my “Is It Healthy” series today and discuss fruit smoothies. Enjoying a FRUIT smoothie is the 100% nutritionally sound choice and we should all eat one every day, right?….maybe.

Fruit smoothies can be a wonderful, incredible, delicious component of a healthy diet. They can be loaded with nutrients; fiber, protein, vitamins/minerals, that will leave you feeling satisfied and contain all “good for you” ingredients. However, there is a HUGE difference between a fruit smoothie you blend up at home and some concoction you get at your local retail shop.

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One of the most common misconceptions about smoothies is their healthy reputation. When the average person chooses a fruit smoothie over an ice cream cone at their local retail shop, they automatically think they are making the wise selection. You might leave the shop feeling super healthy, when in reality, you could have just consumed more than a meal’s worth of calories and two days worth of sugar as your SNACK! Yeeps! Let’s take a closer look at a few selections from familiar franchises.

  • Jamba Juice:  The Aloha Pineapple Power Smoothie literally contains 123 grams of SUGAR! Ingredients: Pineapple Juice blend, Pineapple Sherbet, frozen strawberries, non-fat plain yogurt, frozen bananas, ice.
  • Planet Smoothie: Wellness Oatmeal Smoothie: 490 calories, 11 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, 78 grams of sugar; Ingredients were NOT listed which means we don’t know if that smoothie contains yogurt, pure sugar, artificial flavorings and colorings (probably considering the vibrant colors in some drinks like the ’Rasmanian Devil’), or other hidden ingredients.
  • Orange Julius (Dairy Queen): 3 Berry Blast: 460 calories, 8 g protein, 6 g fiber, 89 grams sugars; Ingredients: Couldn’t find their ingredient list either! Has anyone found them? I would love to know!

Sugar: If you didn’t already notice, these fruit smoothies contain LOADS of sugar! While fruit contains some natural sugars, many commercial smoothie brands contain more refined sugar than a can of soda or even a piece of cake! Those multi-colored syrups that are being squirted in to the smoothies are mostly made up of pure corn syrup or other refined sugars like beet or cane sugar. Even though you might feel like you have a newfound surge of energy after consuming one of these puppies, I assure you, it won’t last; your energy will quickly crash and make you crave even MORE sugar shortly thereafter!

Supplements: One of the reasons consumers are drawn to smoothies is because of the additional supplements that are used to “boost” the nutritional content. In actuality, the supplements often used in smoothies are genetically modified and contain lots of chemical fillers and other synthetic ingredients. The actual nutrient being tooted, like vitamin C, is usually one of the last items on the ingredient list, and is generally of poor quality (meaning absorption rates and nutritional benefit are questionable). Your sudden surge of energy is more likely from the SUGAR than the booster nutrient! The best way to ensure a “booster” is indeed a healthy option is to make the retailer accountable for its ingredients. The ultimate scenario is that the retailer is using a smoothie booster made from highly raw and organic whole foods in powder form, without any added chemicals. That way, the vitamins and minerals are all naturally occurring and easily absorbed in the body.” (source)

Artificial Sweeteners: While I used to be addicted to all things artificial sweetener (because I was only concerned with calories), I now realize the error of my ways and I want you to as well! When purchasing a smoothie, you might feel that opting for a sugar-free variety is best. However, artificial or chemically altered sweeteners (aspartame and sucralose, for example), might be worse for you than sugar. The research continues to find negative health effects of these artificial sweeteners from headaches to certain forms of cancer!

Bottom line: If you enjoy fruit smoothies from a shop, treat yourself like you would ice cream, as an occasional treat. Try not to make Jamba Juice or DQ an every day stop on lunch, otherwise you will be getting a lot of unnecessary sugar!

My BEST suggestion? Make your own! There are TONS of amazingly tasty smoothie recipes out there that contain REAL ingredients and only natural sugars (from the fruit itself). Knock yourself out because one of the following concoctions could be the healthiest part of your day!

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 Some honorable mentions:

 

 QUESTION:

What are your favorite ingredients for a homemade smoothie!?

Where is your favorite smoothie shop?

Is there anyone you know who might benefit from this information? Share it!!

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39 comments to Is It Healthy? Fruit Smoothies.

  • Ian McCauley

    I started making homemade smoothies when I got a GE single serve smoothie maker, that comes with easy to use single serve cups and 2 types of blades for different blends. So far, in my opinion, the tastiest and healthiest smoothie i have made is:
    ____________________________________
    1 cup Northwest Berry Yogurt or mixed berry
    2 Hand Fulls Approx. of Mixed Berry Frozen Fruit Mix (Contains Strawberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Raspberry, and Huckleberry)
    ~2 Tbs of Agave Nectar
    Add Enough Water to fill the cup bottom where the fruit is. Usually about a cup or two for me.
    ____________________________________

    When I make my smoothies I use cold water instead of ice to sort of unfreeze the fruit and make it easier to blend. Also when you do this it will make your smoothie easier to drink as it wont bunch up in a big glob.

    If you want more of a tropical style smoothie, use a Tropical Fruit mix you can get from the store or mix your own, with a peach yogurt or key lime.

  • Maria Dinh

    I make a smoothie before i head out for school every morning. My favorite recipe is:

    1 full Banana
    Half of an Apple
    4-5 Strawberries
    A hand full of Blueberries
    Almond Vanilla Milk
    2 scoops of Plain Yogurt

  • fluffeyB

    What are your favorite ingredients for a homemade smoothie!?
    Yummm, bananas, berries and spinach, open to more suggestions that will allow me to make a more fiber-full and less sugary smoothie.

    Where is your favorite smoothie shop?
    Favorite smoothie place is in Tustin, CA called Cold Fusion! They use all frozen fruits, no juices, no sugar!

    I’m new to this smoothie thing, just love how full it keeps me and the guilt free satisfaction of consuming fruits and veggies.

  • Ryan

    I work at a Dairy Queen and the large(24 oz) triple berry smoothie has 480 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 105 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein

  • krystl

    After testing a friend’s suggestion out I have found that throwing in some fresh mint really cancels out any “green” taste that comes from dark, leafy veggies. The flavor is complimentary to most fruit and mint is good for the stomach and digestive system.

  • lisa

    I use 1 cup of mixed frozen fruit, 1 cup of skim milk and 1 splenda. It’s only 183 calories. Atleast most of the sugar is natural, except for the one sweetener.

    When I was in college, my friends were so obsessed with planet smoothie. Not me thank goodness.

  • Sarah

    I love this article. Smoothies at franchises do have a ridiculous amount of sugar! Also, so does Orange Juice and I have found a lot of recipes with OJ as part of smoothie but maybe substituting it with fresh oranges or fresh squeezed OJ would be better. I use juiced oranges.

    1 cup mixed red grapes and strawberries frozen (I freeze whole ones myself, not the bagged ones)
    1 cut up frozen banana (sometimes I add 2)
    half cup reduced fat sugar free, vanilla yogurt (or you can do a half cup soy milk)
    2 tablespoons natural honey
    1 cup fresh squeezed OJ or half cup oranges.

    That’s it. You don’t have to have milk or yogurt, I just like too. Its wonderful

  • Great post!
    My recipe:
    3 frozen strawberries
    1/2 a banana
    1.5 cups OJ
    Scoop of protein powder
    1 tablespoon Greens Plus powder

    It can be difficult to get all your greens so I believe Greens Plus to be a great supplement.
    Enjoy!

  • Kim

    I have a fruit smoothie every morning – I’m addicted! I’ve given up as much processed sugar as I could and I feel so much better. My favorite smoothie? Strawberries, Peaches, and pineapple (I buy it all frozen with no sugar added!). Here’s a recipe I got out of a magazine that I changed up slightly:

    1 cup frozen fruit
    1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
    1 table spoon of olive oil
    (the recipe originally called for fish oil – ick!)
    1 scoop of soy protein powder
    1 oz of unsweetened cranberry juice
    Just enough H20 almost reach the top of the ingredients before I blend!

    It it so amazingly good – even my husband asks me to make him smoothies!

    My 9 year old girl get a smoothie every morning before school. Hers consist of:

    Plain yogurt
    A banana
    Some Orange Juice
    Frozen mixed fruit

    YUMMY!

    She also likes:

    A banana
    Plain Yogurt
    and a squeeze of chocolate syrup!

    Hey – it’s WAYYYY better than a pop tart!

  • [...] at The Healthy Apron is doing an awesome series on “Is It Healthy?” She covered yogurt, fruit smoothies, and pretzels. Check it [...]

  • I’ve never made my own smoothies, but I’ve always viewed them as more of a dessert than a meal. I do use artificial sweetener in my coffee right now, but I’m not sure what to use in it’s place.

  • This is a great series Erin. I love this, especially the past one about pretzels because I get asked that question a lot in my weight management clinic.

  • GREAT POST! People overlook this info and feel like they’re eating/drinking the best choices possible…there should be warning signs!!!! haha…

  • this is so so true! its just upsetting how smoothie places boast about how healthy their stuff is when they KNOW its really not!!! I never buy smoothies from smoothie places because I truly dont know what they are putting in it.. i wish i could go behind the counter and make it myself!

  • I avoid buying smoothies because I have SUCH a hard time finding any without added sugar. I just make them at home, and not only are they healthier, I think they taste better too. My best ever included pineapple, coconut milk, banana, and spinach. It was so good I couldnt get over it.

  • Yike!!! That is a TON of added sugar!!!!! Thanks for all of this info!!! One of my favorite smoothie combinations is banana, apple, almond milk, and lots and lots of greens. :)

  • I don’t usually make smoothies at home because I hate washing the blender. :) When I buy a smoothie, I go to Booster Juice. My favourite is the Funky Monkey. But I definitely view it as a large treat, unless I’m not feeling well and can’t handle solid food – then I feel like it’s a better alternative to a milkshake or something equally unhealthy.

  • I love Jamba Juice, but the amount of sugars in those things are crazy! I reserve them for treats, and try to make my own smoothies at home :)

  • I like to make my smoothies with vanilla Greek yogurt, frozen strawberries and blueberries, and almond milk. The only place that sells smoothies near my house is Dairy Queen, and if I’m going to Dairy Queen, I’d much rather get ice cream!

  • Holy moly! Can’t believe the calories and sugar in those smoothies! Thanks for sharing!!

  • My favorite smoothie ingredients are spinach, strawberries, mango, and banana. It is really easy to let smoothies get out of hand calorie wise. My favorite smoothie place is Planet Smoothie (basically because we don’t have Jamba Juice where I live) but again, I know they pack a huge calorie punch so I only get them once in a great while.

  • Totally agree — they are only healthy if you make your own =)

  • favorite smoothie ingredient would have to be bananas, for sure. (haha…probably from all the sugar. well, at least it’s not refined!) but i don’t have smoothies very often, maybe if i go to the shops and forget to have lunch. otherwise, i’d much rather chew my food than drink it. any day. :)

  • Personally, I don’t like smoothies. But everyone else in my family does. But don’t get me wrong, I LOVE raw fruit.
    Thanks for the recipes! I’ll show them to my family.

  • I would much rather make a smoothie at home. They are healthier and way cheaper!

  • I can always tell the difference between my smoothies and ones I buy – the ones I buy are ALWAYS much sweeter. There’s a local health foods store near me that makes healthy smoothies without added sugar, but most of the time, it’s cheaper and easier for me to make my own.

  • Roz

    Wow…I had no idea there was THAT much sugar in some of those drinks. I LOVE smoothies and make them at home quite often with almond milk, a banana and whatever frozen fruit I have on hand. Thanks as always for the informative post!!! Your blog is fantastic!

  • I officially love your blog. You have so many fantastic facts and healthful information on here!

    I completely agree with you, I’m amazed at how many people from the office head to Jugo Juice at lunch and feel that it’s a healthy option. Sure, if compared to a lunch at McDonalds, I’d direct them to Jugo Juice. But you’re right, smoothie ingredients at retails shops are very low quality.

    I love my [homemade] smoothies with fruit juice but have slowly been trying to shift to almond milk instead to lower the sugar. I love berries in my smoothies, chia, hemp powder… mmm

  • You are so right! I have seen people do this over and over again where they think they are making a wise choice because they got a “fruit smoothie” at a restaurant. Glad you posted on this!

  • I think the key to a good smoothie is adding spices! I love adding cinnamon and ginger to a banana or pumpkin smoothie, usually mixed with protein powder and unsweetened almond milk. They easily up the flavor without adding calories! It’s my new favorite breakfast!

  • Oh I’m so glad you wrote this post. These smoothies (I call them Sugar-Smoothies) pose as “healthy” but are so NOT. But, that said, I think there are ways to order a healthier “commercial smoothie”. Making your own is, of course, the way to go whenever you can. I try to drink a green smoothie everyday — but I always make my own.

  • Great post! I think a lot of people are easily fooled because they hear smoothie and think it has to be good for them. Maybe yes, maybe no. I agree that making them at home (as long as it isn’t a pre made pouch kind that can have a lot of sugar also) is a great option, even if it means doing the work yourself :)

  • Awesome post Erin! I used to get a smoothie from Orange Julius EVERYtime I went to the mall…Which was a lot :/ I know make my own smoothies and I actually enjoy them much more.
    My must have in a smoothie is frozen bananas!

  • Gen

    Great post!!!!!!
    I love to put some frozen bananas and instant coffee in my smoothies!! Or banana and fruit-flavored yogurt!!! =D Soo yummy!

  • Great post, Erin! People do need to be aware of what they are eating. Often times you assume something is healthy because it’s a “fruit” smoothie. However, it can have enough sugar for a week! Thanks for bringing awareness….and thanks for the smoothie mention! That’s one of my favs!

  • Ooh I loved this post! I actually just stumbled upon your blog and I have to tell you, I’m really lovin’ it! I’ve always felt that smoothies are extremely healthy if you make them yourself, but some of the ones at Smoothie King and other chains are so laden with sugar-it’s disquisting! Anyways, so happy I found your blog and can’t wait to read more:) Check out mine too!

  • Thanks for the great mention Erin! I rarely go out and buy smoothies from Booster Juice or similar smoothie bars, precisely because of the reasons you’ve listed above. I’d far rather put all my own ingredients in and know exactly what it is I’m drinking than pay way too much for something that is full of sugar. Great post! I’m loving this series.

  • Since I work with kids this is often something I have to discuss with them. It can be deceiving I am sure. I did have to make a quick trip for food when out one day and stopped at a Jamba Juice (I think it was). They now offer all fruit smoothies. Well at least all that was listed on the board was fruit.
    One of my favorite smoothie combos is pb, milk or yogurt, and banana. yum!!

  • There are lots of ways that you can make a retail smoothie healthier.
    I used to work in a building that had a Booster Juice and I went there about once a week. I was quick to find out the healthiest options.

    First of all always check the nutrition stats.

    Ask what’s in the smoothie and avoid any smoothies with sherbert in them to reduce sugar.

    Many smoothies also have juice in them. To further reduce sugar ask if they can sub half the juice (or all of the juice) for fat-free milk or milk substitute.

    Get protein powder added and go for a smaller sized smoothie. It’s just as filling and satisfying as a large one without protein!

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