Today’s post is dedicated to what I consider to be a sneaky reason for weight gain in some people: smoothies.
I know what you’re thinking: aren't smoothies healthy? They certainly can be. Assuming you’re making them yourself, they contain whole foods in the form of fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre.
But if you’re making your smoothies with 10 cups of fruit every morning, this could very well be the reason why you can’t seem to shed those last five pounds.
First Thing’s First: You’re Probably Already Eating Enough Fruit
Fruit is downright delicious. It’s naturally sweet, hydrating, satisfying, and portable. I’ll gladly throw an banana or apple into my purse but am less inclined to toss a cucumber in there to whip out on the subway.
But despite how much I love fruit, the reality is that it contains sugar. It’s all natural sugar that our body recognizes and loves, but that doesn’t mean you should eat it as if it’s the last time you’ll ever see a mango in your life.
Clarification: I never, ever want you to see fruit as “bad.” Fruit is awesome. BUT… I also don’t want you to consume so much of it that you forget about poor ol’ vegetables.
Let’s use the example of the fictitious character “Mary” to explain what I see many, many people do: Mary makes a smoothie first thing in the morning with ingredients like a banana, a cup of mango, a cup of pineapple, a cup of blueberries, and some almond milk. Sounds delicious!
Well, by 9am Mary is already clocking in at around 68g of sugar… from one smoothie. Soon afterwards, she gets hungry again and has an apple as a snack. And after lunch she also has a peach. In total, poor old well-intentioned Mary has consumed about 100g of sugar over the course of the day—and that’s excluding all of the other sugars she might have ingested from milk, yogurt, etc. Again, I know these are natural sugars, but remember that excess sugar of any kind gets stored as fat no matter what the source.
Tips on How To Make a Healthier Smoothie
Limit the amount of fruit you put into your smoothie.
I usually eat about 2 - 3 servings of fruit a day, which looks like a banana, an apple, and 1 cup of berries, for example. Otherwise, I try to eat as many vegetables as I can. If your smoothie contains two servings of fruit, snack on veggies for the rest of the day or only have one more fruit serving later in the day.
NOTE: If you want to eat more fruit in a day that’s totally fine, but this is just something to consider if you’ve been trying to lose that last little bit of weight and haven’t seen any results.
2. Make sure every smoothie contains at least one serving of vegetables.
If you’re trying out the whole adding-vegetables-to-smoothies thing for the first time, spinach is a great place to start. It’s not only super nutritious but also more delicate than kale, which can be somewhat stiff and bitter-tasting. Add at least one packed cup of spinach into your smoothie and eventually experiment with other options like arugula, kale, iceberg lettuce, parsley, carrots, beets, or whatever you’d like.
3. Add some protein.
Whether it’s in the form of protein powder, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hemp seeds, or chia seeds, adding some protein to your smoothie helps slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. This means your blood sugar levels will be more stable overall.
4. Choose low-sugar fruits.
Some fruits contain less sugar than others, making them a great option to add to smoothies when you’re craving a bit more sweetness. Low sugar fruits include: raspberries (5g per cup), strawberries (7g per cup), Granny Smith apples (10g per apple), peaches (13g per medium peach), blueberries (15g per cup), and pears (17g per medium cup).
My Kind of Smoothie Recipe
Here’s my idea of a phenomenal smoothie, which contains 4 cups of greens, a measly half-serving of fruit, and a bit of healthy fat to slow digestion and absorption. Perfection!
• 1 cup of coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk
• 3 cups kale
• 1 cup spinach
• ½ a frozen banana
• ½ Medjool date, pitted
• 1 t. cinnamon
• 1 T creamy almond butter
• Ice (to your desired consistency)
It's worth noting that if you're used to drinking smoothies that are basically all fruit, there may be a bit of an adjustment period for your tastebuds as they get used to veggies coming into the picture. But once they adjust, you'll love veggie-filled smoothies, I promise!
The Bottom Line
The point of this post is NOT to make you fearful of fruit or think it’s “bad” in any way. But when people tell me they’re having a hard time shedding those last few pounds, I can’t help but wonder if their morning fruit smoothies have something to do with it. Fruit is an amazingly nutritious food that should be a part of your daily diet, but many of us eat it in excess while neglecting vegetables. And chugging down smoothies that pack in 5 cups of fruit can overwhelm your system with a lot of sugar at once, which you especially don’t need first thing in the morning. Use smoothies as a way of sneaking more veggies and protein into your day.
You Tell Me
What is your favourite low-sugar smoothie recipe? Share it in the comments section below!