Smoothies are perceived as a win-win food for people trying to lose weight and eat healthfully. They are both tasty and nutritious, or so it seems. But when examining the nutrition facts for smoothies, you have to wonder just how healthy they really are. For example, a small (16 ounce) Jamba Juice Aloha Pineapple Smoothie clocks in at 290 calories and 63 grams of sugar. That’s about 16 teaspoons of sugar!
While it’s true that the sugars are from fruit and yogurt, this is an outrageously huge amount to ingest in a 10 minute slurp-fest. If the same ingredients were consumed using mandibles, it would probably take much longer to eat the same amount of food. When the sharp blades of the blender do all the chewing for us, in advance, the result may well be too many calories consumed, too fast.
We asked several dietitians what they thought about smoothies.
Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CDN, a NYC based dietitian had this to say:
Smoothies can be tricky… It all depends on how they are made. If you make them at home with pure ingredients (ie fresh/frozen fruit, yogurt, nut butter, and the like) they are a great start to the day and a perfect grab-and-go breakfast. I don’t think it’s an issue to not chew your meal once a day.
Smoothies that are purchased really run the gamut, most have sweeteners or use fruit in syrup or are just too large of a portion size so you end up consuming a lot of calories and sugar (whether it be natural or added).
1. Look at the calories, sugar content and ingredients to make the best choice that you can.
2. People should choose smoothies over juices because they retain the fiber.
Lori Kaley, MS, RD, LD, MSB, managing partner at nutrition consulting firm LA Sutherland Group, is a bit more skeptical;
I think smoothies and shakes are viewed as a silver bullet – easy, simple, quick and you can get in all your nutrients. In other words, you don’t have to think, just drink something quick and portion controlled and the weight will come off.
I think if someone is going to spend the time to put together those ingredients and get them into a blender, they would be better off preparing a meal or a snack, sitting down and eating it, mindfully (with chewing and perhaps silverware involved).
If you’re going to collect all those wonderful ingredient for a smoothie, how about making a salad or healthy snack instead?
Las Vegas based dietitian Andy Bellatti MS, RD suggests the word “smoothie” may be too broad:
The term “smoothies” reminds me of the word “fat” in the sense that just like there are very different kinds of fats, there are very different kinds of smoothies. Many commercial smoothies are nothing more than a bunch of fruit purees mixed together with fruit juice (sometimes with added protein isolates or tacked-on fiber). These are total sugar bombs that don’t do much toward satiety.
Homemade smoothies are a different story. If you take, for example, bananas, milk (dairy or non-dairy), 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and some oat bran, it is really no different from eating/chewing that. The end result is a fairly think concoction and, most importantly, keeps you satiated.
The concern about drinking calories has more to do with a) thinner liquids that are caloric (there has been research done on how thicker smoothies help with satiety) and b) higher-calorie/higher-sugar concoctions that don’t offer much in terms of protein/fat/fiber (3 keys to satiety).
Our take: If you’re going to have a liquid meal, make it yourself, make sure to include as much fiber from the original fruit as possible, and mind the portion size.
What do you think?