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Healthy Tip

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Smoothie smarts: Make sure these delicious drinks really do benefit your health.

Not everything with a halo on its head is really an angel. That’s especially true when it comes to processed foods that don’t live up to their reputation for good health. Take, for example, all the spin about smoothies. These fruit-filled beverages can be extremely nourishing or not, depending on their contents. At one popular chain, a large mixed-berry smoothie contains not just berries but also juice and sherbet, with 500 calories, an astounding 96 grams of sugar (that’s more than in two cans of soda) and only three grams of protein. Talk about a wild blood sugar ride! As with all meals, the best way to maximize nutrition and flavor is to go the DIY route.  While you’re at it, follow these tips:

Create the right combo. Smoothies should contain some protein, nutritious fats, and high-quality, fiber-filled carbs.  Combining a serving of fruit, maybe some plain yogurt, seeds, nuts or nut butter, and unsweetened almond milk or water typically does the trick. If you decide to use protein powder, make sure it’s the unsweetened kind.

Think mini-meal, not fruit-bowl fiesta. Notice we said one serving of fruit. Because blending reduces the volume of the ingredients, it’s easy to drink a lot of fruit fast, which can make your blood sugar surge (and then crash).  Lay out the ingredients before they go into a blender.  If it looks like much more than you’d normally eat in one sitting, adjust your portions.  And don’t slurp it down…sip it slowly.

Just add veggies. A handful of greens, such as spinach or kale, plus shredded carrots, cooked beets, cucumber, or avocado are delicious, nutrient-rich additions to fruit-based smoothies. Start with a little, then let your palate lead the way.