Smoothies almost always get a free pass by dieters and exercisers. Something with fruit in it must be good, right? Here’s why conventional wisdom is wrong, and 10 ways to make your smoothie a better weight-loss tool.
Few people think twice about slurping a smoothie down after a workout or on a hot day. But smoothies can hit your carefully structured weight-loss meal plan like a cruise missile.
- Large cake muffin
- Snickers bar
- 20-oz. bottle of Coke
- Jelly-filled donut from Dunkin Donuts
It doesn’t sound so “fit” or “fruitful” now, does it?
It’s Not as Bad as It Could Be
To be fair, while that peach mango smoothie from Jamba Juice is a calorie bomb, it doesn’t qualify as junk food like a jelly donut or Coca Cola — which have no redeeming nutritional or weight loss qualities.
At least this smoothie has some peach and mango in it. Even the soy milk has some food value, although it also has plenty of calories.
Today, I’m going to share 10 tips that can turn any smoothie into a weight-loss powerhouse. These tips aren’t actual smoothie recipes, but they will help you improve your smoothies and to come up with your own new weight-loss smoothie recipes.
Tip # 1: Make Your Own
The most important tip is to make your own smoothie. You will seldom make a smoothie at home that is as full of calories and as fattening as the typical smoothie you can buy at the smoothie stall in your local shopping mall.
Why is that?
It’s simple, really. People splurge on treats and not on healthy foods. If it weren’t this way, you’d find carrots on the shelf by the register at your grocery store instead of chocolate bars and Tic Tacs. The scientists put it this way :
“Taste and convenience of added sugars and added fats…skew food choices.”
Anyone who tries to make a living selling food quickly learns that the more sugar, salt and fat they put into their products, the more we will buy. In the comfort of your own home, however, you can make your smoothies exactly how you like them: delicious and also good for weight loss.
Tip # 2: Cut Your Calories from Milk or Soy Milk
Fat is the most concentrated source of calories on the planet. Every gram of fat has nine calories, while a gram of sugar has just 4.
Fat is also the most concentrated source of calories in your smoothie. If you’re trying to lose weight, reducing the amount of unnecessary fat in each smoothie will help.
In most smoothies, milk, soy milk or another milk replacement is the main source of fat and calories. If you can reduce the amount you use, or cut it out completely, your waistline will thank you.
Tip # 3: Skip the Fattening Yogurt and Ice cream
Once you read the item above, about milk, this one becomes inevitable, doesn’t it?
Yogurt, frozen yogurt and ice cream are more calories you really don’t need. You certainly don’t need them to make the smoothie yummy. And they won’t help you lose weight.
Tip # 4: Use Avocado Instead of Milk
This may surprise you, but 1/4 of an avocado makes a great replacement for a cup or two of soy milk in a smoothie. With just 80 calories, the slice of avocado cuts the milk’s calorie load by 20%. A cup of soy milk (8 fluid ounces) has about 104 calories.
There are two big benefits to using avocados instead of some kind of milk. First, it keeps you from getting an overdose of dairy (of which you really shouldn’t be consuming any). It also keeps you from drinking too much soymilk (of which you should limit yourself to 3 to 5 servings a day).
Even better, from avocado you get a massive shot of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.
Good Things You Get from Avocado but Not Dairy or Soy Milk*
|Good Thing||Amount||% Daily Rec. Value|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||165mg||--|
|Omega-6 fatty acids||2534mg||--|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||3.1mg||16%|
Tip # 5: Add Spinach
Spinach has a strong taste, right?
Well, it turns out that you can add a waist-busting amount of cooked frozen spinach to your smoothie and not taste it at all. It’s cheap and available year-round, too. Just buy it in the frozen foods section of your grocery store. (Of course if you have a garden, you can cook and freeze your own.)
I prefer the frozen spinach that has been chopped and frozen in the shape of little rectangles. These dark green ice cubes are concentrated nutrition. Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods of all. Because spinach shrinks when you cook it, cooked frozen spinach gives you a much bigger nutrition boost than bulky fresh spinach, yet it also has a milder flavor in your smoothie.
Here’s how to use it. Add 1 to 5 cubes of frozen spinach cubes to any smoothie, depending on the smoothie’s size and your personal preference. Spinach is very low in calories, but will still slake your appetite because it’s high in fibre (as well as protein). That’s one way it helps you lose weight.
Spinach is also like a powerful little multivitamin, and is packed with Vitamin C, Thiamin, Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.
Tip # 6: Throw in more fruit and berries
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. That’s what they always said, and now new scientific research shows they were always right. Eating lots of fruit and berries is healthy.
Fruit and berries also help you lose weight. They are high in fibre and low in calories. Fibre fills you up, and causes your stomach to signal the brain that you’re satiated and no longer hungry.
When it comes to making smoothies, fruit and berries have another advantage: they taste great. So don’t be shy. Toss them into the blender and enjoy!
Tip # 7: Avoid adding fruit juices
Fruit juice is liquid sugar. Many fruit juices have more calories than soda, and the 15 sweetest drinks on the market are fruit drinks, not colas. Juice also has none of the natural fibre and few of the other nutritional benefits of actual fruit.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t add fruit juice to your smoothie.
Instead, throw in actual fresh or frozen fruit. It tastes just as good and is a true-to-life weight-loss food.
Tip # 8: Freeze Your Own Ingredients
Using frozen ingredients in a smoothie makes it colder. That’s important on hot summer days. (It’s 99 degrees Fahrenheit here in Sydney, Australia as I write this.)
The other big advantage of frozen foods is savings. I don’t find that buying frozen strawberries is cost effective. Instead, I buy eight or 10 little plastic boxes of strawberries or blueberries at a time when they are on special. As soon as I get home, I throw them into the freezer to be used in a smoothie another day.
When we have left over, overripe bananas we also peel, chop and freeze them in ziplock bag.
Tip # 9: Add Flaxseed to Your Smoothie
Flaxseed (also called “linseed”) is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which you need and want to have in your diet. The research also shows that flax may help you lose weight by making you feel full. Here’s the summary from a relevant study:
“A small dose of flaxseed fiber significantly suppresses appetite and energy intake.”
You can find whole flaxseed or ground flaxseed at most supermarkets these days, often in the health food section. Keep it in your fridge so it stays fresh. If it gets stale, it turns bitter and is unpleasant.
Tip # 10: If You Must Have It Sweeter…
The sweeter something is, the more calories it usually has. What are worse even than calories, however, are empty calories. Sugary foods that have no fibre or nutritional value are fattening. They are also bad for your health. (For more on the evils of sugar, watch this video).
Consuming sugar (like fat) also makes you desire more, which makes it hard to limit how much you eat.
If you must make your smoothie sweeter, there are better ways to do it than adding sugar. Try dried pitted dates, seedless grapes or slices of apple. Each is bursting with a natural sweet flavor, yet all are whole foods full of nutritional value and fibre and will help fill you up and blunt your appetite.