Smoothies: The Nutritional Pros And Cons

A few years ago, no one had heard of smoothies; today, they are everywhere. Registered dietitian Amy Lewis discusses the pros and cons of the smoothie craze.

Smoothies Nutritional Pros Cons

Whether it’s advertised as a meal replacement, a delicious make-at-home treat, or a post-workout booster, the smoothie is everywhere. Grocery stores and gyms sell them. Restaurants feature “smoothie bowls” on their menus. Even some vending machines are dispensing these with the push of a button. Registered dietitian Amy Lewis helps us evaluate the nutritional pros and cons of this popular trend.

“People want easy, convenient solutions to good nutrition,” observes Amy. “Smoothies are certainly convenient—I have them for breakfast myself! But when it comes to nutritional value, not all smoothies are created equal. Understanding the pros and cons of this trend can help inform our nutrition choices.”

The Nutritional Pros

  • There is no question they are convenient. “Smoothies come together with a buzz of the blender and you can drink your breakfast smoothie on the way to work,” laughs Amy. “If you are really pressed for time, you can even make them the night before.”
  • Boost fruit and vegetable consumption. “Research tells us that 75 percent of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies,” says Amy. “Smoothies are a great way to boost our servings of both.”
  • Expand your nutritional repertoire. “You can easily add good-for-you ingredients—that you wouldn’t normally eat—to your smoothie,” says Amy. “You can get all the nutritional value of ingredients like flaxseed, chia seeds, spinach, and oats while disguising their taste with fruit or other more palatable ingredients.”
  • Add vegetables to breakfast. We don’t usually have veggies for breakfast; smoothies are an easy way to get veggies into your diet first thing in the morning.
  • They taste good. Some people have no problem drinking a sludgy kale concoction, but most of us like our food to taste good. With smoothies, you can get the nutrients you need without sacrificing taste.

The Nutritional Cons

  • Overconsumption is always a danger. “We have to watch portion control,” warns Amy. “Some smoothies contain a lot of calories, and it’s tempting to overindulge.”
  • Don’t provide a lot of fiber. “Our bodies need fiber, but it can be pulverized to some extent during the blending process,” says Amy.
  • Don’t satisfy us for as long as whole foods do. “We don’t have to chew a smoothie,” says Amy. “Chewing makes us feel full and satisfied. Smoothies demand less of our digestive system, and we may feel hungry sooner.”
  • Premade options are often full of sugar. “The sugar content in some premade smoothies is very high while the fiber content is very low,” says Amy. “I suggest smoothies with no more than 20 to 25 grams of sugar. Purchased smoothies can have 41 to 53 grams of sugar.”

Amy advises checking nutritional data online before purchasing commercial smoothies, and keeping nutrition in mind when making smoothies at home. “With a little knowledge,” she says, “you can enjoy smoothies that make a healthy positive contribution to your diet.”

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