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Smoothies – What you need to know about them

Posted by Emily on 13th April 2018 at 01:00pm

By: Lauren Moore 

Smoothies have become a very popular addition to many people’s eating routines lately.  Smoothies, when made correctly, can make a great and balanced snack or meal. However, it is easy to pack a smoothie with excessive carbohydrates and calories, which can significantly increase your daily calorie intake without you even realising it. 


What about juices?

The main difference between juices and smoothies is that with juices, all the beautiful fibre contained in fruits and vegetables goes in the bin!  Tragic!  Due to this fact, you end up using a bigger portion of fruit and/or vegetables to get one glass of juice, compared to a smoothie.  For example, a medium glass of carrot, apple and ginger juice requires around four to five apples, as well as several carrots.  This is why a glass of juice can often provide the same amount of calories as an entire meal.


Ok, so I can just have a juice in place of a meal, what’s the problem?  Well, the main issue here is that fluids exit the stomach faster than foods (referred to as more rapid gastric emptying), which means that the equivalent calories of food will keep you full for a substantially longer period of time than a juice.  This is because when you get your juicer to break down the food, you are limiting the work the digestive tract needs to do in order to “process” that food.  This means that it moves through the digestive tract much quicker, thereby making the juice more likely to spike your blood sugar (which may affect your appetite and energy levels later on) and less likely to fill you for very long.  In all likelihood, if you replaced a meal with a juice, you would find yourself ravenous an hour or two afterwards, and would need to eat an extra meal or a snack to satisfy your appetite.  


So smoothies are the answer!

Yes and no…  Smoothies are a fantastic option compared to juices, as you retain all the fibre.  Yes, the blender is still breaking down some of the fibre, but the smoothie will still take longer to digest than a juice.  However, it is still easy to pack a lot of calories in one glass of a smoothie.  Many store-bought smoothies are extremely high in calories and carbohydrates, even though they are marketed as being really healthy!


The following are a few common mistakes when making smoothies:

  1. Using too many fruits. It is easy to add three or even four portions of fruits to a smoothie, making it too energy and carbohydrate dense.  Worse still, many people “forget” about the fruit portions used in their smoothie, and eat even more fruits as snacks later in the day.
  2. Using too much nutritious fluid. Fluid is generally used in smoothies to thin the smoothie out.  However, it is easy to forget that many fluids, such as milk, yoghurt and fruit juice, contain calories and carbohydrates too.  Therefore, by adding a lot of nutritious fluid to the smoothie, it is important to be mindful of the extra nutrients that are also added to the total carbohydrate and calorie content of the smoothie. 
  3. Forgetting one of the golden rules of eating carbohydrates (including fruit). Remember that, when eating carbohydrates, it is important to try and combine them with a protein or healthy fat in order to slow the digestion of the meal as well as to slow the release of glucose into the blood. 


This is starting to sound complicated, perhaps it’s easier to ditch the smoothie idea?  No!  I find that smoothies are so beneficial for me to ensure I am getting my fruit intake every day (I tend to get a bit lazy when it comes to eating fruits sometimes).  They are also a great “vessel” for getting an extra portion or two of vegetables too.  They can really serve as a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich, balanced and healthy snack or meal when made the right way. 


Follow these guidelines and you cannot go wrong!

  1. Use one to two portions of fruit per smoothie, and keep this in mind when consuming fruit later in the day to ensure your total daily fruit intake is not excessive. A portion of fruit is a tennis ball sized fruit, or half a cup of berries. 
  2. Add about 1/3 of a cup of EITHER plain yoghurt or milk (fruit juice is unnecessary!). To thin it out further, use water or ice.
  3. Add a source of protein (a good quality protein powder is easiest) or healthy fat (nuts, seeds or avocado).
  4. To bulk up the smoothie and increase its nutrient density, add a big handful of spinach/kale/celery/cucumber.


Use this template to ensure you are making balanced and healthy smoothies.  Play around and see what you enjoy, and enjoy the numerous health benefits that accompany these nutrient bombs.