The Bright Side Blog

Are you making these smoothie mistakes?

Are you making these smoothie mistakes?

You can’t go wrong with a smoothie—for breakfast, to fuel up after a workout, or anytime you’re looking for a nutrient-dense energy boost, right?

Well actually, you can, says holistic nutritionist Erin Parekh.  If you’re not mindful about the ingredients you’re buzzing up in your blender, your smoothie can quickly morph from a healthy snack or meal replacement to sugar bomb and calorie minefield.

“One of the most common mistakes I see people make when they get into smoothies for the first time is adding in everything but the kitchen sink,” Erin says. “You want to focus on the basics — liquid + protein + fat + fiber + greens + fruit—and maybe an optimizer like cinnamon, vanilla extract, cacao, or turmeric. A smoothie really shouldn’t have more than 6 to 8 ingredients.”

So how does your smoothie stack up? Here are a few other common mistakes you might be making, and how to whip up a drink that’s delicious, nutritious, and filling.

Mistake #1: Using fruit juice, or…

“If you’re adding liquid to your smoothie, skip the juice, which is basically just water and sugar without the fiber, or much nutrition. Better alternatives are unsweetened plant milks, green tea or coffee, coconut water, or H2O, nature’s best hydrator, and my first choice.”

Mistake #2: …adding too much fruit

“Fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber but we only need 1 to 2 servings per day,” Erin says. For reference one serving = about ¾ of a cup, fresh or frozen. Adding more than that can create an imbalance with other nutrients, and also spike your blood sugar. 

“My first-choice fruits are any type of berries—raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. They add sweetness and provide fiber to help you stay full, and they’re also rich in antioxidants, which may prevent cell damage and disease. Because they’re low on the glycemic index, they won’t spike your sugar as quickly as many other fruits.” Another option, Erin says, is half a small banana or  ½ cup of cherries or peaches, especially for summer. 

Mistake #3: Forgetting healthy fats and protein

“Carbs digest more quickly than protein and fats, so if your smoothie is missing these nutrients, you’ll probably be hungry within two hours,” Erin says. “Fat helps slow your digestion, which will keep you full longer. Protein is a great energy source, will stabilize your blood sugar, and also help keep you full, so add at least one serving (20-30 grams) to your smoothie.” 

Nut butters are protein powerhouses, and they also provide a serving of heart-healthy fats. “Add 1 to 2 tbsp of organic peanut, almond, or other nut butter (just nuts, no fillers), or use coconut butter for an allergy-friendly option.” Ground flaxseed is another great choice as it’s a source of omega-3 fat and provides extra protein and fiber. Half an avocado provides a serving of healthy fat and will add creaminess to your smoothie.

Mistake #4: Skipping the veggies

Smoothies are a super easy way to get at least 1 of your 5+ daily veggie servings (which, let’s face it, most of us don’t) — and get your green on. Toss a big handful of spinach or kale into your blender — you won’t be able to taste it, and both are bursting with phytonutrients, folate, and fiber. If you want to get more adventurous, experiment with celery, cucumber, cauliflower, bok choy, beets, or zucchini.

 “In case you’re wondering, frozen veggies and fruits are equally as nutritious as fresh,” Erin says. In fact, frozen produce, which is picked at its peak, can actually contain more nutrients than the fresh version if the fresh stuff has been sitting for days (or weeks) on a store shelf. “Frozen fruit and veggies will also give your smoothie a thick, icy texture—especially refreshing in summer.” 

Mistake #5 Leaving out spices and other flavor boosters

Spices add flavor to your smoothie without added calories, and they’re loaded with health benefits. “Cinnamon is good for blood sugar balance; turmeric is a great immune booster and inflammation fighter; and ginger aids in digestion,” Erin says. She also loves adding vanilla extract, or unsweetened raw cacao powder, which is rich in magnesium and great for post workout muscle recovery.  

A well-rounded smoothie strikes the right balance of nutrients and should keep you full and energized for 4 to 5 hours ... enough time and fuel for a workout and to prepare for your July 4th weekend festivities.

Celebrate with one of Erin’s Red, White or Blue Smoothies

Raspberry Almond Coconut Smoothie

8 ounces unsweetened almond milk

1 serving protein powder

2-3 Tbs. unsweetened coconut yogurt

or 1 Tbs. coconut butter

1 Tbs. chia seeds

1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen zucchini

Splash vanilla extract

Spiced Apple Pie Smoothie

8 ounces unsweetened almond milk

1 serving protein powder

1/2 chopped, frozen red apple

1/2 cup frozen riced cauliflower

1 Tbs. almond butter

1 Tbs. ground flax meal

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

pinch nutmeg or allspice

splash vanilla extract

pinch sea salt

Blueberry Muffin Smoothie

1 serving protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)

2 tbsp ground flaxseed

2 tbsp nut butter

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 cup baby spinach

¼ tsp cinnamon

1-2 cups nut milk or water

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