How smart is your smoothie?

Smoothies are a delicious, quick way to have breakfast in a flash.  Fruit smoothies sound healthy, and often they are, but beware because some smoothie recipes aren’t such as great choice.

Some fruit smoothies are loaded with added sugar and fat. It’s easy to forget that ingredients such as sweetened fruit juice, honey, agave, nuts and seeds, and frozen yogurt, are high in sugar. Mixing a bunch of these together can add up to an awful lot of calories. Keep it simple and enjoy in moderation, because a hefty 32 ounce smoothie regardless of what’s in it probably isn’t so low-cal.

It’s easy to make and enjoy a light and healthy smoothie, though. Follow these simple tips:

Add protein without lots of calories

Make your smoothie a complete breakfast by combining fiber and protein, which will fill you up, get you going, and keep you feeling full until lunch. Fruits will provide the fiber and for a boost of protein try adding fat-free Greek yogurt, which contains three times the amount of protein as regular yogurts. You can also add a scoop of protein powder.  Go with one that has the fewest carbs, with less than 200 calories per serving, and 10-12 grams of protein.

Ditch the honey, agave, and simple syrups

Natural or not, these common sweeteners are high in calories: 1 tablespoon of honey has around 60 calories and 17 grams of carbs.  Instead, add fruits that are naturally sweet and high in fiber, such as raspberries, blueberries and pears. One cup of raspberries has the same calories (60 calories) as a teaspoon of honey and you get a big bonus: 8 grams of fiber.

Spice up your smoothie with some cinnamon

Adding a pinch of cinnamon to your smoothie is a natural way to add flavor without adding extra sugar. Plus, cinnamon has a host of health benefits.  It’s a potent antioxidant, it has antimicrobial properties, and it helps with brain function, controlling blood sugar, and may lower cholesterol, too.

Thicken with avocado instead of a banana

Bananas are sweet and delicious, but for a nutritious boost try adding a quarter of an avocado to your next smoothie. Avocado will give it volume and richness along with 20 vitamins and minerals, such as folate, potassium, iron, and vitamins E and C, plus heart healthy monounsaturated fat that when eaten in moderation can help lower your LDL cholesterol and help raises the good HDL cholesterol.

Add some greens

Adding spinach, lettuce, or kale will provide fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, making your smoothie a powerhouse of nutrition. You might think adding greens sounds bizarre, but just blend them with a sweet fruit and you’ll never know.

For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website