How to make a smarter smoothie

What could be better than a homemade smoothie – perfect for a quick breakfast or healthy snack? Just toss a cup of fruit and a bit of dairy in a blender along with a little ice and some tangy fruit juice and hello … healthy, deliciousness in a glass!

But wait. That smoothie you make yourself is only as healthy as what you put into it. What’s in yours?

Many snap-simple smoothie recipes are chockfull of sugar. We tend to forget that ingredients such as sweetened fruit juice, honey, seeds, whole bananas, and frozen yogurt, are themselves high in sugar; put them together and they can add up to a whole lot of extra calories.

Making a smoothie taste good is the easy part. Here’s how to make one that’s nutritious, too:

Choose fruits that are naturally sweet

Pineapple, berries, peaches and mango are just a few great choices. Cut them up and freeze in advance and you won’t need to add watery ice cubes when it’s time to switch on the blender.  Skip adding agave, honey and raw sugar because in the end all of these are still just sugar.

Get a protein boost

It’s easy to beef up your smoothie with a dose of easy-to-digest protein that will help keep you feeling full and satisfied. Two protein-packed ingredients to consider are Greek yogurt or a protein powder – and always go for low-fat or non-fat versions to keep your smoothie as lean as possible.

Greek yogurt is more than just delicious – it has three times as much protein as regular yogurt!
When looking for a protein powder, choose one that contains no more than 200 calories per serving and opt for one with the fewest carbs and at least 12 grams of protein. A great choice is Nature’s Plus Spiru-Tein Protein that contains 96 calories per scoop and 14 grams of protein.

Add a splash of coconut water or almond milk

Join the coco-craze and add a light and refreshing touch of coconut water to your next smoothie. It’s the perfect substitute for sugary, calorie-laden fruit juices, plus coconut water is rich in potassium and electrolytes. So nice that coconut water comes neatly packed in single serving, ready-to-pour cartons.

Or go with almond milk, which comes in a variety of flavors and makes a great base for any smoothie. This milk substitute adds sweetness plus it’s a good source of calcium that’s low in calories, and free of saturated fat.

Swap banana for nutrient-packed avocado

Bananas are the go-to fruit for many smoothie lovers, mainly because they add thickness along with some sweetness. The problem is that a ½ of a large banana equals a serving of fruit, so it is easy to overdo it. A better choice is avocado (just a quarter will do), which whips up super-smooth and offers a load of nutrients, including potassium, B-complex vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. True, avocados are high in fat, but the good news is that it’s healthy fat, which in moderation helps lower LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol.

A healthy pinch of cinnamon

Cinnamon not only lends sweetness to your smoothie, research has shown that it has antimicrobial properties, helps with digestion, and a study published in the American Journal of Nutrition showed that cinnamon can help control blood sugar levels. Cinnamon is also an excellent source of manganese and fiber and a very good source of calcium.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of F-Factor - a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness, and for treating various clinical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight-loss book The F-Factor Diet, and her next book The Miracle Carb Diet will be published in December 2013. She is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Follow Tanya on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, and OpenSky.