Avoid these unhealthy smoothie ingredients if you’re trying to eat healthily.
Smoothies are a great choice when you need a quick, convenient, easy to take on the go, and full of nutrients—especially when you can make them at home and have more oversight and control over the ingredients used. Smoothies can supply your body with healthy ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, nut butter, milk, protein powder, seeds, etc. However, some common unhealthy smoothie ingredients may undermine the dietary benefits of these beverages.
Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can add protein, fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats to your frozen drink, making it a healthy part of your day. Ingredients such as sugary yogurt, sweeteners, ice cream, and fruit juice, on the other hand, can detract from your smoothie’s potential nutritional value, leaving you with a drink high in added sugars and unhealthy fats but low in helpful nutrients such as fiber and protein.
We’ve compiled a list of unhealthy smoothie ingredients to help you make creamy, delicious, nutrient-dense smoothies at home. Of course, you don’t have to avoid all these ingredients forever because treating yourself is essential to achieving a healthy balance—not just in what you eat but also in your life. However, knowing which unhealthy smoothie ingredients to avoid will hopefully provide you with a better understanding of the impact the ingredients in the foods you eat can have on your overall health and wellness.
1. Fat-free or low-fat flavored yogurt
Yogurt is one of the most common smoothie ingredients to add texture and creaminess. Many plain yogurts, mainly Greek or Icelandic, are high in protein and low in sugar. For example, Fage 0% Greek Yogurt has 18 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar, which are not added. This can add nutrients to your smoothie and help you feel fuller for longer.
If you use the wrong yogurt, your smoothie can quickly become a sugar bomb. Most flavored yogurts are high in added sugars, and if they advertise as “fat-free” or “low-fat,” they may add even more sugar to compensate for the lack of fat. Dannon Low-fat Vanilla Yogurt, for example, has only 2 grams of total fat but 22 grams of sugar, 13 of which are added. Stonyfield Organic Fat-Free Chocolate Underground Yogurt contains no fat, but it does have 19 grams of sugar and 13 grams of added sugar.
Since your smoothie may already contain fruit, milk, and nut butter sugar, you may opt for low-sugar, high-protein yogurt varieties instead.
2. Canned fruit
Canned fruit may appear to be the quickest, cheapest, and most convenient way to add your favorite products to your smoothie, but most varieties of canned fruit are packed in syrups, which increase your overall sugar count. Instead, opt for fresh to avoid added sugars and embrace the natural sugars in fruit. Frozen fruit is even better for smoothies because it keeps its nutritional value longer, doesn’t spoil as quickly, and adds a creamier texture to your smoothie.
3. Chocolate-Hazelnut spread
Hazelnuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats like any other nut. Because of the antioxidants in cocoa, chocolate can provide a slew of health benefits to your body. So it’s natural to assume that combining these two ingredients to make a nut buttery spread like Nutella would be relatively healthy. However, before adding a dollop of chocolate-hazelnut butter like Nutella to your smoothie, consider the other ingredients to ensure your smoothie has a healthy, nutritious balance. For example, if you’re making a smoothie with peanut butter already, adding some chocolate-hazelnut spread may add a sweet flavor that will undoubtedly yield delicious results. On the other hand, if you’re trying to lose weight or your doctor has advised you to limit your sugar and fat intake, you may want to skip this ingredient. Nutella and other similar ingredients will only increase the fat (4.6 g), saturated fat (1.6 g), and sugar (8.4 g) content of your smoothie.
4. Added sweeteners
You’ve finished adding your smoothie ingredients and want more sweetness. So instead of reaching for plain sugar, you opt for something more “natural,” such as honey or maple syrup. Unfortunately, while these natural sweeteners are less processed, they still add significant sugar to your beverage. One tablespoon of honey, for example, contains 17 grams of sugar. One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 12 grams of sugar.
5. Sugary fruit juice
Similarly to why you should avoid flavored yogurt, adding fruit juice will simply increase the amount of sugar in your smoothie. To begin, avoid store-bought fruit cocktails labeled as “real juice.” Products like the Minute Maid Cranberry Cocktail, which has 53 grams of added sugar, and Simply Fruit Punch, which has 21 grams of added sugar, are nothing more than water, sugar, and fruit juice concentrate—so there isn’t much nutritional value to speak of.
If you want a liquid base for your smoothie, you should look for milk that works for you. For example, 2% cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein, vitamins A, D, choline, calcium, and potassium. If you’re looking for a non-dairy alternative, try Elmhurst Milked Almonds, which have 1 gram of sugar and 5 grams of protein, or Ripple Plant-Based Milk, which has 8 grams of protein, zero grams of sugar, and plenty of vitamins B12, D, and calcium.
Technically, a smoothie with alcohol is probably just a daiquiri, but in any case, it’s best to limit your intake of boozy, frozen fruit drinks to special occasions. Not only will the combination of liquor and the rest of your smoothie ingredients add a ton of calories and sugar, but adding booze to the mix makes it difficult to limit yourself to just one drink. Not only that, but research has shown that drinking alcohol can cause your brain to believe it requires food—a phenomenon that explains the hunger and cravings you experience after a few drinks.
7. Too much of a good thing
Some common smoothie ingredients, such as nut butter, avocado, and coconut oil, are considered healthy and provide a burst of beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to the consumer. In the case of smoothies, however, there is always the risk of “too much of a good thing,” so keep your portion sizes in check.
Avocados, for example, is high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve heart health and cholesterol levels. However, one avocado contains 22 grams of fat, which is excessive for a single smoothie ingredient. While avocados contain healthy fat, the National Library of Medicine warns that eating too much fat, even monounsaturated fat, can lead to weight gain. Similarly, nut butter, which often contains healthy fats, should be consumed in moderation.
Tossing a scoop of coconut oil into your smoothie, on the other hand, can provide your body with nutrients that may boost energy levels, improve oral health, and even contribute to a lower risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, despite being nutrient-dense, coconut oil is still a source of saturated fat, so it should be consumed in moderation.
8. Ice cream
We understand how tempting it is to add your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt to make your smoothie extra sweet and creamy. However, unless you don’t mind your smoothie turning into a dessert-style milkshake (which, to be honest, sounds delicious), you might want to skip the ice cream and find another way to add texture to your drink if you’re looking for a more nutrition-friendly beverage.
There is one trick you can try to keep the frozen creaminess of the ice cream without adding calories and sugar. Instead of your favorite ice cream, grab some low-sugar, high-protein yogurt and freeze it ahead of time! This will give you the desired texture while also adding nutrients.