Q: Are smoothies a good choice to help me lose weight?
A: The bottom line for weight loss is to change the balance between calories you consume to calories you burn in activity, and smoothies may make that easier or harder, depending on calorie and nutrient content. Smoothies can provide several servings of fruit – and even vegetables – as well as be a good source of protein. Some smoothies also include other nutrient-rich foods such as nut butter, seeds, and high-fiber grain products.
However, smoothies may be quite concentrated in calories if made with a large amount of juice; added sugar, honey or agave nectar; sugar-sweetened yogurt or frozen yogurt; or high-fat ingredients like oils, avocado or nut butters. Smoothies made without added sweetener could provide a healthful meal with 300 to 450 calories in a 12-ounce portion. Or an eight-ounce serving could be made with just 100 or 150 calories to provide a tasty way to enjoy fruits as part of a healthy, low-calorie meal or snack. However, as with other foods, large portions tend to be high in calories. Some popular commercial varieties in 20- to 22-ounce portions made with added sugars or juice concentrates contain 500 to over 1200 calories, and are not helpful for reducing calorie consumption. Others may be appropriate in calories for a meal, but lack the nutritional balance to serve as a satisfying meal.
People with diabetes or other medical reasons to control the amount of carbohydrate consumed at one time need to consider smoothies carefully; some may contain just 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrate, but others may contain 60 to 100 grams (equal to 4 to more than 6 “servings” of carbohydrate foods). Whether seeking weight loss or not, the best bet is to make smoothies yourself, so you are in control of ingredients and portion size. Be clear about whether you are trying to make a meal, or a beverage to accompany a meal or serve as a snack, and choose ingredients and portion size accordingly.
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN is AICR’s Nutrition Advisor, a speaker, writer and consultant who specializes in helping people make sense of nutrition news. You can follow her blog, Smart Bytes® and follow her on Twitter @KarenCollinsRD.