Out with the nonsense, in with the nutrition!
Smoothies, like many delicious and healthy foods, can sometimes be deceptively calorific and laden with fat and sugar.
Dublin-based nutritionist and personal trainer Robyn Taaffe notes that some smoothies can even contain the sugar equivalent of a chocolate milkshake. Trying to get your head around healthy eating can sometimes seem like navigating a minefield - especially when you hear that something you automatically assumed was nutritious is doing the counter opposite.
Like us, Taaffe lives by the mantra that everything in moderation is key - even when it comes to smoothie ingredients. With that in mind, we asked her to share her pearls of wisdom, ensuring a smoothie that's as wholesome as it is flavourful.
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"Smoothies are an amazing way to load up on micronutrients, providing you with a healthy option to grab on the go," Taaffe said, as she pointed out four additions that we could all do with stocking up on.
There is no need to be afraid of adding fruit to smoothies. Berries are packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C and they are naturally lower in sugar than other fruits, making them an option that our blood sugars love. Always make sure you check the label on frozen berry packets before you buy them as some brands are inclined to add in extra sugar before freezing.
Adding a source of protein, such as seeds, to your smoothies is important to balance blood sugars, help satiate, and provide additional nutrients. Eating fruit on its own causes a big spike in our blood sugar levels, requiring insulin to be released to bring them back to normal. With that, comes a sudden energy release followed by a drop shortly after. Adding a protein source will provide a much slower energy release and keep us feeling fuller for longer.
I personally love hemp seeds, which are packed with fibre and beneficial fatty acids: adding just one tablespoon provides an extra five grams of protein! Other great options are chia seeds or flax seeds.
Leafy Green Veg
Smoothies are a great way to increase your leafy green intake. This often surprises people, but one full cup of spinach will add another five grams of protein to your smoothie too! Other good options are kale, romaine, or chard. I always recommend to start with a small quantity and build up the amounts you use so you don't overwhelm your tastebuds.
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Bananas are a great, filling option to add to smoothies because they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibre to help keep you feeling full. They also add a creamy texture to your blend and are perfect in a pre or post-workout smoothie.
As for four ingredients to avoid like the plague, Taaffe also had a lot to say on the matter.
Fruit juices are often void of nutrients and high in sugar. Opting for some nondairy milk like almond, or simply water, is a much better alternative. Squeezing some lemon or lime juice will add a nice kick to your drink otherwise.
Although tasty, flavoured yoghurts are often filled with added sugar and will increase the calorie content of your smoothie. If you really want an extra creamy consistency, try adding in some unsweetened Greek, oat, or coconut milk yoghurt.
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Chopped fruits that come in a tin are often coated in syrup to preserve them. A cup of canned pineapple chunks contains a whopping 43 grams of sugar - versus a cup of fresh pineapple which contains no added sugar (just its natural amount). Canned pineapple will also contain much less vitamin C and other nutrients than its natural source.
Sweetened milk alternatives can pack between 10-12 grams of sugar per cup. Try to opt for unsweetened versions or stick to cold water to blend up those ingredients.