Stop the presses! Did I just say “smoothie” and “unhealthy” in the same sentence? Well, yes I did!
But not because green smoothies are unhealthy. At least they aren’t if you stick with natural, whole food ingredients.
However, I need to clear the air about some unhealthy things that I see in quite a few smoothie recipes I come across.
So if you are making any of these smoothie mistakes, it’s time change your approach to this health food that can easily become junk food.
Never Add These Things To Your Smoothie:
Fruit Juice: Contrary to popular belief, fruit juice is NOT healthy.
Fruit juice is pretty much the only instance where naturally occurring sugars are actually unhealthy.
(Naturally-occurring sugars in whole foods like fruit do not cause health issues like added sugars do, but once the fruit is juiced, it is no longer a whole food.)
Sweetened Almond Milk: If you use almond milk, or any other plant milk in your green smoothies, make sure that it is unsweetened.
Sweetened almond milk can add 7 grams or more of added sugars to your green smoothies.
Agave Syrup: While often peddled as a “healthy” sweetener, or even as a “superfood”, agave syrup is neither. It’s a concentrated source of sugar. It’s nothing more than a high-fructose syrup.
If your smoothie doesn’t taste sweet enough, then add some sweet fruit like banana, kiwifruit, pineapple, orange, or blueberries.
Honey: Honey is another sweetener that is said to have many health benefits. However, honey is still a concentrated sweetener. I do not recommend using it in a green smoothie since it mainly serves as a source of added sugars.
Again, use sweet fruits to naturally sweeten your smoothie without adding sugar to it.
Dairy (Milk & Yogurt): Dairy is controversial. I get it. I prefer not to use it.
There are some health studies that show that dairy isn’t the health food it’s cracked up to be. And then there are health studies claiming it’s a superfood.
I don’t use dairy for a few reasons:
I feel better when I am dairy-free. The longer I go dairy free, the more pronounced this feeling is.
Adding yogurt or milk to your green smoothie adds a lot of calories. There’s a potential to turn a green smoothie into a diet buster.
Dairy and acid doesn’t go well together, and since I LOVE using oranges, pineapples, and kiwifruits, it’s just best to leave the dairy out of it.
You can actually get as much, if not more, calcium in a green smoothie as a glass of milk.
Conventional Nut Butters: I like adding peanut or almond butter to my green smoothies sometimes. Nut butters add healthy fat and protein, which can make your smoothie more satisfying.
However, conventional peanut butter is full of additives – sugar, palm oil, preservatives – are just a few of the things that you don’t want in your green smoothies.
Always choose all-natural peanut butter. Check and label and make sure that it only contains peanuts, or peanuts and salt.
Tap Water: Chances are, your tap water is fine. But I prefer to use filtered water in my green smoothies. I just run my tap water through a Brita filter.
Dates: Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t like to see dates used in smoothies – especially green smoothies.
Yes, dates can be nutritious. But they have two downsides that I don’t like.
Dates are super sweet. Drop one or two in a green smoothie and it will satisfy even the most ravenous sweet tooth. But because dates are so sweet, they don’t train your taste buds, and your body, to appreciate the flavors of less sweetened foods.
I strongly feel that it is important to move away from needing everything to be so sweet.
Dates are as close to being “added sugars” as you can get for a whole food. While the sugar in dates are naturally occurring, it is highly concentrated.
For example, a medium banana weighs about 118 grams, of which, only 14 grams is sugar. Not a problem at all.
BUT, a little 24 gram medjool date has 16 grams of sugar. So toss 2 or 3 in your green smoothie and you are needlessly adding almost 50 grams of sugar to an otherwise healthy breakfast!
So I don’t really consider dates as a health smoothie ingredient.
Ice Cream, Sherbet, Chocolate Syrup: Now I’m pretty sure that most of you reading this do not use ice cream, sherbet, or chocolate syrup in your green smoothies (yuck!)
But if you make dessert smoothies using these ingredients, consider switching to healthier ways of making these blends.
You can make healthy, dairy-free ice cream using bananas.
Most fruit can be made into a sorbet without needing to add sugar. Fruit is sweet enough on its own. You don’t need to add sugar to it!
And if you have a chocolate craving, then you must try raw cacao in your next green smoothie! It’s the healthy form of chocolate!
Are You Missing Out By Making These Green Smoothie Mistakes?
Using Only Spinach: Spinach is a great starter green for your green smoothies. But it’s not he most mineral-rich leafy green.
If you haven’t yet, try kale, bok choy, and dandelion green. These are the top three mineral-rich leafy greens. They all have much higher amounts of calcium and iron than spinach.
Using Too Many Frozen Ingredients: I like my green smoothies slightly chilled, so I regularly add a few chunks of frozen fruit or a cup of frozen berries.
But green smoothies shouldn’t be frozen smoothies, or slushies. Drinking a frozen smoothie may interfere with digestion.
Putting In Too Few Leafy Greens: I abide by a 60/40 rule when making my green smoothies. That is, 60% fruit to 40% leafy greens by volume.
On average, I use two small handfuls of leafy greens for a 20-24-ounce green smoothie, and 3 large handfuls for a 30+ ounce meal-replacement.
Tossing in a pinch of spinach leaves, or blending one or two kale leaves into a 30-ounce smoothie isn’t doing you much good.
If you are using sweet fruits like bananas, mangoes, pineapple, and oranges, you can get a LOT more minerals and nutrition into your green smoothies without tasting the bitter greens.
Add Too Much Healthy Fat To Your Smoothie: Adding some healthy fat to your green smoothies makes them more satisfying, improves nutrient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamin E), and delivers extra nutrients that your body needs (like omega-3s).
Be careful not to add too much fat, though, or you might experience gas and bloating due to the mixture of rapidly-digesting carbohydrates with slow-digesting fats. A little bit is all you need.
Try either 1/4 avocado, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds or flaxseed, or a tablespoon or two of almond butter.
Skimping On Protein: Protein makes a green smoothie meal more satisfying. It helps balance out the healthy carbs.
While you can add a scoop of protein powder to your green smoothies, you don’t have to. Leafy greens provide protein, as do goji berries, chia seeds, flaxseed, and soaked nuts like almonds and cashews.