Pack your smoothies with vital nutrients instead of sugar

A dark pink smoothie with a straw in a glass mason jar next to bananas and strawberries. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.
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During a long bike ride with my son on a warm sunny day, we used smoothies as the motivating factor to pedal home even though our legs were tired. Smoothies are the perfect summer snack to cool you off but can also be a good on-the-go breakfast for the busy adult. However, not every smoothie is a healthy choice. Here’s how to pack your smoothie with vital nutrients without all the added sugars.

Start with your favorite fruits, such as bananas, mangos, strawberries, or kiwi. For convenience buy a bag of mixed frozen fruit, which is always on hand and ready to blend! Plus, if you’re looking for ways to use up a ripe banana, slice it and stick in the freezer for an easy smoothie addition. If desired, add a vegetable, such as spinach, carrots, avocado or cucumber. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 10 percent of U.S. adults surveyed as part of the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system met the daily recommended vegetable intake. Adding veggies to smoothies is one way to meet the requirement of this important food group.

Next, add a liquid base to your smoothie, such as nonfat milk, unsweetened alternative milk, or 100% juice. I sometimes like to use a combination of milk and juice, to get a bit of sweetness without having to add honey or sugar. Finally, throw in some add-ins, if desired. Peanut butter and cocoa powder go well in a banana, milk, yogurt smoothie. Chia seeds, flax seeds or oatmeal can go in almost any smoothie for added fiber to help you feel full for longer. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, or turmeric are all options to boost flavor without adding sugars. Many people will add protein powders to get in more protein. While it’s a convenient way to add protein to the diet, these powders are unnecessary for most healthy adults. Unless you’re an athlete undergoing intense training, or you’re an older adult or cancer patient with a reduced appetite, you’re likely getting all the protein your body needs through whole foods. Enjoy the taste, health and convenience of a smoothie this summer!

 

Strawberry Banana Mango Smoothie

1 cup frozen mango, banana, strawberry blend

½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

½ cup nonfat milk

½ cup orange juice

Add ingredients, in order, to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately. 

Yield: 2 servings

 

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 110 calories, 0 grams fat, 35 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

 

Sources:

Lee SH, Moore LV, Park S, Harris DM, Blanck HM. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1–9.

Gelsomin, E (March 2020). The Scoop on Protein Powder. Harvard Medical School

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.