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Many of us use smoothies as our “go-to” meals when we are short on time or just want a quick healthy meal. But are all smoothies healthy?

If you’re not paying attention to your ingredients some smoothies can easily pack more than 500 calories and a ton of unwanted sugar. We thought it would be helpful if we reviewed some common smoothie ingredients and rate them as “good ingredients” or “not-so-good ingredients” so you will know which ones to use freely and which ones you might want to limit.

Top Smoothie Ingredients:

  • Plain Greek Yogurt is a great source of protein (15-20 grams per 6oz.) and can help keep you full. It also adds a nice creaminess, similar to a yummy milkshake. Stick to the plain variety as the flavored yogurts are often full of sugar.
  • Ground Flaxseed can add fiber, omega-3 fats and protein to your smoothie without changing its flavor.
  • Natural varies of nut butter (almond butter or nut butter of your choice) can add richness and body to your smoothies without all the sugar. Make sure the ingredients only say “peanuts” or “almonds” and watch the sugars that some brands sneak in.
  • Unsweetened milk or non-dairy alternatives – “whether or not you’re dairy-free, making sure your smoothie base is unsweetened is key to making a better and healthier smoothie. While dairy milk has the added benefit of protein, some plant-based milks are lower in calories. Make your pick based on what other protein-rich add-ins you’ve got going in or on your dietary preferences.”
  • It’s easy to get some greens into your diet by adding them into your smoothie. You can add a handful of kale or spinach for some extra nutrients and a dose of fiber.

Add some natural sweetness with high-fiber fruits like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. It’s a great way to add more fiber in your diet and stabilize your blood sugar levels.

  • Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or vanilla can add a lot of flavor.
  • Avocados are also good to leave you feeling full with no additional sugar.

Poor Smoothie add-ins:

  • A cup of 100% fruit juice has about “23 grams of sugar, and even though it is healthy it can still spike your insulin if not well-balanced with protein, fiber or fat.” Focus mainly on adding whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
  • Flavored or fruit-on-the-bottom brands of yogurt can add up to an additional 24 grams of sugar and only 6 grams of protein. Stick with the protein-packed plain Greek yogurt.
  • Many of the high-sugar fruits like grapes, mangos, bananas, and pineapples will leave you feeling hungry and eliminate some of the nutritional value of your morning smoothies. While all fruits are good if you choose these sugary fruits mix them with protein and fat for a more balanced meal.
  • Most sweetened milk alternatives can pack 10-12 grams of sugar per cup and negligible amounts of protein. If you decide to go with traditional dairy milk, beware the chocolate variety, which can have up to 24 grams of sugar per cup—that’s more than many cereals.
  • Many health cafes and juice bars add things like honey, agave, coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc. which can all impact insulin levels. While it’s true they may be more natural they are still sweeteners you don’t need and can easily reduce the health benefits of your smoothies.
Abbey Sharp, Greatist