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Most of us assume that making a morning smoothie is a healthy habit.
Many smoothie recipes are pretty straightforward – a handful of a few different fruit here, a dollop of nut butter there, a dash of juice or milk and you’re good to go. But now experts are suggesting that smoothies may not be the nutritious start to the day you might expect.
‘People are loading up their smoothies with up to five portions of fruit. While it’s great to get nourishing foods into our bodies, we aren’t thinking this through,’ nutritional therapist Amelia Freer tells The Telegraph.
‘Basically we are overeating, and even though the ingredients are natural, they can still be incredibly fattening if eaten in large quantities,’ she says.
James Collins, a leading nutritionist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance on Harley Street, agrees. ‘The problem with so-called superfoods is that people think the more you have, the better they are for you,’ he told the paper.
‘This isn’t true. In fact, throwing a high proportion of health foods into your diet can stop you achieving the body you want. It’s always much better to eat real, whole food, as you will get better feelings of satiety.’
When it comes to smoothies, there are three key issues – portion size, sugar content, and unnecessary extras, such as sweeteners, nuts or fruit juices. Yes, eating some fruit is better than no fruit at all, but you should know how much fruit or veg constitutes a portion, and keep sugary additions to a minimum – particularly if you’re drinking smoothies for weight loss.
5 ways to make your smoothie healthier
Have it as a meal, not a snack
When made with all of the right stuff, smoothies are substantial enough to power you through the morning, so you don’t need an additional breakfast on top. They should be a considered part of your meal plan and not just a ‘because you fancy it’ treat – and you should never have more than one a day.
Only use a small amount of fruit
Even though berries have low levels of sugar in comparison to other fruits such as mangoes and bananas, you should only be using a handful of them per cup. Overloading your smoothie with fruit will spike the sugar content – Amelia recommends using one serving of fruit for every 4-5 servings of vegetables.
Of course, there are such things as healthy juices, but the last thing your smoothie needs is extra fruit juice on top of the fruit you’re including already! Whizz up your smoothie with a measured quantity of dairy or almond milk, coconut water or even just plain water – it’ll keep the calories lower, but still improve the texture and taste great.
Say goodbye to sweeteners
Be honest – do you really need to squeeze in extra honey or agave to your breakfast blend? If you really struggle with the natural flavours, Amelia suggests using cinnamon to sweeten without the additional sugar or calories.
Protein will instantly make your smoothie more satisfying, and will bulk it out without the addition of yet more sugar. Try Greek yoghurt, a small quantity of nuts, or protein powder if you’re working out or aiming to build muscle, and you should feel fuller for longer.