The smoothie craze explored
It’s no secret that smoothies and protein drinks are a hot topic right now and have been for quite some time; just search #smoothie in Instagram and you’ll see nearly 6 million posts. They are popular and trendy but are they worth all the hype?
During the past week, I’ve been forced into drinking lots of smoothies due to a recent mouth surgery and inability to chew. Before the last week, I’d drink the occasional smoothie as a refreshing dessert, but I’ve never really been a huge fan of smoothies as meals because I always feel hungry again an hour later. To me, drinking my food isn’t nearly as satisfying as sitting down to eat, chewing the food and enjoying a meal.
My individual clients frequently ask me about smoothies and whether or not they’re a “good” thing to eat. Because the last week was smoothies galore for me, and because of how commonly I get asked this question, I thought I’d dive into sharing some thoughts about smoothies to help you decide if smoothies are beneficial and positive in your life.
So, let’s tackle the question of whether or not smoothies are good for you.
There are so many reasons people love smoothies. For people who want to eat breakfast but don’t feel hungry, smoothies can be a great option to get some nutrition in during the morning. Others find themselves feeling too busy and rushed to sit down to breakfast and enjoy sipping on a smoothie throughout the morning. Smoothies are also a great way to get fruits and vegetables in during the day and can really start out your morning right.
Many people find that they don’t feel satisfied when they drink their food and end up feeling hungry for the next meal prematurely. Some people also find that they end up eating more in total during the day when they drink a smoothie for a meal because they weren’t satisfied and ended up eating the food they really wanted eventually anyway.
Another potential negative for smoothie drinking is that many smoothies aren’t as balanced as they could be with macronutrients.
How to make a macronutrient-balanced smoothie
There are three ways your body gets calories (read: energy) from food: carbohydrate, fat and protein. The goal with your eating is to get a good balance between those three nutrients. Because smoothies are often made up of mostly fruit (which are carbohydrates), many smoothies lack the necessary amount of protein and fat you need to feel full and satisfied. So, when you make a smoothie, it’s important to think about where your fat and protein will come from. Here are some ideas for getting those three macronutrients in balance for the smoothie chefs out there.
- Veggies (yes, kale and spinach are technically carbohydrates)
- Coconut milk
- Full-fat yogurt
- Nut butters
- Greek yogurt
- Protein powder
- Seeds (like chia or hemp)
For tried-and-true macronutrient-balanced smoothie recipes, feel free to check out the healthy recipes section on my blog. You’ll find a simple spinach berry smoothie, strawberry coconut smoothie, pineapple parsley veggie smoothie and a coconut berry smoothie bowl. You can also follow me on Instagram to get recipes, nutrition tips and meal ideas.
You might also consider adding toppings to your smoothie and eating it with a bowl and spoon. That way, you’re likely more mindful and sitting down to eat it. Toppings could be nuts, fruit, oats, chia seeds or anything else that gives it some substance. You might notice you feel fuller when you eat a smoothie that way rather than sipping on it on-the-go throughout the morning.
In the end, you have you ask yourself if drinking a smoothie for a meal is working for you. If you drink a smoothie for breakfast and feel anxious about the foods you could have eaten or find yourself wishing you’d eaten that egg and toast that your friend had at work, then maybe it’s not working. If you find yourself hungry for lunch at 10 a.m. after drinking a smoothie, then maybe it’s not working for you.
But, if you find that smoothies are a convenient, healthy and satisfying option for you, then by all means, go for it! The key with any meal or style of eating is to ensure it’s sustainable and realistic long-term.
Through the last week of not being able to chew, I’ve learned that smoothies can have a place for me but will not likely be an everyday thing. I love to experiment with flavor combinations and ingredients, but I find that mindful eating is much easier for me when I sit down to a plate of food, enjoy the eating experience and then move on with the rest of my day.
Ask yourself if your smoothie is working for you to help you feel full, satisfied and ready to take on your day.
Paige is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in helping people heal their relationship with food. She hosts Nutrition Matters Podcast and has a private nutrition consulting business.