The Truth About Smoothies: Making a Healthy Choice


Though the calendar tells us that summer doesn’t officially start until June 20, for me, summer is signified by the end of school, the start of farmers’ markets, and the beginnings of my summer produce cravings. As I strolled through the grocery store this afternoon, I eyed strawberries, questioning whether or not it was “time” to pick up a batch. While I eventually decided that they could use a little ripening, my promenade through the aisles of fruit and vegetables made me all the more excited to enjoy them together, in blended form.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is smoothie season.

While the thought of this new and wonderful season excites me, for me, smoothies have always been one of the more confusing picks for me. As the photo above shows, in the grocery store smoothies line an entire aisle. They boast pounds of fruit, flavor, and your regular dose of daily healthiness, but as all we savvy college students know, you can’t believe everything you read. So what’s true and what’s marketing? Read on for some tips and tricks in picking a smoothie that is both flavorful and a light option for your summer indulging.

**Tips and Tricks**

Plan ahead. Naked. Odwalla. Bolthouse Farms. Cuties. Those are just a few brands I stumbled across in the smoothie aisle of my grocery store, and many of them look the same, so how do you choose? Line them up and put them to the test. First, check out the ingredients. I’m not talking about the “includes 3 strawberries, 5 grapes, 1 banana” section proudly displayed on the front of the bottle, but rather the fine print ingredients. Chances are if you recognize everything there, you’re in good shape. Also, don’t skip the sugar section. Many of the smoothies found in grocery stores contain the natural sugars from the fruit in the smoothie plus added sugar. To put it in perspective, a Milky Way candy bar contains 35g of sugar. Not all sugar is bad, but the average Naked beverage contains double that amount, so beware!

When that doesn’t work. It’s not always easy to stop in at the grocery store and spend hours lining up smoothies side by side when you’re juggling the three kids you’re babysitting, errands, and an assignment for your summer class. So, believe me, no one is judging if every once in awhile you’re swinging through the Drive Thru in search of something satisfying. As you do so, beware of playful drink titles that obscure the true ingredients contained. For example, Dairy Queen’s Tropical Blizzard has 1140 calories and 94 grams of sugar. Why so high? ICE CREAM. Don’t be afraid to ask how the drink you’re ordering is being made! Need a healthy option? Starbucks Vivanno Smoothies come in at under 300 calories with over 15 grams of protein.

It’s not all about the calories. Remember that the calorie count isn’t the only important factor in choosing your smoothie. Evaluate what purpose your smoothie is serving: is it a meal? A snack? A supplement to a meal? Let the answers to those questions guide the nutritional items you need. For example, if your smoothie is serving as a meal in your day, you’ll want one with a high protein content that is still relatively low in fat and sugar like the Protein Berry Workout from Jamba Juice. However, if you’re just looking for a healthy snack to get you through the day, something more like this Papaya Berry option recommended by Men’s Health would be more up your alley.

Homemade is always better. Though careful choices in the grocery store or fast food line can be quick and easy, there is no substitute for a homemade blend. In your own kitchen you choose the ingredients, you know the health value, and you won’t have to break the bank. Try these options to get you started!

Shannon Kelley is a recent graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. She is currently trying to make up for lost time by choosing more healthy smoothies and less Chalupa Supremes and Natural Lights (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Originally posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2012

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