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Anatomy of a Smoothie

Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) can be the culprit of inadvertent weight gain. Drinking our calories is the quickest way to gain weight. Drinking 1 soda a day can be an added 15 lbs a year! SSBs have lots of calories, little to no nutrition, and don't fill us up for long so we tend to also eat or drink more to feel full. On the other hand, eliminating SSBs or at least reducing them can also help us get back on track to a health weight and healthy lab values. I've had patients with diagnosed pre-diabetes who have single handedly reversed their condition and improved their A1c blood sugar test by eliminating all SSBs like sodas, juice, sweet teas, agua fresca, coconut water, coffee drinks, and alcohol. Our bodies are mostly water and the only beverage we need to survive. We can survive 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. Eating a diet high in vegetables can be part of the water intake we need, so here is a green smoothie recipe to help you get in the nutrition and water you need, without the added calories.

My technique with smoothies is to have a balance. My formula for a smoothie include: a protein, vegetable, fruit, and liquid. So let's break that down a little more to see what options you have.

Protein: Typically protein comes from animal sources like meats and dairy, but they can also include plant sources like nuts, seeds, soy, tofu.

  • non-fat greek yogurt or kefir

  • soft tofu

  • nuts and nut butters

  • seeds and seed butters

  • milks including dairy milk, almond milk, and soy milk

Vegetable: It might feel weird to throw in eggplant into your smoothie, but there's no rule that says you can't. I like to buy frozen vegetables to have a cold smoothie. Frozen vegetables are flash frozen at their peak for optimal nutrition, plus they often go on sale so you can stock up. Aim for 1 cup of vegetables. Here are some of my favorites:

  • spinach

  • kale

  • cauliflower

  • carrots

  • beets

  • jicama

  • ginger

Fruit: Because they have sugar, we want to try to limit our fruit to 1-2 servings. Bananas are super sweet so a portion is considered half a medium banana. Berries tend to be lower in sugar so a cup of strawberries is a portion size. With dried fruits like dates, raisins, craisins, or goji berries use 1/4 cup.

  • bananas

  • berries

  • apples

  • dates

  • raisins

Liquid: Smoothies are meant for drinking and when selecting a liquid I always advocate for water. If you want some added protein, I have my recommendations below. Notice that I don't have juice on the list and that's because we always want to eat our fruit, never drink it!

  • water

  • unsweetened almond milk (lowest carb)

  • unsweetened soy milk (good balance of carbs and protein)

  • non-fat dairy cow milk (added protein without the fat)

Other things to add:

Fat and Fiber make smoothies very filling. A few things I like to include are:

  • chia seeds

  • flax seeds

  • nuts or nut butters

  • seeds or seed butters

  • avocado (gives a creamy texture, but not much fiber)

Finally, here is a smoothie I make often for my spouse and I. I try to freeze the banana beforehand to keep my drink cold. Try to drink it right away because the seeds expand and thicken the smoothie.

Crystal Kale Smoothie:

6 stems of Kale (any kind)

1 green apple (or any kind)

1/2 banana (you can save the other half in the freezer for the next smoothie) or 1-2 medium dates

1 cup of water or nut milk (add more or less depending on how thick and 6 ice cubes

2 tbsp flax or chia seeds

Optional: a handful of parsley (more veggies!)

Servings: 2 portions of about 1.5 cups.

Directions: Blend your liquid of choice and frozen banana first, then add your seeds, and then your apple and vegetables. Save the ice cubes to blend for the last item to keep your drink cold. This drink has an earthy flavor so feel free to add more liquid if it isn't to your liking.

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