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They are full of fruit and wholesome ingredients such as protein, grains, and seeds; and are typically low in saturated fat and sodium. Plus, smoothies are available in ready-to-go formats. For all of these reasons, they might seem like a great option, especially when you consider that

60 per cent of Canadians have fewer than five servings per day of fruits and vegetables (Canada’s Food Guide recommends at least seven servings per day for women and eight for men).

“Smoothies offer convenience and portability,” says registered dietitian Stephanie Boutette. “They’re typically advertised as containing servings of fruits and vegetables in a delicious form.” 

However, she says, “many smoothies are made with juice or fruit purée as the first ingredient, which means the sugar content is often high.” For a person with diabetes, she explains, this can lead to a quick increase in blood sugar [glucose]. As well, “compared to eating a piece of fruit, drinking a smoothie may not be as satisfying. If you don’t feel as full, that can lead you to consume more calories later in the day, which can  make weight control more difficult.” 

Plus, some ready-made smoothies may not provide the benefits of whole fruits, such as fibre. For example, Oasis smoothies, which are available at grocery stores, have two servings of fruit in a one-cup serving, but offer just one gram of fibre. Bolthouse Farms Berry Boost smoothie claims 3.75 servings of fruit per bottle (including 2.5 apples, a third of a banana, and 61 berries), but there is not a single gram of fibre in a serving. Consuming these fruits in their whole form would provide about 20 grams of fibre, a significant proportion of the 25 to 50 grams of fibre recommended by Diabetes Canada every day to help control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. Tim Hortons Mixed Berry Smoothie (with or without yogurt) also contains just one gram of fibre per serving. Products that contain whole fruit (look for the name of the fruit without the words “concentrate” or “purée” on the ingredient list) are a better option.

Smoothie success 

One easy way to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients of actual fruit is to make your own smoothies—but even then, it is important to be cautious about calories, especially if you use several different fruits and popular ingredients such as yogurt, honey, or chia seeds. “When you’re adding so many ingredients to the blender, it can be easy to lose track of how many calories you’re consuming,” Boutette says. Here are four tips to help. 

Read the label If you’re buying a ready-made smoothie, look for options that include the whole fruit, not juices or purées. Use the Nutrition Facts Table to compare products for fibre (the more, the better when it comes to controlling blood sugar and reducing cholesterol), and sugars and calories (the less, the better for these two). 

Water it down If you add liquid, opt for water, low-fat milk, or unsweetened nut milks, which can help you achieve the desired consistency without a lot of added sugar (from products such as juice, and sweetened almond or sweetened soy milk.) 

Add your own protein Nut butter, Greek yogurt, whey protein, or even tofu can provide the protein necessary to make your smoothie a meal. 

Have your protein on the side Eating some low-fat cheese or an egg can help balance the reduced feeling of fullness that comes from drinking your meal. 

Did you know? 

Want to make healthier food choices? Try the “7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan” now. 

This updated article originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue.

Author: Alyssa Schwartz

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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