Whether you're at your local juice bar or a national chain, ordering a smoothie can be a little challenging sometimes. After all, what sounds healthy and low-calorie on the menu may be anything but good for you. From artificial ingredients to huge portion sizes with enough sugar to double as a candy bar, we recently talked with Mitzi Dulan, registered dietitian and co-author of The All-Pro Diet, for her top tips on ordering a smoothie that really is good for you.
5 Tips for Ordering a Truly Healthy Smoothie
1. Make sure fresh or frozen fruit is used. While you'd assume that strawberries and bananas are going into that strawberry-banana smoothie, that's not always the case, so it's best to ask questions about what goes into a restaurant's smoothie or see an ingredient list.
"Make sure they use fresh or frozen fruit," Dulan says. "I prefer no juices added and instead organic milk to help boost protein."
2. Add veggies when possible. If you can order a smoothie that has fruit and vegetables in it, that's the way to go. Spinach and kale are easy ways to boost nutrition whether you're ordering a smoothie out or making one at home, she says.
3. Watch the nutritionals and serving size. Most of the time, smoothies have too many calories to be considered a snack, but they can be used as a meal replacement or a post-workout meal, Dulan says. If you are ordering a smoothie for a snack, it should be a mini-sized one and have 200 calories or less. Meal-replacement smoothies should have 350 calories or less and 20 to 25 grams of protein.
"Fat should be insignificant, unless you add 1/5 of an avocado, which can boost the healthy fats," she says.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Because you're wanting to keep your calorie count low, this one can be tricky. Some studies have suggested that artificial sugars may increase hunger.
"You definitely want all-natural, but you don't want to drink a 500-calorie smoothie for a snack, as most don't have much protein either," Dulan says. "However, you have to watch it because some of the light smoothies have artificial sweeteners in them."
5. Consider making your own smoothie at home. The best way to make a truly healthy smoothie is to skip the lines and make your own at home! Invest in a good blender, and whip up a smoothie that's healthier, delicious and cheaper than what you could buy.
"The best choice is a frozen fruit mixed with organic milk, grass-fed whey protein powder with a handful of spinach or kale," Dulan says. "I haven't found that at a smoothie place yet or in the grocery store. When I get my clients to make their own smoothies they always like the taste better, too."
Do you buy smoothies out? Make them at home? Tell us what your favorite ingredient is and how you keep your smoothies healthy!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.