Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Are smoothies a good choice to help me lose weight?
A: The bottom line for weight loss is to change the balance between calories you consume to calories you burn in activity, and smoothies may make that easier or harder, depending on calorie and nutrient content. Smoothies can provide several servings of fruit – and even vegetables – as well as be a good source of protein. Some smoothies also include other nutrient-rich foods such as nut butter, seeds, and high-fiber grain products.
However, smoothies may be quite concentrated in calories if made with a large amount of juice; added sugar, honey or agave nectar; sugar-sweetened yogurt or frozen yogurt; or high-fat ingredients like oils, avocado or nut butters. Smoothies made without added sweetener could provide a healthful meal with 300 to 450 calories in a 12-ounce portion. Or an eight-ounce serving could be made with just 100 or 150 calories to provide a tasty way to enjoy fruits as part of a healthy, low-calorie meal or snack. However, as with other foods, large portions tend to be high in calories. Some popular commercial varieties in 20- to 22-ounce portions made with added sugars or juice concentrates contain 500 to over 1200 calories, and are not helpful for reducing calorie consumption. Others may be appropriate in calories for a meal, but lack the nutritional balance to serve as a satisfying meal.
People with diabetes or other medical reasons to control the amount of carbohydrate consumed at one time need to consider smoothies carefully; some may contain just 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrate, but others may contain 60 to 100 grams (equal to 4 to more than 6 “servings” of carbohydrate foods). Whether seeking weight loss or not, the best bet is to make smoothies yourself, so you are in control of ingredients and portion size. Be clear about whether you are trying to make a meal, or a beverage to accompany a meal or serve as a snack, and choose ingredients and portion size accordingly.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.