Smoothies That Don't Pile On the Pounds

Medically reviewed in July 2021

Smoothies -- the health-food junkie's alternative to the milk shake -- have been around for decades (by some accounts, since the advent of the Waring blender in 1936). Today, there are probably more smoothie recipes on the Web than YouTube members. But beneath that nutritious veneer of fruit and yogurt can lurk some serious calories -- and as much sugar as a fast-food shake.

As recipes go, smoothies are easier than pie: The basic serves-two recipe is 1 cup liquid (milk, soymilk, yogurt, juice, sherbet, ice cream, water, or a combination) and 1 1/2 to 2 cups fruit. Here's how to be your own smoothie operator without piling on pounds.

  • When a recipe calls for yogurt, milk, or ice cream, opt for the fat-free and no-sugar-added versions. Why? One 8-ounce, fat-free, artificially sweetened vanilla yogurt has 110 calories, while its low-fat version has a whopping 240!
  • For richer flavor and fewer calories, try replacing regular milk with unsweetened almond or hazelnut "milk" (sold in many groceries as well as health-food stores) at only 50 to 110 calories per 8 ounces (versus 150 for milk). Some brands are calcium fortified, too, so you don't lose out nutritionally.
  • Not nuts about nuts? Stick with skim milk, and kick up the flavor with ice cubes made from your fave juice or tea. They'll also thicken up your drink.
  • Using frozen fruit? Read the label and choose unsweetened versions. Add your own sugar or low-cal sweetener if needed.
  • Want to add some healthy oomph? Mix in wheat germ or ground flaxseeds to boost nutrition and fiber.

Try this batido -- the Cuban version of a smoothie -- from our friends at EatingWell. It has 5 grams of fiber and only 243 calories.

Blueberry-Banana Batido

  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Combine banana, blueberries, sugar, ice cubes, and buttermilk in a blender and blend until smooth

Tip for washing the blender: Just fill it halfway with warm water and a drop or two of dishwashing detergent. Whirrr, rinse, dry, done.

PS: Worried about the calorie and cash outlay for that other smoothie -- your daily vente Frappuccino? Be your own barista. In a blender, combine:

  • 1 tablespoon of instant espresso (regular or decaf)
  • 1 cup fat-free, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (preferably powdered) or sugar substitute to taste
  • 4 ice cubes

Blend to make a light smoothie for two. No need to leave a tip.

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