As a fitness trainer, I always tell my clients: no amount of exercise can cover up a bad diet. And one of the biggest hidden dangers out there? Liquid calories. Though many more people now realize what empty caloric bombs soda and fancy, high-sugar coffee drinks are, many still are unknowingly ingesting tons of sugar and processed ingredients in other drinks, particularly juices and smoothies.

All smoothies are healthy, right? Unfortunately, that’s just not true, especially when you buy a pre-made smoothie at the store or frequent a chain smoothie bar. It’s important to be aware of what is going into your smoothie to make sure you get maximum nutrients without extra calories.
For example, smoothies that contain commercially made juice can have as much sugar as a pint of ice cream. Many smoothie bars also now add commercial protein powder to their offerings, and although these do add protein and make your drink more filling, they can have excess calories and loads of hidden sugar. Same goes for nut butter, chocolate syrup or powder, and even natural sweeteners like agave and honey- a little goes a long way!

Smoothies can be a great way to pump up your nutrients, but follow the tips below to get the best nutrition bang for your buck:
  • Use whole, unsweetened fruit (fresh or frozen) instead of juice- fruit has far more nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber than juice
  • Watch your liquid base- Water, unsweetened coconut or almond milk are all good choices
  • Mix in some greens- keep in mind that even whole fruits have more calories and sugar than veggies. So if you are trying to lose weight, cut back on the fruit in your smoothie and add in some spinach, kale, or avocado (which adds tons of great healthy fats too!)
  • Speaking of which, add an appropriate amount of good fat- good smoothie add-ins are nut butters, flax seeds, or my favorite, the avocado
  • Add a source of protein- protein will reduce cravings, balance blood sugar, keep you fuller longer, improve workout performance, recovery and immune system function. Some of my favorite smoothie protein add-ins are plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whey, egg, casein or vegetable protein. Aim for about 15-25 grams per portion for most active females and 25-40 grams for males (number varies based on activity level and goals)
  • Portion size- since it’s just liquid, it’s easy to get carried away with gigantic smoothies, so be mindful of portion size. Measure all your ingredients before they go in the blender.
What’s your favorite healthy smoothie recipe right now?