If I handed you a glass of sugar cubes & said “Drink up,” you would (hopefully) look at me as if I am crazy. Would you have that same reaction if I handed you a smoothie? Well, you should. Now, I am not talking about your homemade concoction of greens, a ripe banana, a few berries, a splash of non-dairy milk and ice. I am referring to the commercially-made beverages you either buy at the grocer or at one of those prolific smoothie joints around the block.
Blended fruit – what could be bad about that, right? I cannot tell you how many times smoothie-loving folks say to me, “450 calories?! I had no idea!” once they take a gander at the nutritional information. The majority of us do not need to be consuming hundreds of calories through a straw. It has been shown that drinking calories does not have the same impact on our satiety as actually eating them does. This makes sense – imagine if you had to actually eat the apple, banana, 3 oranges, etc. that went into making the smoothie. People are made to masticate. It would take you longer to eat and keep you fuller than if pulverized.
Side note: This tag line by Jamba Juice for their “Whole Food Nutrition Smoothies” got a big eye roll from me, “True, you should be able to enjoy whole fruits, veggies and other whole ingredients on the go, but lugging around that giant bag of groceries all day is impractical and, frankly, weird.” Yeah, packing some fruit & vegetables in your lunch bag is so weird…
This brings me to my next point. When you buy the majority of these commercially-made smoothies, you aren’t just getting blended whole fruit & veggies. Sugar, syrup (code for sugar), fruit juice (sugar), and fruit juice concentrate (sugar) are often added. Fruit is naturally sweet, why do we need to dump more sugar into the mix? I surmise it is because so many of us are addicted to sugar and cannot even gauge properly what “sweet” should really be. A 20-oz smoothie advertised at Tropical Smoothie as having kale as a main ingredient (it must be healthy) has 380 calories and 86 grams of sugar, which is like eating 21.5 sugar cubes. WTF?!
We all know marketing is a powerful tool. Healthwashing (making items appear healthier than they are) is nothing new – nearly every food chain/manufacturer does it, which does not make it right. Profits over public health is the modus operandi, and obviously as a dietitian, this does not sit well with me. On the flip side, people are lazy. They love convenience, and how convenient is it to drink your fruit & veggies than take the time to actually buy them and eat them? As a dietitian, that doesn’t sit well with me either.
Again, I understand why people drink smoothies – they can be super tasty. I also know people who drink them on the regular because they don’t like/have the time for eating fruits & vegetables and a smoothie is the milkshake’s fruity cousin – we all have time for that. And I know that a lot of these smoothies tend to have dairy in them in some way, shape, or form, so we are avoiding them like the plague already; however, many shops will customize to make sure the cruelty is cut out, but most of the calories and sugar remain.