Do Your Smoothie Calories Cause Weight Gain?

Guest blog by Alicia Uhl, Plant Based Holistic Health Coach.

It is the hottest debate happening nationwide.

Whether you sip your smoothie out of a mason jar, or pour into a bowl and top with super foods to make art, the smoothie scene is here to stay.

"Smoothie consumption in the United States has grown 120% from 2010 to 2015, as preventative eating habits and overall health consciousness continue to rise.  With so many busy Americans turning to smoothies for on-the-go meals and quick portable nutrition, is it possible these drinks could be adding unwanted inches to our waistlines?"

Many smoothies out on the market today look healthy on the outside but are promoting some deceptive health benefits.  Here are three ways to ensure your smoothie is slimming:

Whole is Best

Look for whole-food plant-based smoothies, made with raw whole fruits and vegetables.  Be wary of smoothies made with fruit juices, fruit juice concentrates or fruit purees, which can have high levels of sugar.

Most Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, with only 18% of Americans eating enough fruit and 14% eating enough vegetables.   Adding a smoothie is a great way to get your daily dose of nutrition and fiber.  Vegetables like spinach, kale, carrots, beets and even cauliflower make wonderful additions, and can be easily hidden with a few sweet fruits.

Studies have also found that blending vegetables helps to maximize nutrient absorption and digestive efficiency, so look for smoothies that have at least one hidden veggie!

Hold the Sugar

One of the most devious of ingredients in many smoothies today is added sugar, or glucose.  There are 63 different names for sugar that are used on food labels, so it can be a sneaky ingredient to identify. Whether it be cane sugar, stevia, honey, or agave nectar, all of these sugars add unnecessary calories to a smoothie, which can lead to weight gain.

Instead of refined processed sugars, look for smoothies that use nature’s sugar – fruit!  Choose sweet fruits like banana and pineapple or add a few dates to help mask the bitter or earthy taste of veggies.

Sip Don’t Slug

Have you ever chugged a smoothie in the car on the way to work and then get to the office and find you are still hungry?  Mindful eating, or eating more slowly, plays a big role when it comes to staying full in between meals.  It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive a signal from your stomach that it had a meal, which means if you are gulping your smoothie down in under 20 minutes, then your brain is going to send out signals that it is still hungry.  

But does time really matter?  What if liquid calories just aren’t as filling as solid?  If you drink a smoothie for breakfast, will your body think you skipped a meal and cause you to eat more food than you normally would and start gaining weight?

To test this theory, 20 people in a study were given the same exact meal in both liquid and solid form to see how their fullness was affected.  

The first group was given a solid fruit salad, with raw apples, apricots and bananas, with three cups of water to drink.  The second group blended the fruit with two cups of water to make a fruit smoothie, and then drank the third cup of water. The third group ate the smoothie in a bowl with a spoon, with one cup of water to drink. What were the results?

Those who drank the fruit smoothie were significantly less full.  Same exact meal, same amount of fiber, yet the smoothie just wasn’t as filling.  But what about the smoothie bowl group?   It turns out those who ate the smoothie in a bowl were equally as full as those who had the solid fruit salad.  

The verdict?

It’s not the liquid calories of the smoothie that cause weight gain, but more the high rate of consumption, or drinking the smoothie too fast.  Eating the smoothie in a bowl with a spoon caused the participants to consume the smoothie more slowly, which allowed their bodies to fully register that they had a meal, and kept them fuller, longer.  

So the next time you are drinking a smoothie, try setting a timer for 20 minutes and sip slowly until the timer is done, or pour into a bowl, top with your favorite fruit, nuts and granola and grab a spoon!

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