Healthful-eating columnist Ellie Krieger is a nutritionist, registered dietitian and author. She takes nutrition questions during her biweekly live chats, helping readers make better food choices. Here is an edited excerpt of her most recent advice related to the popular topic of smoothies.
Don’t add protein powders: To me, they are the very definition of a processed food. They may be helpful in special cases if a person’s diet is highly restrictive or they have special medical needs. But these powders are not necessary for the average person, and whole foods are always my first choice. A scoop of nut butter along with chia seeds adds plenty of protein. If you want a bigger boost, you can have a hard-boiled egg with it.
Stick to dairy milk if your diet allows: Certainly nut and soy milks offer great alternatives for vegans and those with lactose intolerance. I also find them fun to use in recipes when I want subtle flavor variations. But there is no reason to swap them for regular low-fat milk from a nutritional perspective. Dairy milk has a significant amount of protein: 8 ounces of milk has as much protein as an egg, while nut milks have very little. Plus, milk is an excellent source of several nutrients and has no added sugars or preservatives, which many packaged alternative milks often have. I personally stick with low-fat milk as the main staple in my home.
Avoid added sugar: I add ripe banana (frozen) or dates to my smoothies for sweetness. When you do that you don’t need added sugars.
Jury’s still out on coconut oil: Adding some fat to your smoothie can be a good idea to help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients and help temper the rise in blood sugar it gives you. But coconut oil would not be my first choice, unless you are specifically seeking the coconut flavor. Although the saturated fat in coconut probably is not as bad for you as once thought, the verdict is not yet in on how it affects our health. It may not be any better for you than butter. Some coconut oil is fine once in a while, but for an everyday thing, try a tablespoon of nut butter instead, which would offer healthy fat and protein, plus many minerals and nutrients.
Don’t let pesticide risk keep you from fruit: The benefit of eating produce, whether it is organic or conventionally grown, far outweighs any risk. Simply washing fruit with a vegetable brush under running water would remove the majority of pesticides.
Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl: A smoothie bowl is a frosty fruit smoothie made extra thick so you can pour it into a bowl, top it with all kinds of fun add-ons and eat it with a spoon as a cool, refreshing breakfast or snack.
Tropical Green Protein Smoothies: You’d never guess that the protein in this brightly flavored smoothie comes from lentils.
Berry Bold Banana Smoothie: Be sure to use a banana that is mushy and a little brown; that will give the smoothie a nice texture.
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