Smoothies can be the ultimate health food but, thanks to the plethora of delicious fruits and add-ins we use to make them, they also have the potential to be the ultimate sugar bomb. Not that yogurt, juice or fruit are bad for you per se—but if you’re looking to lower your sugar intake or regulate your blood sugar (who wants to experience a sugar crash an hour after downing a “healthy” smoothie?), try making your smoothies with lower-sugar ingredients.
Consistently overdoing it on the sugar can defeat the purpose of your healthy smoothie, and even negate some of the benefits. Here are a few ways you can tweak your favorite smoothie recipe to be lower in sugar; these no-fruit smoothies or the Detox Probiotic Smoothie with Kefir pictured below is another great place to start!
How to Make a Low-Sugar Smoothie
1. Pick the Right Liquid
Start with 3/4 cup liquid and add more if needed. If you are using frozen fruits or veggies, you might need to add more. If you’re using items with high water content like cucumber, you’ll need less.
Use sparingly: Fruit juice, sweetened or flavored non-dairy milks, carrot or beet juice, coconut water
Tip: If you find less-sweet smoothies too bland, try diluting your juice or milk with water (or another low-sugar option), gradually increasing the amount of water over a few weeks. Note that “plain” or “original” non-dairy milks don’t necessary mean “unsweetened,” so check labels carefully!
2. Go For Green Veggies
Make sure to add veggies to your smoothie for extra nutrients and antioxidants, and to minimize the sugar content. Start with about 1/4 cup and go from there.
Opt for: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, cucumber
Use sparingly: Carrots, beets, peas, squash
Tip: Frozen veggies are perfect for adding to smoothies and will help thicken them (especially helpful if you’re missing frozen bananas). Fresh will also work, but you may have to experiment a bit with your liquid ratio. You can also get your veggies by using a veggie juice for your liquid, although using the actual vegetable will ensure you’re getting the fiber.
3. Add Supplements Instead of Sweeteners
Spices, herbs and nutritional smoothie add-ins help you get more nutritional bang for your smoothie buck.
Use sparingly: Flavored or sweetened protein powder, honey, maple syrup, dates, sweetened or flavored yogurt
Tip: Soak nuts for a couple hours to soften before adding to a smoothie. Check protein powders (even “plain” varieties) for sugar content before adding them in.
Cinnamon and cardamom are great add-ins to sweeter smoothies, while cilantro and parsley make great additions to veggie-based ones.
4. Scale Back on Fruit
Start with 1/2 cup fruit and add more if needed to get your desired texture.
Use sparingly: Bananas, cherries, mango, figs, grapes, pineapple
Tip: Frozen fruits will add more of a thick, milkshake-like texture, and avocado will also help thicken. Frozen bananas are the ultimate smoothie thickener, but unfortunately have a high sugar content (15 grams each!). Cut them into fourths before freezing and add a little chunk to your smoothies for thickening power, but not a lot of sugar.
10 Nutritionist-Recommended Low Sugar Fruit Options
It’s important to note that when it comes to eating whole fruit, the sugar that it does contain comes packaged together with lots of really great stuff like dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In particular the dietary fiber helps to slow down the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream and help keep blood sugar stable.
Fruit juice, on the other hand, has had the dietary fiber removed (ever cleaned out a juicer? All that leftover roughage is what I’m talking about) so the sugar to fiber ratio is vastly different from that of whole fruit. Drinking a glass of orange juice will cause your blood sugar to spike way more than if you’d eaten a whole orange along with a glass of water.
Sweet, delicious red raspberries are like a low sugar gift from mother nature. One cup of fresh or frozen raspberries contains just 5 grams of sugar.
Ripe, plump, juicy strawberries are so sweet and delicious you wouldn’t think they’re likely to be low in sugar, but they are! A one cup serving of strawberries yields only 7 grams of sugar.
In addition to being super high in antioxidants, blackberries are also a delicious low sugar fruit. Like strawberries, they’ve got 7 grams of sugar per one cup serving.
(Blueberries, unfortunately, don’t make the cut as they’ve got 15 grams of sugar per one cup serving)
This big beefy winter citrus is a good option for a low sugar fruit. A large grapefruit contains 7 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving, or about 8 grams of sugar in a half of a large fruit.
Not only is watermelon incredibly hydrating, but it’s also a tasty low sugar fruit. One cup of diced watermelon has just less than 9 grams of sugar.
6. Kiwi fruit
The fuzzy green fruits native to New Zealand are a good low sugar choice with just 6 grams of sugar per fruit. A one-cup serving would contain about 16 grams of sugar, just for reference.
7. Lemons and limes
Although you’re not likely to sit down to a bowl of lime wedges, lemons and limes are both a great option for low sugar fruit with just over 1 gram of sugar per fruit. They’re definitely a great way to add some pizazz to your sparkling water!
If you can handle the pucker, fresh cranberries are a great low sugar fruit. They’ve got just 4 grams of sugar per cup. Be aware that most dried cranberries are sweetened, so they’re not a good option.
Did you know that avocado is technically a fruit? A large avocado only contains about 1 gram of sugar in the entire fruit. Avocado lovers rejoice!
Lastly, this little tropical fruit is a low sugar treat. Guavas contain a little less than 5 grams of sugar per fruit, or 9 grams of sugar in a 100g serving.
Try: Replace the papaya in this tropical beauty smoothie with guava
Note: fruits do vary in size, weight, and sugar content, so the following amounts are based on averages for standard serving sizes.51