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; 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.
Opt for: Water, cooled herbal or green tea, unsweetened green juice, lemon or lime juice, unsweetened kefir, unsweetened non-dairy milks (think cashew, almond, rice or soy—homemade or store-bought)
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. Scale Back on Fruit
Start with 1/2 cup fruit and add more if needed to get your desired texture.
Opt for: Avocado, grapefruit, papaya, berries, cranberries
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.
3. 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.
4. Add Supplements Instead of Sweeteners
Spices, herbs and nutritional smoothie add-ins help you get more nutritional bang for your smoothie buck.
Opt-for: Spices, raw nuts, spirulina, hemp hearts, chia seeds, unsweetened protein powder, herbs, bee pollen, cocoa powder, probiotic powder, plain yogurt
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.16