Ask a nutrition student: smart sips

Stacey Arnold

I’m spending a lot of my summer running around and find myself looking for healthy snack options that I can grab while I’m out. Would fast-food smoothies be a good choice for students on-the-go?

— Smooth Moves

Brace yourself: A medium fast-food smoothie can clock in at over 400 calories and around 100 grams of sugar! That’s the amount of sugar in 10 glazed doughnuts or 50 Pixy Stix! Many restaurants actually add sugar to their smoothies in the form of fruit juices, fruit blends and sherbets. If you check out the ingredients in some of your favorite cool treats, you might be surprised at what you find.

But not all smoothies are created equally. Like most food products, the nutritional value really depends on the ingredients and the portion size. To combat this fast-food fiasco of additives and monstrous portions, here are some healthy hints about making satisfying smoothies at home.

A smoothie wouldn’t be a smoothie without fruit — and I suggest frozen berries! Berries are high in fiber, which will keep your blood sugar steady and help to thwart energy crashes. Additionally, berries such as blueberries and strawberries are full of anthocyanins. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this compound has been shown to promote heart health and has neuroprotective effects, such as preventing Parkinson’s disease.

For your liquid component, choose low-fat or skim milk, which will add calcium and protein. My position on juice: skip it, don’t sip it! Juice, even 100 percent fruit juice, has higher concentrations of sugar and calories than whole fruit. Think about it: More than one orange goes into making a glass of OJ. Additionally, fruit juice lacks the dietary fiber found in whole fruit.

Next time you’re feeling adventurous throw in half a cup of leafy greens to your blender. In all honesty, at first I had the attitude of a six-year-old (rather than a nutrition student) when it came to green smoothies. But, let me reassure you — the spinach is undetectable. Veggie add-ins such as spinach or kale can boost vitamin and mineral content without hurting the calorie count.

To pump up the protein and add some creaminess, add some low-fat Greek yogurt. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Greek yogurt has double the protein of traditional yogurt. Be mindful of flavored yogurts, as many have added sugars, and use plain yogurt instead.

Before we slurp down seemingly healthy smoothies, it’s important to note that the body associates beverages with thirst reduction, but not necessarily hunger reduction, according to the scientific journal Physiology and Behavior. A smoothie may not be the best snack to curb mid-afternoon hunger and may actually cause you to over-consume calories in the long run. But if you’re on-the-go or simply can’t live without a blended beverage, now you have some tips to be smoothie savvy the next time you crave something cold and creamy.