Should you drink smoothies if you have diabetes? The answer depends on what kind of smoothie, and whether they help you get needed nutrients. Some smoothies are so high in sugar and calories that you would literally be better off eating an entire pint of ice cream. Others pack nutrients without a load of calories.
If you need to control your blood sugar and love smoothies or want to sneak more superfoods into your diet, we have some guidelines for ordering and making smart smoothies. Here they are!
The Ideal: Whole Foods
Whole foods are foods in their “whole,” or less-processed, forms. Examples include whole or cut fresh fruit rather than canned or dried, whole grains rather than refined, fresh chicken or turkey instead of processed meat, and peanuts rather than peanut butter with sugar and hydrogenated oils.
You may have heard that whole foods are healthiest. That is usually true, but not always. There are times when blending whole foods into a smoothie makes health sense.
Smoothies for Weight Loss in Diabetes
Smoothies can be a great choice if they help you lose weight because any extra pounds that you are carrying around may be raising your blood sugar levels. Still, it can be harder to lose weight drinking smoothies than eating whole foods. Smoothies can quickly become high-calorie, and they are faster to drink than, say, munching your way through a green salad, some chicken, and an apple.
Keep the following tips in mind if you plan to use smoothies for weight loss.
- The smoothie should be the meal or snack, not a “beverage” that accompanies your meal or snack.
- The calorie count should be about 300 to 500 for a meal or 100 to 200 calories for a snack.
- Include protein and fiber to make your smoothie more filling and longer-lasting.
Smoothies for Nutrition in Diabetes
Another reason to choose smoothies is when they deliver blood sugar-lowering foods and nutrients that you otherwise would not get. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are prime examples because of their fiber, antioxidants, and magnesium. If you are not a fan of eating them in salads, you can get the goods without the taste by blending them into smoothies.
These are some other superfoods and blood sugar-lowering nutrients that you can get from smoothies if you choose.
- Blueberries and strawberries.
- Beta-carotene from carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.
- Omega-3 and omega-9 fats from flax, avocado, and peanut and nut butters.
- Calcium from almond milk, soy milk, yogurt, or tofu.
- Antioxidants and fiber from almost any healthy plant food: vegetables, fruit, nuts, and whole grains such as oats.
Whole Foods vs. Smoothies
When should you make a smoothie, and when should you stick with whole foods? It is up to you, but maybe this table can help you decide.
|Whole foods are good when you:||Smoothies are good when you:|
Have time to sit down for a meal.
Need an on-the-go meal or snack.
Want the satisfaction of chewing and swallowing.
Want the simplicity of a meal-in-one.
Feel like tasting different flavors and feeling different textures in your meal.
Want an instant boost of nutrition and superfoods.
Enjoy eating big portions, such as large salads and plates of vegetables.
Know you need to eat more vegetables, but don’t like eating them.
Skip the Smoothie Shop
You are looking for trouble when you step into a smoothie shop or order a smoothie at a restaurant. A basic smoothie with no additions can easily have 200 to 400 or more calories in a small order. That is a reasonable amount for a large snack or a meal, but keep your guard up. A larger sized smoothie can have over 1,000 calories.
The sugar content is scarier than the calorie content. Each smoothie tends to have at least 30 to 50 grams of sugar, with larger smoothies having 100 or even 200 grams. Not all that sugar is necessarily added sugar. It may be natural, such as from fruit and yogurt. Still, it contributes to higher blood sugar levels, and that is not what you want on your diabetes diet!
Smooth Rules for Smoothies
- Make the smoothie your meal or snack, not an addition to your regular meal or snack.
- Drink it slowly to allow your brain enough time to register that you are full.
- Have no more than 1 or 2 small servings of high-calorie ingredients such as peanut butter, nuts, avocado, and flaxseeds.
- Order the smallest size or, better yet, make your own healthy smoothies.
- Keep it low-glycemic to prevent blood sugar spikes. Limit sugary ingredients, and include a source of protein and high-fiber foods such as vegetables and fruit.
Make Your Own: The Basic Formula
When you make your own smoothies, you can control what goes into them and how big they are. Here is how to build a healthy smoothie for diabetes. You can vary the suggested quantities as long as you keep the sugar and calories low.
Are you ready to try your hand at making healthy smoothies for diabetes? Follow the guidelines above, or get started with one of the recipes below.
Recipe: Zesty Ginger Carrot Smoothie
This smoothie has a delicious blend of spices and the apple adds a bit of sweetness. The lime juice and avocado lower the glycemic index to keep blood sugar in check.
- 1 tbs ginger
- 1 medium carrot, cut into pieces
- ½ zucchini, in pieces
- 1 medium apple, cored and skin intact
- ½ cup soft tofu (or plain yogurt)
- ¼ avocado
- 1tbs lemon juice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbs water
Blend all ingredients and enjoy!
Recipe: Pear Beet Power Smoothie
This smoothie is high in protein and fiber to keep you going for hours, and the cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar.
- 1 small pear, skin intact, stem removed
- 1 small beet, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1 cup 12 whole unsalted almonds
- 1 tbs chia seeds
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup of unsweetened coconut milk
Blend all ingredients and enjoy!
Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Strawberry Smoothie
The name says it all! You can substitute any berries or apple for the strawberries. Boost the nutrition by tossing in whatever greens you like.
- 1 cup strawberries
- ½ cup nonfat cottage cheese
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- ½ cup jicama, peeled, in cubes
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (baking cocoa)
- ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup ice
- Optional: a few mint leaves and/or orange zest.