What Makes a Smoothie Unhealthy?

What Makes a Smoothie Unhealthy

Photo by pandaposse

The simple answer is the inclusion of unhealthy ingredients. It’s not too difficult to identify an unhealthy diet – it’s one comprised mainly of unhealthy foods. The same goes for smoothies. After reading this blog post I’m confident you’ll be able to discern between healthy and unhealthy smoothies with ease.

First, I will attempt to cover all the things you don’t want in your smoothie, which cause the scale to tip in favor of unhealthy. Then I will list the healthy ingredients, and in doing so show you that creating healthy smoothies is actually pretty easy.

A quick note before moving onto the unhealthies. Most restaurants, chains, venues, and large events serving smoothies generally lean towards the unhealthy. For example, last summer I attended a major league baseball game and got quite excited when I saw a sign for smoothies. Much to my dismay, the so-called smoothie was nothing more than sugary slush.

Unhealthy Smoothie Bases

We’ll start with the liquid base of your smoothieand what you want avoid like the plague.

Sugar laden fruit juices: Most fruit juices sold in super markets are nothing more than flavored sugar water.

Regular milk: Store bought milk (whether skim, 1%, 2%, or whole) comes from cows that are often mistreated, given hormones and antibiotics, and over milked. Chalk and pus have also been detected in the milk.

Tap water: Recent studies have revealed a plethora of undesired substances in regular old tap water. This includes, but is not limited to, trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, lead and arsenicperchlorate (a toxic chemical found in rocket fuel), sucralose, and many other man-made chemicals.

Most bottled water: Most mainstream bottled water is nothing more than glorified tap water. Pepsi even admitted that Aquafina comes from tap water. For the definitive story on bottled water I highly recommend the documentary Tapped.

Unhealthy Smoothie Ingredients

Now onto the list of smoothie ingredients that I wouldn’t add into my blender if you paid me. An exhaustive list isn’t practical, but I’ll hit on the more obvious offenders.

  • Ice cream and sherbet
  • Chocolate syrups and powders – think Nestle
  • Sugar as a sweetener
  • Agave nectar – why
  • Most store bought honey – why
  • Non-organic peanut butters (Jif, Skippy, Smuckers)
  • Cheap protein powders – why
  • Chocolate pudding mix
  • Cool Whip or whip cream
  • Cream soda

At the end of the day, just use a little common sense in determining what not to add to your smoothie.

How To Make Your Smoothie Nice and Healthy

Now that you know what not to add to your smoothies, let’s get to what you can toss in the blender to make the healthiest smoothies ever! Instead of using the word organic over and over, I’ll mention here that using organic ingredients is always in your best interest. I realize this isn’t always possible and don’t beat yourself up over it. At the very least try to avoid the “Dirty Dozen“.

Healthy Smoothie Bases

Fresh juice: There’s nothing better than using fresh juice, whether from a juicer or squeezed.

Raw milk, almond and coconut milk: If you’re not lactose intolerant, raw milk is a great option. Almond milk and coconut milk (and water from young/Thai coconuts) are great to use too. I didn’t include soy milk because there’s evidence soy isn’t the health food it’s been marketed as, see here and here for reasons why you should avoid soy.

Good water: This includes water run through a good filter, legitimate bottled water (Spring Mountain, Starfire), distilled, purified, and the best option spring water. To locate spring water where you live, check out Find a Spring.

Tea: Using a healthy or medicinal tea can really improve the nutrition of your smoothie. In some circles “elixir” is the term used to designate these drinks.

Fermented beverages: Kefir (milk and water), kombucha, and Hindu lemonade. These are all extremely healthy options, especially when homemade.

Healthy Smoothie Ingredients

There may be some things on the list below that you’re not familiar with, don’t worry, in future recipes and posts I’ll explain why each ingredient is good for your health and a welcome addition to your smoothie.

  • Fresh and frozen fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Yogurt (organic, Greek, homemade)
  • Superfoods (cacao, maca, aloe vera, goji berries, spirulina, etc)
  • Herbs and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, mint, etc)
  • Local and/or organic honey
  • Local and/or maple syrup
  • Stevia
  • High quality protein powders
  • High quality superfood green powders
  • Hemp seeds and hemp protein
  • Raw nuts and nut butters
  • Various coconut products (shreds, flakes, raw meat, oil, butter)
  • Chia seeds and chia seed gel
  • Flax seeds and oil
  • Oatmeal
  • High quality salt (Celtic sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, Redmond salt, etc)
  • Gelatin
  • Colostrum
  • Medicinal mushroom powders
  • Chinese herbs
  • Mineral supplements

As you can see there’s quite a few ingredients available to make healthy smoothies. The number of different concoctions and recipes is endless. Once you get the basics of smoothie making down, you can experiment and come up with your own favorite recipes.

I hope you found this information both informative and actionable. After all this talk of smoothies, I’m off to the kitchen to create my next masterpiece.

Please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear what you think of my “good” and “bad” list of smoothie ingredients.

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310 Responses to What Makes a Smoothie Unhealthy?

  1. James #

    Ryan,

    I do smoothies a lot and I am always reading up on superfoods. You have Goji Berries listed under healthy items for a smoothie. I watched a web presentation (to sell a supplement) and the Dr. in the presentation claimed that Goji berries are a “fruit of the night” and are one of the worst things humans can consume because Goni berries are high in dangerous proteins called Lectins. The Dr states Lectins are toxic allergens that disrupt the immune system and break through the intestines protective barrier. The Dr. states you should only include fruits high in Polyphenals (berries such as blueberries, açaí , raspberries, dark cherries etc). The claims for good berries is the same as yours with the exception of Gigi berries. Jus curious if you have heard anything similar on Goji berries?
    My favorite smoothie: Sambazon açaí/kale//spinach:guaraná pack, two handfuls of frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, Kiefer, whole milk (trying to work may way to raw milk), banana and alternate between frozen mango or pineapple.

    James

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi James,

      Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Something I’ve never heard about goji berries. They are a part of the nightshade family along with potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. I have heard of some people having issues with nightshades. I suspect this Dr was signaling out these foods for people with nightshade issues to avoid.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  2. Craig #

    Hi,
    This what works for me. I am single so shelf life of fresh fruit and veg is a problem.
    I buy a mixture of fresh organic fruit (Pineapple, Apples, Mangos, Bananas, Papaya, kiwi, oranges, limes and a variety of berries). Then some greens (Spinach, Kale, Celery and cucumber).

    I first puree up the greens – mixture of the above in a 32 oz container (just add a bit of water to puree). I decant this into a few 1/2 cup containers and put in the freezer.

    Then I line up a few freezer bags. Chop up the fruit and add portions to the freezer bags according to your recipe you like. Put those in the freezer too.
    Then you have a few smoothies lined up for the week.

    In the evening, I take 1 bag of fruit mix and 1 greens container and put it in the fridge for the morning (just to defrost a bit).
    First thing in the morning, I put 1 tbsp of chia seeds in a small container with water to soften and turn to a gel. Put the pureed greens in the blender, with a bag of mixed fruits.

    I add a tbsp of flaxeed, a tbsp of hemp seeds and the moist chia seeds. Add some greek yogurt, almond milk and coconut water. I sometimes drop some almonds in as well.
    Blend it up, and you’re good to go. This makes me 2 portions, breakfast and a snack for work.
    It takes a bit of time getting all the bags etc prepared, but I don’t need to worry for the rest of the week. Only takes a few minutes everyday to make my smoothies.

  3. Kara #

    Hi! I enjoy many smoothies and green drinks on my diet I am on to loose weight that’s are very healthy and have been following your guide but I was wondering, for when I fancy a healthy smoothie but that tastes like a “treat” for example is this recipe okay for me? 1 banana, some strawberries, some blueberries, some almond milk and a half tea spoon of stevia if needed. For the days I fancy something a little sweeter is this okay as a treat smoothie or would this not be so good?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Kara,

      That recipes is fine as a “treat”. I wouldn’t consume it regularly as it is a little high in sugar from all the sweet fruit.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  4. Rachel #

    Hi Ryan. Just came upon your page after drinking my smoothie, putting it into My Fitness Pal and finding I’d gone 7g over my sugars for the day. I blend:
    8oz spinach
    2 cups of fresh pineapple
    1 apple
    2tbsp fresh ginger
    I was using a tbsp of honey but I switched that out for the apple. I’m not using my smoothie as a meal replacement but something to fill me up or tide me over between portion controlled meals of less than 500 calories. I’m eating between 1300 and 1500 calories a day. I’m trying to eat healthier and shift a few lbs. I’m down 13lbs and hoping to lose another 21lbs. I’m 5ft 6in tall and can maintain my goal weight of 133lbs with 1500 calories a day. 1500 is doable for me if I’m watchful.
    I incorporate healthy fats into my diet, Greek yogurt, avocado and nuts. One or two servings of each every day.
    I take a multi vitamin and extra iron pill every day. I’m anemic and have a thyroid disorder. Currently being treated and monitored.
    Am I really having too much sugar? Do you have any suggestions for me?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Rachel,

      Your smoothie contains slightly too much sugar. Reduce the fresh pineapple to 1 cup and you should be good.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  5. Larissa #

    I usually have a frozen strawberry, fresh banana and water smoothy in the morning. Is this too much sugar as i am trying to lose weight?

  6. Alex #

    Hi Ryan,
    I was wondering how many smoothies should i have per week. The recipe i normally use is frozen berries, 1 banana, almond milk, Greek yogurt, protein powder and water.
    Thank you

    • Ryan Carmody #

      I recommend one smoothie a day, usually for breakfast, Alex. That’s 7 a week :)

  7. Jon Silavant #

    Hi Ryan,

    Would a smoothie consisting of: 1 banana, 1 apple, a handful of blueberries, semi skinned milk and mango, papaya and passionfruit yoghurt be classed as a high sugar smoothie?

    Thanks :)

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Yes, that’s too much sweet fruit, Jon.

  8. Jacqui Mills #

    I very rarely have a fruit smoothie as such. Mine are usually made up of cucumber, celery, kale, lemon , spinach, carrot and beetroot and then I sweeten them with a couple of apples. I add raw ginger, and ALWAYS cayenne pepper…not a lot but enough for a kick. It’s very good for arthritis. My recipes give large amounts …because I made the mistake of reading juice instead of smoothies, Online it says in the fridge you can keep for 72 hours…and mine keep fine…I have just completed 60 days…have lost a bit of weight which was my intention,,,and I feel excellent. I’m 71 this year and have not felt as good as this in a long time. I make them for arthritis too…I don’t know if they’re helping, but I can also do an hours exercise in the morning, which is a miracle! I’ve never used yoghurt or milk I don’t like plain water, so I use lemon and lime very low calorie water…it has 4 calories in a whole bottle…I wrote for your advice when i first started regarding this.I’ve bought the seeds and other powders…afraid I don’t know when to have them, or how often..I have 5 different kinds, so any advice would be welcome. I can’t imagine not having my one or two smoothies a day….I’m in England btw.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      That’s an awesome smoothie success story, Jacqui! Good for you!

      Specifically, which seeds and powders do you have? Even without knowing that, I would recommend incorporating 2-3 of these into each smoothie and cycling them – meaning use for 2-3 weeks, then take a week off. This increases efficacy and is easier on your bank account. Also, pay attention to which seeds or powders you feel better on and naturally gravitate towards using those regularly.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  9. Kel #

    My grandma took all my strawberries and put a bunch of sugar all over them I breastfeed my new born should I just go buy new strawberries and fruit

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Yes, I would either buy new strawberries or wash all the sugar off, Kel.

  10. I have been doing oatmeal, 1/2 banana, spinach, carrot juice and whey protein powder. Is that healthy? It sure taste good.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Yes, that’s a healthy smoothie, Lydia!

  11. Cruzito #

    This was pretty neat. Thanks for the advice

    • Ryan Carmody #

      You’re welcome, Cruzito.

  12. NaKeisha #

    I just started making green smoothies and I was told that I put too many fruits in my smoothies. Is that possible? Usually my smoothies have baby spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, 1/2 banana, 1/2 green apple, pineapple, few blue and blackberries, lemon juice, turmeric, cayenne pepper and finally distilled water. I make enough so that I can have a big glass in the morning and one before bed.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Yes, that’s entirely possible and quite common, NaKeisha. Too much sweet fruit leads to what I call sugar-bombs. Your smoothie isn’t bad at all. Try using either 1/2 green apple or pineapple and not both to reduce the sweet fruit.

      Regards,
      Ryan

      • Irma #

        do all apples have the same amount of sugar? when adding an apple to a smoothie which apple is best?

        • Ryan Carmody #

          Apples sugar content definitely varies. I like green apples as they have less sugar and I like the tartness.

  13. LISA BRINSON #

    I use berries, half banana, raw oats, ground flax seed and kale ,Lactaid fat free milk and a couple spoons of unsweetened whipping cream… Good enough?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Good enough, yes, Lisa. Could be better if you ditched the fat free milk and whipping cream in favor of raw or organic milk or a nut milk. A little fat from avocado or coconut oil would also boost the nutrition.

  14. Irma #

    Hi there I usually make 2 different smoothies,

    1st one is I packet of organic original instant oatmeal, 1/2 an apple and some chia seeds

    2nd smoothie is 2 cups of spinach, 1 whole apple and 1/2 an avocado

    For awhile there I was drinking both smoothies as my breakfast to help lower my cholesterol and sugar but now a days I’m doing just one for breakfast and I switch them every day, my question today is are they healthy and also im about to travel can I make them in advance its a mini vacation for about 3 days

    • Ryan Carmody #

      I would stick to just one smoothie for breakfast and make them larger if you’re not satiated until lunch. Both are healthy. However, making your own oatmeal will be healthier. Smoothies keep for about 24 hours refrigerated and weeks frozen.

      • Irma #

        Thank you, I really appreciate your help on this. Im trying to lower my cholesterol and also my sugar I was told that oatmeal every morning was a great way to start, how would I make my own oatmeal? I use no flavor plain oatmeal are you saying that instead of the instant oatmeal I should just buy the bulk and measure instead of wasting on the instant bags. Also thank you about using the green apples I was told to use green but of course after a few weeks I had a taste of the red apple instead and well it was better tasting but now that I know green has less sugar I will switch back to green today. I can always alternate between smoothies and do the green smoothie on odd number days and the oatmeal one on even days

        • Ryan Carmody #

          See my fruity oatmeal smoothie which contains directions for properly preparing your own oatmeal:

          https://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/fruity-oatmeal-smoothie

          Regards,
          Ryan

          • Irma #

            Do I have to cook the oatmeal? so far I just open a pack of the instant organic plain oatmeal and place it straight from the bag (dried) with a little bit of water 1/2 an apple and blend in my vitamix , I sometimes add chia seeds, I also bought the quaker oats and measure 1oz of oats and replace the instant oatmeal but I also use it dried, doesn’t taste that great but the type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol I really cant have any added fruit or sweetener, Thank you in advance for your reply

  15. Riley Johnson #

    I use frozen bananas in all my smoothies. My personal favorite is one made with a frozen banana, cocoa powder (pure cocoa powder), honey (local farmers market), almond milk, and a lot of cinnamon. But that is more of a dessert for me. Typically I just grab whatever fruits and vegetables I have and put em in. Today it is a frozen banana (they are cheap healthy and delicious!), spinach, avacado, and two clementines.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      You’ve got healthy smoothies down, Riley :)

  16. Karen Harvey #

    what make 2% milk unhealthy in a smoothie? i don’t have problems with milk.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      2% store bought milk is full of unhealthy additives and the cows that produce said milk are anything but healthy, Karen. Poke around the internet for more details.

  17. Siobhan #

    I have been making smoothies for years, and now I share them with my daughter, but this page has made me realise that I am making alot of ‘sugarbombs’.

    I use nothing but fruit, any combination of the following, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, bananas, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, mango, blackberries, plum, apple, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and more I’m sure.

    Please could you provide an extensive list of which fruits are sweet and should be used sparingly and which fruits are not and can be used extensively

    I sometimes add passionfruit after blending
    Sometimes use a little skimmed milk, tap water or fruit juice if the smoothie is too thick

    I don’t use any of the following so please could you tell me if and why they are important; avocado, protein powder, kale, spinach, flax seed, nut butter, milk alternatives, goji berries, coconut water, cinnamon, ginger, yogurt, coconut oil.

    Also I’ve seen that you advise whole milk rather than skimmed, what is the reason for that?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Siobhan,

      I can’t cover every fruit – either taste or think about how sweet a fruit is or lookup on my site or the internet. As a general rule, all berries and avocado are low in sugar and safe to use regularly, while most other fruit contains moderate to high amounts of sugar.

      I’ve covered all of these foods throughout my site. Either search for or get to through my smoothies by ingredient page:

      https://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/healthy-smoothie-recipes-by-ingredient

      Skim milk is devoid of the healthiest part – fat. This article is a must read:

      https://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/healthy-fat

      I encourage you to poke around my site and subscribe to my free newsletter for more in depth information.

      Regards,
      Ryan

      • Siobhan #

        Thank you so much, I really appreciate your response. I have changed my habits so much because of your page, your information etc. So thank you again ! I feel really positive I’m making the right steps toward a much healthier lifestyle :-)
        Do you have any pages or information specifically regarding smoothies for children, toddlers :-) ?? Thanks again, Siobhan

  18. Faith #

    Hi Ryan,

    Is there any other fruits to replace avocado and berries as its hard to get them daily in my country. Fruits i’m having everyday now its absolute sugar bomb.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Not being familiar with your country, you’ll have to find and source low sugar fruits, Faith.

  19. Jodian #

    Hi Ryan, I was told it’s not healthy to consume smoothies containing banana that was made overnight, that it needs to be consumed immediately or shortly thereafter. How true is this? What happens to banana that’s stored overnight?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      That’s a good question, Jodian. I’m not aware of why you shouldn’t make a smoothie with banana, refrigerate, and consume the next day. What details were you told about why this is a problem?

  20. Sean #

    The three things I don’t agree with is gelatin because of processed ingredients, maple syrup since it has a high amount of sugar even if it’s natural and I can’t say about Stevia?

    I’ve heard stevia is better then white cane sugar but I feel more comfortable with local or organic honey since I’ve heard that actural honey it’s self is healthier and easier on the digestive system then cane sugar is and speaking of sugar.

    Cane sugar is the number one cause to diabetes and weight gain and no nurtional value to it at all especially in soda which I don’t drink at all anymore.

    That includes hidden ingredents that are included with soda as well.

    Fact: Local honey has been known to help people who have allergies.

    Also another healthy ingredient that should be included beside chia seeds is hemp seeds when it comes to smoothies.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Appreciate your opinions, Sean.

      I only advocate organic gelatin without all the additional fillers.

      Maple syrup has been consumed by people where I live (Michigan) for centuries. It his high in sugar, but also rich in minerals. Used in moderation I consider it a wonderful food :)

      Agree with your thoughts on honey.

      Note, “Hemp seeds and hemp protein” is listed above.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  21. Stephanie #

    I have been doing smoothies for breakfast each day, about 16-20 ounces each day. They have had the great effect of taking away my urge to snack or eat before lunch around 1:30 each day. I have a feeling you might consider this too much sugar – but I count them as my fruits/veggies for the day and in that way I think they get me more nutrients than I would otherwise get. Sample smoothie from yesterday/today:
    6 ounces coconut water
    8 strawberries
    10 raspberries
    1/2 cup blackberries
    1 tsp chia seeds
    1/2 tsp hemp seed
    7 baby carrots
    1 cup kale
    1/2 avocado
    1 chunk pineapple

    This smoothis is unbelievably tasty while giving me a fairly great start on my fruits and veggies for the day. Ordinarily I would eat something like white rice and sugar or oatmeal for breakfast and a snack could be a piece of fruit or a piece of candy, depending on my willpower. That’s just honest. For me though the smoothie is sugary, it is good sugar versus the negative kind I might eat otherwise. Also, I am celiac and trying so hard to stay gluten free after a life of very gluten full living.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Stephanie,

      Actually, I don’t think your smoothie is too high in sugar. Berries are not that high in sugar compared to other fruit and therefore I think the more the merrier. They’re high in so many good nutrients. Perhaps your smoothie is a tad high in sugar from the coconut water and pineapple, but if it’s working for you than keep rocking it!

      Regards,
      Ryan

  22. Travis #

    Hello Ryan

    Trying to lose weight what are you recommendations

    Im currently using

    1 Banana
    cup of blue berries
    5-6 strawberries
    2% Milk – I cant have almond milk or anything as family member is allergic.

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