When it comes to trying to lose weight, most of us are rather poor math students. We mess up the addition and subtraction all the time. We’ll try to subtract calories by skipping meals only to become ravenous later on and undercalculate how much food we’ve eaten to satisfy that gnawing hunger.
That’s where smoothies can shine as effective weight-loss tools. Research has found that meal replacement shakes, such as protein and fruit/vegetable smoothies, can help people reduce overall daily calorie consumption if used regularly in place of calorie-dense meals and snacks.
Getting into the smoothie habit works for weight loss if you follow the right approach. We asked dietitians for the best strategies for getting the most benefit from your smoothie habit. After you read through these tips, try out our recipes for the 25 Best-Ever Weight Loss Smoothies.
Don’t assume a new smoothie recipe is right for you simply because it’s a smoothie. If weight loss is your goal, keep that mission in mind by always following these six rules from Mehak Naeem, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist for The Candida Diet.com.
- Use it to replace a regular meal.
- Calculate calories to stay in a calorie deficit.
- Subtract sugars and add protein powder.
- Try to go natural with most of the ingredients.
- Add different foods to get a healthy weight loss with no micronutrient deficiency.
- Schedule your smoothies.
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“The biggest smoothie mistakes most people make are not adding enough protein and fiber,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Elise Harlow, RDN, owner of The Flourished Table. She recommends about 20 grams of protein and at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. “If these nutrients are overlooked, your smoothie can cause a significant increase in your blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry shortly after.” Besides protein powder, Greek yogurt is a great high-protein addition to smoothies. Harlow also suggests a fairly uncommon add-in: white cannellini beans for their protein and fiber.
Carrots, squash, and spinach are great to add to smoothies because they are low in calories and full of fiber to keep your hunger satisfied a long time and they contain nutrients that will keep you healthy, says Trista Best, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. She recommends avoiding dairy in smoothies because it promotes mucus production, which can exacerbate common winter illness symptoms.
For weight loss, get into the habit of mixing ingredients into your smoothies that help your body burn more calories during the day, suggests Clara Lawson, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with usahemp.com. USAHEMP.COM. Try these:
- Spirulina. This blue-green algae available in powder form contains almost no calories and provides easily digestible and absorbable protein to build lean muscle and help boost your metabolism, Lawson says.
- Chia seeds. The fiber adds bulk and the protein in these seeds helps you stay fuller longer to help you resist cravings for unhealthy options.
- Cashew butter and coconut milk. These ingredients, along with a banana and some protein powder, make for a delicious smoothie, “one that contains lots of protein and healthy fats that stabilize blood sugar levels and release glucagon, a fat-burning hormone that aids weight loss,” says Lawson.
Smoothies that help with weight loss have certain key characteristics: they have fiber, they use colorful produce and they limit the extras, which add calories, says private practice nutritionist Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
Here’s the formula she shares with clients:
- Fruit: Choose 1 cup of your favorite fruit, but no more. It’s OK to mix 2 fruits such as 1/2 banana + 1/2 cup blueberries or 1 cup assorted berries. Kiwi, pears, watermelon, and apples are also great fruits to include. The fiber in fruit keeps you full and helps with weight loss.
- Veggies: Veggies taste great, too, and boost your nutrition without unnecessary calories. “I love including a combo of vegetables; some of my favorites are kale, spinach, carrots, cucumber, celery, beets, and parsley,” Young says.
- Liquid: Avoid juice. Choose from plant-based unsweetened nut milks like unsweetened almond milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D, fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, water, or coconut water.
- Mix-Ins: “I love adding a tablespoon of chia or flaxseeds or peanut powder,” says Young. “Adding avocado or nut butter will add calories, so ask yourself: would I rather eat or drink these items. I vote for eating them!”
Smoothies made at smoothie shops and restaurants are usually enormous, warns Young. Order the small (which is often a good size), skip the fruit juice and add greens and crushed ice to keep the calories in check, says the adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.
Oats are a whole grain that can be easily added to a smoothie. “Whole grains moderately increase your metabolic rate, and they also improve weight loss by providing you with fiber, which will keep you feeling full for longer between meals to avoid overeating,” says nutritionist Lisa Richards, creator of The Candida Diet.
“I always recommend to my clients to consume a cup of blueberries a day; adding them to smoothies makes it convenient,” says Sam Maclennan, chief nutritionist for Meal Prep Source. “Blueberries are the most antioxidant-dense berry with each cup containing a total of 13,427 antioxidants. Some studies have found that the mixture of these antioxidants, vitamins and minerals help your body actually regulate fat-burning and the storage of fat.”
Maclennan also recommends adding leafy greens to every smoothie because they are very low in calories yet rich in nutrients like vitamins C, A, and K, fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium. “This mixture has been found to help regulate blood sugars, carry more oxygen to muscles and burn fat,” he says.
As long as you are aware of the number of calories they add, including avocado, nut butter or MCT oil to your smoothie may help you lose weight by slowing down digestion and giving you a fuller feeling for longer periods to prevent the overeating that can lead to weight gain, says Nataly Komova, nutritionist and fitness expert for JustCBD.
Adding a few ice cubes to your blender before blending your smoothie increases the volume of the liquid to fill your belly without extra calories by adding air.
“Many of us think we are on track to lose weight just because we’re drinking smoothies, which are supposed to be good for us, but in reality, we are not using them correctly,” warns Jessica Mason, a clinical nutritionist with Kitchen Habit. By loading up your smoothies with lots of high-calorie ingredients like peanut butter, chocolate, and honey, you’ll defeat the purpose of a weight-loss smoothie, she says. And it’s easy to do if you don’t keep track of the calories of all those add-ins. Keep your additions low-cal, like greens and other vegetables and protein.
For a complete program using smoothies to help you lose weight, check out our book The 7-Day Smoothie Diet: Lose Up to a Pound a Day—and Sip Your Way to a Flat Belly!
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