Smoothie bowls aren’t exactly revolutionary — it’s a smoothie poured into a bowl and topped with fruit, seeds, nuts, or whatever else you have on hand — but they sure are photogenic:
But is your gorgeous, social media-ready smoothie bowl sneakily making you gain weight?
Smoothie bowls can be a good source of fiber, protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates to start your day or help you refuel after a workout. But they can quickly turn into high-calorie sugar bombs if you’re not careful.
Read on to learn how to make healthy, satisfying smoothie bowls that won’t bust your daily calorie target.
Health Benefits of Smoothie Bowls
Smoothie bowls share a lot of the same health benefits as regular smoothies. “Most smoothies and smoothie bowls are inherently healthy due to the fact that they usually contain a lot of whole foods, but they are only as healthy as the individual ingredients that you put in them,” says Tori Wesszer, RD.
By adding fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, you can easily increase your vitamin and mineral intake for the day. “Smoothie bowls are a great way to get in a variety of nutrients — including vegetables — first thing in the morning,” says Alissa Rumsey M.S., RD. They’re also a great way to sneak in superfoods that may not be so tasty on their own.
Compared to juicing, smoothie bowls retain the fiber from fruit and veggies, which helps you feel fuller, longer; adding protein and fat has the same effect. All three components can help stave off hunger and cravings later in the day.
And for many of us, the simple act of eating breakfast can help set the tone for the day and foster healthy eating habits. “Getting into the habit of making smoothies and smoothie bowls is a delicious way to start the day, and people who eat breakfast (versus those who skip it) tend to eat healthier throughout the day,” Wesszer says.
Before you get blending, let’s break down what not to do when you make your next smoothie bowl.
Smoothie Bowl Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake #1: Adding Too Much Fruit
On the whole, fruit is good for you. But when it comes to smoothies, people can end up eating far more fruit than they would ever eat in one sitting. That means a more size-able hit of carbohydrates, which can can affect your blood sugar levels.
“Consuming too many carbohydrates at one time, such as a smoothie with a large content of fruit, may raise blood sugar levels,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., CDE. One of those is weight gain. “Consuming too much of any food, fruit included, can lead to an excess in overall calorie intake and promote weight gain,” she adds. “Once they are blended down, the fruit appears to be a smaller portion, but you are still consuming the full serving.”
Mistake #2: Ignoring portion sizes
Fruit, yogurt, greens, and other ingredients may reach the fill line when you toss them in the blender, but once you blend them, they may only reach halfway. So, why not throw in even more fruit and yogurt and other stuff, right?
Resist the urge. Blending reduces the volume of all those lovely ingredients, but that doesn’t mean you’re eating less. The key to a balanced meal is correct portion sizes, so adding in a bunch more stuff can throw that balance off. Consider this: If you make a smoothie bowl with a medium-sized banana, one cup of strawberries, one cup of blueberries, 1.7 ounces of oats and 200ml of 2-percent milk, you’ll be eating around 460 calories, along with 1.4 ounces of sugar.
Add half an avocado, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a handful of chia seeds, and your smoothie now contains closer to 900 calories. That could be almost to half of your recommended intake of calories for the day, depending on your age and gender. A few seemingly small additions can make a big difference to the overall makeup of your smoothie bowl.
The good news here? You can kick back a few servings of veggies pretty easily when you incorporate them into a smoothie bowl. “If you want to increase your intake of greens like spinach, smoothies and smoothie bowls can be a brilliant way to simply increase your intake of these foods that you normally may not eat enough of,” Wesszer says.
Mistake #3: Not putting skin in the game
People skip the skin of fruits and vegetables for a variety reasons: they don’t like the taste and/or texture or they’re worried about consuming pesticides. But when you can, keep the skin — it can be a source of even more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and compounds like resveratrol (the pigment that gives grapes their red color) that have antioxidant properties.
“If you remove the skin of the fruit or vegetable before blending it, you will be losing some nutrients and fiber,” says Palinski-Wade. “However, even with the skin removed, the fruit and vegetables still contain a good source of fiber. That said, I would still recommend blending certain fruits and vegetables with the skin on in a high-powered blender for the most nutrient-dense smoothie,” she says.
“When you blend fruit, you increase the surface area of the food, which allows digestion to occur more easily and may allow the natural sugars to be absorbed at a faster rate,” she adds. There’s also evidence that liquified food doesn’t satisfy hunger as well as solid food. This isn’t cause to banish your blender forever, though. “The fiber, protein, and fat content of the smoothie will ultimately determine how quickly the carbohydrates and sugars are digested, and the overall impact on blood sugar levels.”
But liquid food has unique benefits, too. An analysis shows that some nutrients may be more easily absorbed by the body when consumed in liquid format.
Mistake #4: Chugging (or spooning) your bowl down
“Often people don’t feel as full when they drink their calories versus chewing and eating them, so you may find that smoothies don’t fill you up as much and that you need to eat more,” Rumsey says.
Since there’s not a ton to chew on in a bowl, take it slow. “It can be easy to quickly drink a smoothie, but try to make it last at least 20 to 30 minutes. This will give your stomach time to signal to your brain that it is full,” suggests Rumsey.
Mistake #5: Adding too many high-calorie toppings
Speaking of toppings… the typical smoothie bowl is topped off with even more fruit, nut butters, nuts, seeds, grains, and dried fruit, etc. — all of which can add up to be more caloric than the smoothie part of the bowl! While topping can add more nutrients, it’s important to not go overboard.
How to Keep Your Smoothie Bowl in Check
To create a filling, satisfying smoothie bowl that won’t get in the way of losing weight, it’s important it contains protein, healthy fats, and carbs in the right balance. Here are some tips to keep your bowl in check:
Add lots of veggies
“If a smoothie has too many high-calorie ingredients — even if they are healthy — you can end up consuming too many calories in one sitting,” Rumsey says. Bulk up your smoothie bowl with spinach, kale, cucumbers, carrots, celery, or beets for added nutrition without tons of calories. “The more colorful fruit and veggies that you can pack in the better,” Wesszer adds.
Don’t forget about protein and fat
“Many people end up adding way too much fruit to their smoothies and not enough protein or fat,” Rumsey says.
When it comes to protein, plain Greek yogurt (2%), cottage cheese, silken tofu, or Shakeology are great sources. For fat: “Add in a tablespoon of chia or hemp seeds for omega-3 fats and a tablespoon or two of nut butter or raw nuts,” she adds. Top your smoothie bowl with nuts, hemp seeds, or pumpkin seeds for added healthy fats and protein.
Limit added sweeteners
If you add dried fruit, such as dates, stick to a max of two tablespoons and cut back slightly on the fresh fruit, Rumsey suggests. For yogurt or nut milks, go for the unsweetened versions.
You can get smoothie packs at the store, but they can contain tons of added sugars in the form of corn syrup, granulated sugar, honey, sweetened fruit, and sweetened yogurt. By making your bowl at home with whole ingredients, you get to control what goes in it.
Balance higher-calorie toppings with lower-calorie toppings
“I love topping my smoothie bowls with unsweetened coconut flakes (one to two tablespoons) and a raw cacao nibs,” Rumsey says. While some toppings, such as nuts, are higher in calories, Wesszer encourages people to add them in small amounts since they can still play a role in losing weight.
“Extra whole fruit such as kiwi, peaches, blackberries or strawberries look beautiful and don’t pack a ton of extra calories, and chia seeds are also a great option,” Wesszer says.
Try These Delicious Smoothie Bowl Recipes
This smoothie bowl may look too pretty to eat, but with 23 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of healthy fat, your body will be thankful when you do. Strawberry Shakeology serves as the base, which also includes almond milk and blueberries. Top with blueberries, blackberries, banana, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sliced almonds for added texture, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
This smoothie bowl also uses Strawberry Shakeology as its base (it’s just that good, okay?). Cubed frozen mango and cucumber slices add a unique flavor profile that’s sweet and refreshing. Simply top with chia seeds and blueberries and you’re ready to enjoy.
Not just appropriate for St. Patty’s day, this verdant green smoothie bowl gets it color from a cup of raw spinach. You’ll hardly taste the greens once you add unsweetened coconut, kiwi, and banana as toppings. A cup of ice thickens up the mixture for a frosty treat that won’t break the calorie bank.
Get your phones ready, because this bowl is a social media showstopper. With a scoop of Vanilla Shakeology for a protein boost, almond milk, frozen cherries, and matcha, you’ll have a sweet and nutritious snack or breakfast in just a few minutes. Toppings include more frozen cherries, strawberries, coconut, and pumpkin seeds.
Smoothie bowls can definitely be a part of a nutritious eating plan — just make sure to keep an eye on portion sizes, toppings, and include proteins and healthy fats to keep them on point.
Pro tip: If you don’t want the stress (or don’t have the time) to make sure your smoothie bowl ingredients are on point, Shakeology is a healthy and convenient solution. It includes the things you want in a healthy shake: probiotics, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and more. Plus, the different variations you can whip up are endless, so you’ll never get bored.