The Breakfast Smoothie. A nutrient packed start to the day?

When it comes to a quick and easy breakfast options it is easy to see why the breakfast smoothie has achieved such a huge following. It appears to be the easiest way to 1. Have Breakfast and 2. Consume a large amount of fruit and veg in one serving. Often viewed as a convenient way to get ahead on our healthy eating goals before the clock's even struck 10am. But are its benefits too good to be true?

Applied Nutrition have put together the Pros and Cons of the Breakfast Smoothie and how we can make them healthy.

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The PROS

1. They appeal to the veg-phobic

As good as the green stuff is, it isn’t the most appetising. Kale over a croissant? Nope, didn’t think so. However, a blender can often serve as the perfect tool for helping up your daily intake. If you don’t like eating vegetables, then a smoothie can be a good alternative way of getting the nutrients that vegetables offer.

2. They provide a serving of unprocessed real food.

We should always be opting for ‘real food’ over processed. Smoothies can tick this box, so long as fruit and vegetables are included.

3. They can help kick-start a healthier day

Provided they are filled with good quality, healthy ingredients, a breakfast smoothie may help people  see that they have had a healthy start to the day, which might make them make healthier choices for the rest of the day. Essentially though, it’s what’s inside that counts.

4. They can up your fibre

Fruit ‘n Fibre, Weetabix, All Bran - childhood adverts showcasing cereals as the best way to start your day may go some way to explaining why many believe smoothies can’t rival a bowl of Kellogg’s finest in the fibre-stakes.

However, the abilities of today’s kitchen appliances now mean you needn't miss out. The new smoothie gadgets are better at handling the whole fruit or vegetable, so the argument against fibre being lost is lessened. Although a massive increase in your usual fibre intake can sometimes lead to an increase in bowel conditions such as IBS, Crohn's, Coeliac's, bloating etc. 

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THE CONS

1. They can be laced with sugar

While smoothies may seem innocent in their nature, care should be taken to ensure that they don’t conceal hidden sugar. Smoothies are often little more than sugar with the only healthy ingredient being green vegetables, which aren't a very popular ingredient for the majority of people. If you do wish to add fruit add some dark berries or an apple.

Fruit is essentially sugar with some nutrients. Any smoothie with fruit or starchy veg, let alone fruit juice, is a sugary drink without the fizz.

2. It is better to eat the whole food

Life’s busy, so it’s no wonder a quick smoothie is popular for the commute. However, while it may seem that finding faster and easier ways to inject our diets with more fruit and veg is a good thing, Applied Nutrition points out that this too should have its limits.

Eating real food strictly means eating food in the form in which it naturally comes. With fruit and vegetables, this means eating the whole fruit or vegetable. Whatever you put into the blender – think how long it would take you to eat it raw, or cooked. In this world of obesity and diet-related illness, making things quicker and easier to eat is not a good thing.

3. They are not a complete meal. 

You may miss out on vital nutrients that other food sources are better equipped to provide. The body needs essential fats, complete protein, vitamins and minerals to thrive and survive. Even if someone has a pure green veg smoothie to start the day, this doesn’t deliver much of the body’s requirements. If this is consumed daily instead of something more nutritious, health can suffer in the long-term.

4. They may not keep hunger pangs at bay

Will a smoothie keep you full until lunchtime? The likelihood looks slim. Smoothies are not satiating. Given that fruit or starchy veg smoothies are not a good idea, the green veg options are better to avoid sugar, but are unlikely to get someone through to lunchtime.

The easily deliverable carb content may also spike blood glucose levels – not a good idea at breakfast time – as you’ll probably want something else to get blood glucose levels back to normal within a short period of time.

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What are the best ingredients then?

Is there ever a place for a breakfast smoothie? While not ideal to have every day, it’s clear from the above that the emphasis lies more with quality instead of quantity. If smoothies work for you and you don’t find yourself craving muffins at 10am, that’s fine. Try adding a scoop of Diet Whey into your smoothie, the Konjac Glucomannan ingredient which expands in your stomach allows you to feel fuller whilst consuming a lot less food than you would normally consume. Plus adding a packed 18g of protein into your breakfast!

The things to avoid? Fruit juice is worst, certain fruits high in sugar should be avoided such as bananas and mango. Green is better than fruit and homemade smoothies are better than shop-bought. The best smoothie option in our view would be having one with a meal if you don’t like eating vegetables. If you have one for breakfast, then at least have some oats with it. Try our Critical Oats if you are looking for a quick balanced breakfast option. If you have a smoothie at lunchtime, have a piece of protein with it such as grilled chicken or salmon.

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What are the better breakfast alternatives?

A meal of solids that provides all of your vital nutrients beats serving them blitzed in a cup. Choose something that delivers essential fats, complete protein and far more vitamins and minerals.

Best breakfast options would be: oats, eggs or natural/greek yoghurt. Sounds like an appetising way to start the day to us...

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