This time of year many people are trying new diets, new workouts and new ways to lose weight. There are so many options out there but most of the popular diets include some sort of shake or smoothie. There are even some diets and nutrition plans that are almost all based around liquid meals. Do they work? Well, I’m here to give you some tips.
First of all – I’m not a huge fan of liquid diets (read why here), especially all liquid or mostly liquid diets where at least 75% of your daily calories come from liquids. Your body was designed to eat and chew….that’s why you have teeth! That chewing mechanism sends signals to your brain that you are eating fuel and that’s a good thing. Also, most people that incorporate smoothies and shakes into their diet end up doing more harm than good and they might as well be drinking high-calorie milkshakes.
The main benefit of smoothies and shakes is the convenience factor…especially if they are pre-made. It is nice to not have to think about what you are making for your next meal or if it has too many calories or not enough protein. But, don’t get fooled into some of these pricey diet plans that make you rely 100% on their products. First of all, it’s a waste of money and second of all - it doesn’t teach you how to eat correctly. You may lose some weight after a few weeks on the diet – but do you know why? Do you know what all the ingredients in the shakes are and what the proper “macros” or ratios of calories, fat and protein are? Odds are you don’t. Most of the diet companies don’t want you to know, that way you are dependent on them! Did you know you can make your own smoothies just as easy – it’s not rocket science! Plus, it will save you some money and you can customize how you like it and even make it healthier. Keep it simple – your body doesn’t need all the extra vitamins and additives in order to lose weight! Did you know that there is only a certain amount of protein, vitamins and nutrients that your body can absorb each day? After that – your body just turns it into waste and you excrete it. A little extra protein in your diet can help you lose body fat and keep you fuller – but it doesn’t always help you lose weight. Most people get enough protein on their own without pricey shakes. How much do you need? Read here.
What about smoothie vendors like Jamba Juice and Smoothie King? There is a Smoothie King by my house and I always see people coming out with these huge drinks and I know they think they are eating healthy. I don’t blame them – I blame Smoothie King for acting like they are a health food store. Sure, they do have some that are low-fat and have high amounts of protein – but they are loaded with fat and sugar! Did you know that their small Orange Ka-Bam smoothie has 117g of sugar? That’s the equivalent of drinking 3 cans of Coke! If you must do Smoothie King – go for their smallest size and check the nutrition sheet and get one that’s the lowest in calories, fat and sugar. Jamba Juice is a little better because they add less sugar. However, if you order one of their larger sizes –you’ll still get way more calories than you need. Instead get one of their smaller ones and try a “light” smoothie or one of the ones just made with real fruit. If the sugar is only coming from fruit – it’s not quite as bad, but sugar is sugar, especially if you are at risk for diabetes.
The bottom line: not all smoothies and shakes are created equal and you don’t need them in order to successfully lose weight. Make sure you are reading labels (ingredients, not just calories, etc) and if you are making your own, be sure to calculate all those extras you throw in. Each additional scoop of powder, milk, honey, or other ingredient can make your smoothie add up to one high-calorie sugar fest. Keep it simple. Do 1 scoop of whey or other protein (stick to around 100 calories, less than 4g fat, around 20g protein and little or no sugar), 1 serving of fruit and either nonfat milk or water. To make it thicker –use more ice, a half of banana for your fruit or about ¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt. A small protein shake, fruit smoothie or green juice a day can be a healthy add-on to your normal diet. Just make sure that the rest of your daily meals are balanced and contain lean protein (meat, fish, soy, legumes, etc), veggies, fruits and whole grains. If you have any questions – please ask your doctor or find a registered dietician (R.D.) in your area.