Aug. 4. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

Discover the low sugar options for your favorite smoothies.

I’m a huge fan of smoothies, they’re quick to make and it’s an easy way to squeeze in a lot of nutrients when I’m out the door quick. Most of my clients are on the smoothie train first thing in the morning as well for quick nutrition, but not all smoothies are created equal. Smoothies, especially ones you get made at a restaurant or a local juice spot can be loaded with extra sugar in order for it to “taste good” to the majority of people. So, next time you’re out ordering a smoothie, keep these lower sugar options in mind and even better, if you can make this at home, you can always have these on hand.

Sugar and carbohydrates from whole foods aren’t “bad”, we’ve already chatted about that topic, but with smoothies and juices, it’s almost too easy to squeeze in extra fruit to give a sweet flavor. The sugar content regardless if it’s from fruit or not, can easily climb up to 50 g of sugar in some smoothies I see shared online. From adding fruit juices, coconut water, pureed fruits, bananas, and more (sometimes all at once) the sugar content can climb, so being mindful about what ingredients are going into your smoothies is key.

For some people and scenarios that may work really well for their body, but for most of us, it’s too much at one serving without properly balancing it with protein, fiber, vegetables (like greens), and healthy fats. I’ve shared a lot of smoothie recipes on the blog, so today I want to give you some of my tips and tricks on creating low-sugar smoothies so you can get your morning smoothie fix without overdoing it on the sugar content. Try out these substitutions in your morning smoothies and let me know what works for you!

No. 1: Zucchini

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen me share a lot lately about adding zucchini to smoothies to lower sugar content. They have a very neutral taste, add fiber, give smoothies a great creamy texture, and they are super easy to freeze (meaning less prep in the morning, woohoo!). Simply chop 1-2 large raw zucchini into chunks, put them in a freezer-safe bag, and freeze. Zucchinis also add nutrients like potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

No. 2: Cauliflower

I know, this sounded really weird to me at first until I tried it, but similarly to zucchini, cauliflower is another low sugar alternative to try in your morning smoothie. Cauliflower contains essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6. folate, and manganese, just to name a few. They sub in great in place of bananas to lower sugar content. I’m a huge fan of this veggie, so if you aren’t down to use it in your smoothies here are some other recipes!

No. 3: Cucumber

Another way to replace high-sugar liquids for your morning smoothie is to add cucumber! Cucumbers belong to the melon family and have a high concentration of water, so you can sub in cucumbers in place of high-sugar juices to create a great, low sugar smoothie. Cucumbers contain a good amount of fiber as well as unique antioxidants and polyphenols that have been studied for their effects on reducing some cancers, cardiovascular disease, anti-microbial properties, and inflammation. If you use English cucumbers I recommend choosing organic. A quick tip: anything that you eat with a skin on, opt for organic when possible.

No. 4 Beets

Beets are naturally sweet and they are incredibly rich in antioxidants and fiber. Beets are also high in vitamin C, folate, and manganese. I recommend chopping beets to bite size, steaming or roasting beets before freezing, then using about 1/2 cup at a time. Plus, they make your smoothie the most beautiful color!

No. 5: Carrots

If beets aren’t your jam, carrots make another great replacement for fruit as a naturally sweet root vegetable. Carrots have several health benefits from their antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content ranging from anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and cardiovascular benefits due to the antioxidants. Carrots have also been known for their impact on protecting our vision and overall eye health, this is due to the vitamin A and carotenoids. I like to add them to citrusy smoothies to get a vibrant orange color.

No. 6: Avocados

Of course, you should add my favorite fruit to any of your smoothies! Avocados not only create a great texture to smoothies, but they also add healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Avocados also contain essential nutrients like potassium, folate, and vitamin K. #Avocadolove forever!

No. 7: Ditch the Juice…

If you’re making your morning smoothies with frozen fruits and fruit juice, consider swapping out the fruit juice for water, coconut milk, or almond milk.  Subbing plant-based milk it will help create a great flavor and texture, and add healthy fats! If you are using store-bought milk or juice, always check the ingredients for hidden sugars. For the DIY enthusiast, check out my guide to making your own nut milk!

No. 8 …Or Try Tea!

Unsweetened green tea pairs really well with citrus in smoothies, add a natural antioxidant boost, and is a tasty alternative to liquids with higher sugar content. If you want the added benefit of antioxidants without actually brewing tea, a teaspoon of matcha will add a bit of caffeine as well as antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll. More info on tea here.

No. 9: Balance Macronutrients

When you’re making a smoothie, keep in mind to make around 50% of it veggies (i.e. kale, spinach, zucchini, etc.), then 20% healthy fat, 20% protein, and the rest carbohydrate (which may look like a fruit or another carbohydrate-rich whole food like sweet potatoes, maple syrup, dates, etc.). Fiber, healthy fats and protein are a great combo to keep you full, fueled, and feeling amazing throughout the morning. Keep reading for some examples of smoothie recipes with balanced ingredients!

No. 10: Optimizer Option: Cinnamon

This won’t necessarily lower sugar content, but cinnamon is a natural blood sugar stabilizer and combines will with fruit sugars in smoothies. Cinnamon goes well with most smoothies, so I’ll always put in about 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to all of my smoothies and throughout the day for a little Optimizer Option.

NEED HELP GETTING STARTED? TRY THESE RECIPES and put this challenge to the test…

I hope this guide helps you create the best smoothies every day! What are your favorite ways to make a smoothie delicious? Comment below, I always love reading and writing back to your feedback!