The most popular Christmas present of 2014 (OK, after the selfie stick) seems to have been the blender. Everyone who's anyone is uploading pictures of their new kitchen gadget to Facebook, then instagramming their healthy blended creations - #smoothie anyone?
What's not to love about a device that whizzes fruit and veg into a handy drink that offers all of your five a day in one hit. In fact, the blender should be your fast track to a bikini body, right?
Unfortunately - as with most things - it's not quite that simple.
Let's start off with a smoothie favourite - the banana. It adds some substance to your blend and is super healthy. While there's nothing wrong with the fruit, it doesn't actually provide that much fibre - 2.8 grams in one, to be exact. When the aim is to have about 10g of fibre in a smoothie, the banana suddenly doesn't seem to add much. Instead, reach for higher fibre foods such as berries, kale, kiwi, pear and chia seeds.
Fibre isn't the be all and end all though - you also need some protein in there. As smoothies are often a breakfast drink, it makes sense you'll want it to see you through until lunch. The 10g rule applies to protein too, so find some ways to maximise this. Milk is a good source (soy also works, but steer clear of almond, which has little protein) and Greek yoghurt is also a great go-to. Health food shops stock plenty of powders high in protein which you can simply add to the mix if you've already packed too much into your blender.
Speaking of too much, you might want to be careful of which fruits you are using. While they are undeniably full of vitamins and nutrients, the sugar content can be high. They're also not particularly filling, which means you could be reaching for a snack by mid-morning. This is why you need to add a good source of protein to your blend - it will keep hunger pangs at bay.
While smoothies are great for getting protein pre-gym or for kicking off the day, it's important to remember they aren't calorie-free. Many blenders can fit a lot, which means you could easily pack in 500-600 calories in one serving - and that suddenly doesn't seem like quite such an angelic snack does it?! To avoid this, stick to recipes rather than freestyling with your ingredients. As a rule, don't go above 150 if it's meant to be a snack or over 300 if it's a breakfast or pre-workout booster.
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