6 tips for a healthier smoothie or icy beverage

On the warmest of days, nothing beats the summer heat like an icy beverage.

The good news is frozen drinks and fruit smoothies are everywhere — from Starbucks to McDonald's to juice bars to the nearest gas station. QuikTrip offers as many as 20 frozen drink options.

But alas, some of these cool treats can pack a lot of calories (some topping more than 600 calories) and put a chill on your efforts to slim down. So how does ice mixed with either fruit or coffee get so fattening?

Creaminess, added sugar and syrups and enormous drink sizes add up to a lot of “hidden” calories, according to experts.

Even so, experts say it’s OK to indulge in the occasional frozen treat, and it’s possible to revel in them on a more regular basis, especially if you make the drink yourself.

Here are some tips on enjoying frozen drinks and smoothies while avoiding calorie land mines from Kristen Smith, a dietitian at Piedmont Healthcare and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

  • Order your iced latte "skinny" or order an iced skinny latte (which is only about 70 calories at Starbucks).
  • Keep it simple by ordering your iced coffee black and then adding your favorite sugar substitute for a close to zero-calorie cool beverage.
  • Skip coffee altogether and order a cold tea beverage like the Teavana Shaken Iced Tea flavored with hibiscus, lemongrass and apple (for 45 calories for a 16-ounce serving at Starbucks).
  • If buying a pre-made smoothie or smoothie on the road, read the ingredients. Look out for code words such as whipped cream, creamy, drizzled (with anything). These are all words for high-calorie add-ons. Skip smoothies that list sugar in the first five ingredients.
  • Watch out with adult drinks. The mixers used for adult beverages can greatly contribute to the calories. Choose lower-calorie mixers such as diet soda, seltzer or flavored water varieties.
  • DIY smoothies. Making smoothies at home will help ensure you keep the calories from beverages in check. (See below for recipe and more tips.)


When making a smoothie at home, make sure to measure fruit and aim to keep the fruit to about 1 cup. Although fruits offer health benefits, the natural sugars can still add up. Use smoothies as an opportunity to add more veggies into your diet. Some veggies like spinach or cauliflower will not affect the flavor of your smoothie. Other tips: add yogurt or a protein powder for optimal satiety; and remember, to keep calories under control, skip the syrup or added sugars.

Mango Spinach Smoothie recipe (from Kristen Smith's blog, www.360familynutrition.org):

1 cup milk of choice

3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

2 cups fresh baby spinach, raw

1/4 avocado

3/4 cup fresh or frozen mango

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Optional: water or ice

Add ingredients into blender or smoothie maker. It makes 1 serving.

The smoothie has 277 calories with honey (5 grams of added sugars) or 256 calories without honey (0 grams added sugars).