Mistakes Everyone Makes When Making Smoothies

Smoothies are intended to be a healthy treat — a way to add nutrients to your eating plan without coordinating a sit-down meal. A frosty, delicious blast of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats that you can drink on the go? Incredible! But without having the right balance in the blend, the smoothie express can jump the tracks and end up as more of a daytime dessert than a helpful health beverage. According to Healthline, too many sugar-laden calories can turn this portable drink into a dietary misstep. Even the smoothie sippers who keep their options on the healthy side can run into trouble when mixing up these icy concoctions.

How can something so good go so wrong? It turns out there are several possibilities. From using the wrong ingredients to not knowing the right way to blend them, there are as many potential mistakes in the smoothie-making game as there are flavor combos to try. The good news: Every smoothie problem has a workable solution. Here are some of the most common mistakes everyone makes when making smoothies, along with suggested fixes that can keep the potential for disappointment out of your frothy concoctions.

You're adding too much ice

Smoothies are as much about texture as they are about flavor. Nothing beats the fluffy frap of your favorite icy blend. But ice itself is somewhat taboo when it comes to making smoothies. Add too much, and you're risking a slushy separation between liquified ingredients and ice. Add too little, and you're basically blending juice and yogurt, depending on the recipe you're using. But get the balance right, and you're headed for smoothie nirvana ... if you can avoid the brain freeze.

What's the ideal amount of ice to add to make the mix work every time? Some smoothie pros recommend never adding ice to a smoothie to prevent the watering down of your delicious — and sometimes costly — ingredients. If you insist on having the extra snow in your formula, you can eyeball the right amount of ice by adding your cubes after the core ingredients, but before you've started to blend. This lets you customize the ice content based on the other ingredients rather than throwing the ice in first and hoping for the best. It might take some tinkering, but once you have the system down, you can smoothie to your heart's content without worrying about being iced out.

You're using too much protein

A protein blast in a smoothie can provide health and fitness benefits like nobody's business, especially for workout-minded smoothie drinkers looking to build muscle. But there's a limit to how much protein powder should go in the blender. The proper amount depends on how many servings you're making and what your daily protein goal is. According to LiveStrong, 30 total grams of protein per meal is the right amount for proper digestion; anything more and your body will excrete the excess. As such, it's important to remember protein powder isn't the only protein source in a smoothie, especially if you're adding dairy or nuts to the mix. It's important to take the smoothie's entire protein content into account. 

According to Healthline, individuals who choose to add protein supplements to their regular diet don't need more than one or two servings of protein powder per day. A scoop or two of most protein powders provides what you need. And this limit is important when making smoothies — adding too much dry ingredient can result in a sludgy texture closer to pudding than a smoothie.

The type of protein powder you use makes a difference, too. Though nutrition is relatively equal among protein supplements, whey protein powder is water soluble and tends to dissolve easier than plant-based protein powders without adding a chalky residue to your concoction. Get the balance right, and you can enjoy a healthy, delicious drink without wasting your protein powder or your money.

You're using too little protein

Using too little protein in your smoothie recipe is as much a mistake as using too much. Without including extra protein in some form, you're missing out on a chance to boost your daily protein intake for energy and muscle building, which is an important reason to be drinking smoothies at all. While the fruit, fiber, and flavor may be a big part of the draw, smoothies are also a vehicle for delivering any protein you might be missing in your meals (especially if you're an athlete who needs to be consuming a higher level of protein), or a way of adding extra protein and calories to your diet if weight gain is your objective.

While protein powders are frequently the preferred way to boost protein content in smoothies, they aren't the only option. Kay Nutrition points out that there are plenty of food-based ingredients that can increase the protein in your recipes. For instance, nut butters, soy milk, and tofu can boost the protein goodness while enhancing the texture and taste of your smoothie. If you prefer dairy-based ingredients, you can include Greek yogurt or kefir, which also add important probiotics for improved gut health.

You're adding too much fruit

Because they're sometimes called "fruit smoothies," it's easy to wonder how it's possible to add too much fruit to the mix. The truth is, even though fruit is a healthy way to include fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it also comes with a hefty amount of sugar, and consuming more than the recommended daily allowance for servings can work against your wellness plans. The best option is to use a combination of fruit and green, leafy vegetables like spinach or kale in your smoothies to increase the fiber and nutrient content.

You may want to be a little bit careful about using specific fruits when it comes to the sugar battle, too. Higher glycemic fruits — or fruits that have a greater impact on your blood sugar levels — are popular options for smoothies. Mango and pineapple, for instance, rank higher on the glycemic index, yet they're often go-to ingredients when firing up the blender. While no fruit should be considered "bad," it's a good idea to watch the portions you're putting in your smoothies. Registered dietitian nutritionist Rebecca Ditkoff told HuffPost that it's best to keep the total amount of fruit in a smoothie to a single cup. When combined with high-fiber greens, these naturally sweet treats add to the healthfulness rather than subtracting from it.

You're adding canned fruit

Of all the fruit options you can include in your smoothie, the biggest mistake you can make is adding canned fruit. Not only is canned fruit not truly fresh, but it often comes packed in heavy syrup. Canned fruit in natural juices may be slightly better, but those juices just add more sugar to the mix, without the benefit of fiber or nutrients. Plus, canned fruit is often peeled, and according to Healthline, fruit without skin is lacking crucial fiber, a key reason for including fruit in the first place. Not to mention, the texture canned fruit adds to your smoothie just makes it weird and disappointing.

If canned fruit is a regular part of your smoothie regimen, you're much better off getting into the habit of keeping fresh fruit in your fridge or freezer to use in your smoothies instead. This will give you everything you need to include fruit in your recipes without sabotaging your fitness goals ... you know, those things that likely got you into the smoothie groove in the first place.

You're not using frozen fruit

Excluding frozen fruit from your smoothies is a missed opportunity to add a healthful chill to your concoction. Frozen fruit makes an ideal creamed base for your smoothie, allowing you to add other ingredients to adjust the texture without compromising flavor. It also eliminates the need for adding ice to your smoothie. This process is also a great option for smoothie bowls, which are really just thick smoothies served in a bowl instead of a cup and topped with crunchy bits for texture. You can pick up frozen fruit of all kinds at any grocery store and stash it in your freezer for a quick fix whenever your smoothie hunger strikes.

If you forgo the freezer section and choose to freeze your own fruit instead, you can use the flash-freezing process for the best results. This ensures as many nutrients are locked into the fruit as possible. With your freezer fruit-loaded, you'll never be at a loss for great smoothie fixings.

You're adding fruit juice

It's tempting to add fruit juice to your smoothie when it needs a little thinning down. But fruit juice is a special kind of nutritional no-no. According to Healthline, even 100-percent juices can have a sugar content as high as soda. And while 100-percent juice still delivers a good dose of vitamins and minerals, it lacks the fiber that helps keep you full, while delivering more sugar (due to the concentration of juice without the pulp or skin) than a serving of fresh fruit. And if you're using a juice that's not 100-percent? Chances are it has added sugars and even fewer nutrients. 

Rather than using fruit juice in your recipe, make sure you're using flavorful fresh or frozen whole fruit and thinning your blend with a bit of water, instead. Not only will this increase the fiber count to regulate the sugar in the fruit, but it will help you manage the calorie content. Leave the juice in the fruit where it belongs.

You're not balancing your sugary ingredients with fiber

If your smoothie recipe includes fruit and yogurt and milk and protein powder, the sugar content may skyrocket to a wildly unhealthy amount. There are ways to limit the sugar in your smoothie without compromising the taste. In fact, the idea of a smoothie is to include natural ingredients that improve your health while tasting great without anything extra. The simple formula of fruit + protein + healthy fat + innocent liquid = smoothie should be kept as clean as possible.

By balancing the sugar of whole or frozen fruit with an extra dose of fiber from green veggies, you give your body a chance to digest your smoothie without major sugar problems. Adding extra fiber helps you feel full longer after drinking your smoothie, which also adds a potential weight-control bonus. You can create flavorful smoothies with fewer than 20 grams of sugar by adding spices and seasonings like ginger and cinnamon, too. These ingredients can help reduce the inflammation caused by your workouts, another helpful feature of the perfect smoothie.

You're using milk

Maybe it's the protein, or the creaminess, or just the liquid content, but milk is a smoothie mistake that doesn't need to be made. The lactose in cow's milk is another source of sugar and calories that can break your smoothie and lead you in the wrong direction. Lactose intolerance can also make adding traditional dairy milk an uncomfortable prospect. Thankfully, frozen fruit can create a base creamy enough for your smoothie to survive without milk, and water can be added for a thinner consistency without increasing calories or sugar content.

If you can't live without milk in some form in your smoothie recipe, its best to go for a plant-based milk made from almonds, oats, or soy milk instead of cow's milk. These beverages are often free of sugars, allowing you to add a bit of creaminess without including sugar. Whichever milk alternative you choose, pay close attention to the calorie count. Failing to measure even the healthy ingredients can still add considerable calories to your concoctions.

You're adding ice cream

When is a smoothie not a smoothie? When you throw a scoop of ice cream or sherbet into the blender. Then, it's just an ambitious milkshake. The temptation to make your smoothie even smoother and tastier with a dollop of vanilla should be avoided at all costs. For example, a ⅔ cup scoop of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream adds 170 calories, 17 grams of sugar and 9 grams of fat, turning your smoothie into a dessert instead of a supplement intended for health and wellness.

There are plenty of smoothie shops that include ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt in their menu of mix-ins. While these kinds of fruit-based milkshakes can be a fun treat once in a while, they shouldn't become a regular habit. If you feel like your smoothie needs a creamy boost, try low-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese instead. The more you stick to the natural side of the ingredients list for your smoothie recipes, the happier you and your body will be.

You're not blending it properly

Chunks, lumps, and separation are all smoothie-making mistakes that don't need to happen. If you know the right process for blending your smoothie, you can sidestep the sadness that comes with a cup full of unintended bumps or a smoothie that looks more like curds and whey than you intended. Having the right blender for making smoothies is an essential first step. Your model should have at least 600 watts of power to get the job done and should be able to blend ice. A machine that blends with too little force or that uses a dull blade won't be powerful enough to break down frozen ingredients.

To control the consistency of your smoothie, try adding liquids and greens first, then add powders and creamy ingredients. Add frozen ingredients last. Beginning with a low speed and working your way up the scale can keep your blender from conking out mid-blitz, too. Letting your smoothie sit too long can also lead to separation, so be sure to blend your smoothie right before you plan to drink it to enjoy the best results.

You're not using enough healthy fat

Don't make the mistake of omitting fat from your smoothie. While a low-fat smoothie may sound like the right way to go, according to the American Heart Association, healthy unsaturated fats are an essential part of a balanced diet, which makes them a helpful element in your smoothie creations. Omitting beneficial fats is a missed opportunity to add texture and nutritional value. Some of the vitamins in your smoothie may even require fat for proper digestion.  

A sensible smoothie can maximize healthy fats by using unexpected ingredients such as flax seeds, chia seeds, and whole nuts like almonds or cashews. All of these contain essential polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essential components for keeping your heart and brain working at full capacity. Nut butters and even avocados can be included as well, bringing in the creamy smoothness your smoothie texture is calling for, with healthy fat riding shotgun. By including these good fats in your standard smoothie recipes, you give your concoctions the kind of healthful kick they're meant to provide. Plus, they also help mitigate the potential blood sugar spike associated with smoothies with a higher sugar content. 

Your portion sizes are too large

Smoothie size is a highly individualized choice. But if weight loss is your motivation for sipping smoothies, your extra-large portion size could be ruining your hard work. By considering the density of the calories in your smoothie and the potential sugar count of your ingredients, even a small smoothie could be enough to satisfy. But actually measuring for your needs is a crucial part of the process. Simply eyeballing your servings may lead you to consume more calories than you intended.

So, what is a sensible portion? That depends on how smoothies fit into your eating plan. According to nutritionist Samantha Casetty, RD, writing for NBC News, "Note that the serving sizes vary so you'll want to keep an eye on that and adjust accordingly, depending on whether your smoothie is a snack, a meal or a side sip." If you clearly define your purpose in drinking smoothies, you can better determine what your ideal serving size is. Just remember: If you're drinking a full-sized smoothie while eating a full meal and your fitness plan doesn't include adding bulk, you may be working against your goals.