Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Stay-Skinny Smoothies!

Smoothies That Don't Pile on the Pounds

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Smoothies -- the health-food junkie's alternative to the milkshake -- have been around for decades (by some accounts, since the advent of the Waring blender in 1936). Today, there are probably more smoothie recipes on the Web than YouTube members. But beneath that nutritious veneer of fruit and yogurt can lurk some serious calories -- and as much sugar as a fast-food shake.

As recipes go, smoothies are easier than pie: The basic serves-two recipe is 1 cup liquid (milk, soymilk, yogurt, juice, sherbet, ice cream, water, or a combination) to 1 ½ to 2 cups fruit. Here's how to become your own smoothie operator without piling on pounds.

1. When a recipe calls for yogurt, milk, or ice cream, opt for the fat-free and no-sugar-added versions. Why? One 8-ounce, fat-free, artificially sweetened vanilla yogurt has 110 calories, while its low-fat version has a whopping 240!

2. For richer flavor and fewer calories, try replacing regular milk with unsweetened almond or hazlenut "milk" (sold in many groceries as well as health food stores) at only 50 to 110 calories per 8 ounces (versus 150 for milk). Some brands are calcium-fortified too, so you don't lose out nutritionally.

3. Not nuts about nuts? Stick with skim milk and kick up the flavor with ice cubes made by freezing your fave juice or tea in ice cube trays. They'll also thicken up your drink.

4. Using frozen fruit? Read the label and choose unsweetened versions. Add your own sugar or low-cal sweetener if needed.

5. Want to add some healthy oomph? Mix in wheat germ or ground flaxseed to boost nutrition and fiber.

6. Try this Blueberry-Banana Batido -- the Cuban version of a smoothie -- from our friends at EatingWell. It has 5 grams of fiber and only 243 calories.

1 ripe banana, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
4 ice cubes
1 cup buttermilk
Combine banana, blueberries, sugar, ice cubes, and buttermilk in a blender and blend until smooth.

Tip for washing the blender: Just half fill it with warm water and a drop or two of detergent. Whirrr, rinse, dry. Done.

The great payback for having to wash the blender (in addition to maintaining your waist)? One fruit smoothie a day delivers 2 to 3 servings of fruit. And eating a diverse diet that includes 4 servings of fruit per day can make your RealAge as much as 4 years younger.

P.S. Worried about the calorie and cash outlay for that other smoothie -- your daily vente frappuccino? Be your own barista. In a blender, combine:

1 tablespoon of instant espresso (regular or decaf)
1 cup fat-free, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons of sugar (preferably powdered) or sugar substitute to taste
4 ice cubes

Blend to make a lite smoothie for two. No need to leave a tip.

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