Many savvy people ask if smoothie bowls are healthy, and that’s a very wise question to ask. In reality, the answer is this: it all depends on the ingredients. Because of this, making your own smoothie bowls at home is a much safer option than buying from a restaurant! To make things easy for you, I’ve created the following checklist with crucial “make it or break it” factors for determining if a breakfast smoothie bowl recipe truly is as healthy as you hope it is.
Are Smoothie Bowls Healthy For You?
How to Make The Answer “Yes”
Registered nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein warns against popular store-bought breakfast bowls. In her interview with the HuffPost, she succinctly sums it up in one sentence: “The aspects of the smoothie bowls that have us all fooled are the fancy health buzzwords and elitist prices.” But, as the article goes on to say, an alarming number of “healthy” breakfast bowls have more sugar than glazed donuts!
Use the checklist below to ensure that your breakfast smoothie bowl is both delicious and nutritious!
1. First, consider the sugar content.
For example, certain breakfast smoothie bowl recipes include far too much added sugar. Adding sugar, even from natural sweeteners, isn’t necessary. Fruit contains enough sugar already!
However, since every fruit is different, it never hurts to do a quick search for individual fruit nutrition facts. For example, grapefruit and blackberries are very low in sugar. On the other end of the spectrum are mangoes and grapes, which are quite high in sugar.
Try to avoid smoothie bowl recipes with sugary fruit juice and added sweeteners.
Instead, focus on satisfying low sugar smoothie bowl toppings that add nutritional value without adding sugar. Some examples include hemp seeds, walnuts, shredded coconut, and muesli cereal.
Understandably, people who are new to a clean eating diet often want to cut out fruit altogether. This is not wise or necessary! It’s important to remember that organic fruit provides your body with essential nutrients and powerful antioxidants. In fact, the official USDA recommendation is 1.5 cups of fruit per day.
Furthermore, certain fruits have low glycemic index ratings. This means that they won’t cause your insulin levels to get out of whack, and they’re safer for people with diabetes. (Tip: berries are usually lower in sugar than tropical fruits.)
The bottom line is that yes, excess sugar is a problem. However, the health benefits of eating fruits are far too beneficial and transformative to skip.
2. You should also prioritize high fiber smoothie bowl toppings.
High fiber breakfasts are a must! They keep you satisfied longer, and they fuel your brain and body. However, the blending process lowers the original fiber content of a smoothie bowl’s base ingredients. And that’s why adding high fiber toppings is so important! These toppings haven’t been blended, and so your body gets more fiber out of them.
In order make a delicious breakfast bowl rich in dietary fiber, add toppings like nonpareil almonds, chia seeds, muesli cereal, and flax seeds.
Tip: Use muesli instead of granola for a high fiber topping.
Many people mistakenly think that granola and muesli are interchangeable in terms of nutritional value. But that’s a myth! Each type of breakfast cereal consists of whole grains, nuts, and dried fruits. But that’s where the similarities end. Granola is mixed with added sugars and oils. Muesli, on the other hand, is a blend of pure, raw vegan foods. (See Granola vs Muesli for more details.)
Muesli is especially helpful if you’re using a high fiber breakfast as part of your weight loss plan.
Check out this customer review about using Mu Mu Muesli for weight loss!
4. In order to increase your protein intake, use protein-rich smoothie bowl toppings.
A smoothie bowl that’s balanced with fiber and plant-based protein helps prevent the fruit sugars from hitting your bloodstream too intensely. This can lead to a crash later on, which can leave you feeling sluggish and unmotivated. So, in order to make a smoothie bowl that’s truly healthy, focus on protein-rich foods.
Since many of us rush off to work or school right after breakfast, this next benefit of protein is especially rewarding: protein-rich foods help your brain function better. This is because they contain an amino acid called L-tryptophan. According to WebMD, tryptophan encourages serotonin production. Seretonin is one of the “feel good” chemical in your brain, and it’s found in many popular antidepressants.
Examples of High Protein Smoothie Bowl Toppings
The following list contains excellent vegan protein sources. And they’re delicious as smoothie bowl toppings, too!
- Pure cacao nibs
- Sunflower seeds
- Un-sulphured coconut
- Hemp seeds
- Nut butter
- Protein powder
Using a protein-rich yogurt as a base ingredient is another way to increase the protein content.
The bottom line: A high protein breakfast sets you up for success! Especially if your breakfast bowl is also rich in fiber, since protein and fiber work together to keep you feeling full longer. This helps prevent weight gain and may even help you shed unwanted pounds.
5. Use healthy fats for the final piece of the “balanced smoothie bowl” puzzle.
In addition to focusing on adequate fiber and protein, using foods with healthy fats should also be a priority. Healthy fats are good for your brain and they may help with weight loss. They satiate you long after you eat them, and isn’t that one of the quintessential parts of a good breakfast?
How to Add Healthy Fats to Your Breakfast Bowl
It’s easy to add healthy fat foods to a healthy smoothie bowl recipe! The following list includes smoothie bowl ingredients rich in the kind of fats your body needs:
- Acai (See “How to Make Acai Bowls at Home” for a step-by-step DIY tutorial.)
- Nut butters
- Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts
- Avocado (Check out “How to Make Vegan Smoothie Bowls” for some easy recipes using avocado.)
6. Before buying a smoothie bowl, look up the nutrition facts.
Although I highly recommend making your own smoothie bowl rather than buying one, I know that life is busy. And sometimes buying breakfast is the most realistic option! It’s definitely better than skipping the most important meal of the day.
But make sure to look up the nutrition facts online before purchasing. You can also ask the employees to supply you with a list of the nutrition facts.
Beware of too much sugar. For example, the Jamba Juice Chunky Strawberry Breakfast Bowl has a whopping 50 grams of sugar! Another unhealthy example is the Juice Press Almond Butter Acai Bowl, which contains 24 grams of sugar with a mere 7 grams of protein.
7. Don’t forget to add vegetables!
When I first became interested in smoothie bowls, I had the false idea that they were kind of just a fruity breakfast option. It’s easy to think of vegetables as “lunch- and dinner-only” foods. But that’s simply not the case. There are plenty of great smoothie bowl recipes with vegetables!
I recommend this Mango Acai Spinach Breakfast Bowl recipe because it includes a healthy portion of spinach and has a creamy avocado base. It’s also well-balanced, with ingredients representing all the key essentials for a truly healthy smoothie bowl: healthy fats, protein, and fiber. You can also find more variety on this Green Smoothie Bowl Recipes list.
The Final Answer to “Are Smoothie Bowls Healthy?”
Yes! Now that you know what to look for, you can make healthy smoothie bowls with confidence. If you have a craving for a smoothie bowl from a place like Jamba Juice, take the nutrition facts into consideration. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself on occasion, as long as you don’t consider it a super healthy option. Instead, think of it as a once-in-awhile dessert treat. Another strategy is to share half of the bowl with a friend to reduce your sugar intake.
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Enjoy!
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