These days, you can get ‘healthy green’ smoothies in most cafes. We know that soft drinks, cordials and sports drinks contribute to weight gain and dental carriers, but do our beloved smoothies have a role to play too?
The recipe for typical green smoothies may look something like this:
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 medium banana, peeled
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds, soaked for 20 minutes
- ¾ cup of filtered water
Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend on high for 30 second or until creamy.
Calories: 213 | Protein: 6g | Carbs: 47g | Fat: 3g | Fiber: 14.9g
The nutrition profile of these ingredients is pretty good, but as you lay them out in front of you to prepare your smoothies, you can see that this in itself is the size of a small meal (with calories to match). Liquefying your meals and slamming them down on the run may seem perfectly convenient; however there are hidden dangers.
Too much, too quick
If you decided to sit down at the table with a knife and fork and consume the original contents of your smoothie as a meal it would take some time, 15 minutes or so maybe. However, if you proceed to blend all these ingredients together, put them in a cup and “throw it down” as you head out the door, you will get the same “hit” of energy (kilojoules/calories) in about less than half the time it would take you to consume it as a meal.
Evidence suggests that “throwing food down” in this fashion as well as eating until “full,” triples the risk of being overweight (1)
Increases Fussy Eating
Beyond the convenience of a meal in a cup, many people use smoothies as an opportunity to “sneak” extra vegetables into their diet and the diet of their children (and husbands). This again seems like a great strategy (and I am not saying it’s not), however I am cautioning that this is not a productive way to encourage a child (or adult) to try new foods and eat their vegetables.
Despite the fact that a child (or husband) may unknowingly consume spinach when they’re in smoothies, it doesn’t mean the next time a handful of the stuff lands on their dinner plate they are going to be any more willing to eat it. And, unless your child intends to follow a liquid diet their entire life, it is important that they are given the opportunity to eat vegetables as food: as they look, as they feel and as they smell.
Don’t get me wrong, I hide plenty of vegetables in my cooking. It is a great strategy for everyone to boost their veggie intake and lower the energy of a meal, but some of those spinach leaves will always land on the plate as well.
A Dental Disaster
Of course, lastly we have to consider the implications for oral health. The British Dental Association have expressed their concerns over the popularity of meeting the “5 a day” recommended intake of vegetables through smoothies as it contribute to erosion of tooth enamel. (2)
Further, relying on liquid meals like smoothies denies a child the opportunity to practice critical chewing skills which strengthen the muscles needed for speech. Failure to develop these muscles through crewing can result in speech problems. This is also an issue with extensive bottle feeding, failure to introduce age appropriate textured food and overuse food pouches which have a sucking nozzle.
Food, Food, Glorious Food
Eating is one of the simplest pleasures in life and despite the hectic, time-starved society we live in, it is important to slow down and savour the holistic experience of a good meal which engages the senses and heightens psychosocial wellbeing through connecting with people, places and the experience of eating.