Low-Calorie Smoothie Ideas

Low-calorie smoothie
Courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com

Not all smoothies are created equal. Most are what I call food fakers—despite a healthy reputation, they're often full of sugary calories. On average, a 16-oz. fruit smoothie has about 400 calories and around 60 grams of sugar! And some blended beverages are intended to be meal replacements, yet people slurp them down like ordinary thirst quenchers. 

Luckily, it's easy to whip up a sippable snack that won't derail your diet. If you have a blender and some ice, you can make a guilt-free frozen drink in no time. Start with one of the low-calorie bases below, add a mix-in or two, plus a couple of extras, and you'll have a delicious and guilt-free smoothie. 

Making a Low-Calorie Base

The base is where your smoothie starts. While you can use different types of milk, they aren't your only options! 

  • Unsweetened almond milk: With about 30 calories a cup, this is great for creamy drinks. It comes in vanilla, plain, and chocolate. Remember, it is unsweetened, so you might want to add a no-calorie sweetener packet to your smoothie—more on that below. Almond milk is available both in the refrigerator and in shelf-stable cartons.
  • Reduced-calorie juice drinks: These come in so many flavors: orange, pineapple, apple, you name it! There are many natural ones with half the sugar and calories of standard juice. Juice drinks are fantastic for fruity smoothies.  
  • Unsweetened coconut milk beverage: This is another tasty starter for creamy blended drinks. A full cup has about 50 calories. It has just a hint of coconut flavor and a mild creaminess. Don't confuse this with canned coconut milk, which is thick and sugary! Like almond milk, this might need some sweetener; it comes in shelf-stable packs as well as refrigerated versions. 
  • Coconut water: Another coconutty option, this one's a smart start to a refreshing smoothie without creaminess. A cup has about 45 calories and it's high in both potassium and electrolytes. It pairs really well with cherries, pineapple, and other sweet-tart fruit flavors.
  • Light vanilla soymilk: When it comes to creamy options, this is your best bet if you want a protein-packed base. The stats are a little higher than the others, with around 70 calories per cup, but each cup has roughly 6 grams of protein. This one's very versatile, already sweetened, and nice and creamy.

Smoothie Mix-Ins

Here's where your smoothie can get a kick of flavor and nutrients for a satisfying but nutritious drink.

  • Unsweetened frozen fruit: Fruit that's been frozen is ideal for blended beverages; it makes your smoothies thick and flavorful. You can freeze your own fruit like grapes and bananas or hit the freezer aisle for mango chunks, dark sweet pitted cherries, peach slices, mixed berries, and more. These won't always be labeled "unsweetened," so check the ingredients to make sure there's no sugar or syrup. And here's a tip: Partly thaw the fruit before adding it to your blender; this will help it blend better. 
  • Vegetables: Feeling adventurous? Veggies give smoothies a nutrient boost. Kale and spinach are popular add-ins, but I like cucumbers best because they're really mild. The trick is to mix these with sweet fruit to balance out the flavor. Try combining cucumber and kale with chopped apple and grapes. Add a splash of lemon juice and blend with a little water and ice. Yum!
  • Light yogurt: Look for fat-free yogurt options with about 100 calories per 6-oz. serving. There are countless flavors out there, from classic strawberry to decadent apple pie. I also love fat-free Greek yogurt for creamy sippers with a touch of tartness. And Greek yogurt adds a lot of protein, about 11 grams per half cup. 

Smoothie Extras

The right extras can heighten the flavor and texture of your smoothie. You just have to pick the right ones!

  • Ice: Crushed ice is best since it blends more evenly into smoothies. I like my smoothies with a lot of ice, about 1 - 1 1/2 cups crushed ice or 5 to 8 ice cubes. 
  • No-calorie sweetener: This is especially good if you're using an unsweetened base, tart fruit, or any veggies and looking to satisfy your sweet tooth. There are plenty of natural options made from stevia or monk fruit.  Compare them and choose the one you like best.
  • Lemon or lime juice: Add a splash to bring dimension to your blended drinks. The tangy citrus really livens things up! 
  • Extract: Use this very sparingly. A drop or two of vanilla or coconut extract is all you need. It can really heighten the flavor in your smoothie's base.

Smoothie Recipe Ideas

Not sure where to start? Try one of these sweet suggestions.

  • Berry Mango Smoothie: Combine the following in a blender: 3/4 cup frozen unsweetened mango chunks, 1/2 cup seedless cucumber, 5 frozen unsweetened strawberries, 12 mint leaves, 1/2 tsp. lime juice, 1 no-calorie sweetener packet, and 1 cup crushed ice. You'll get a jumbo serving of blended deliciousness for around 120 calories.
  • Tropical Morning Smoothie: In a blender, add 6 oz. (about 3/4 cup) light peach yogurt, 1/4 cup canned crushed pineapple in juice (not drained), 1/2 sliced and frozen banana, 1/2 tsp. lime juice and 1 cup of crushed ice. Blend and sip for 185 calories.
  • Coconut Berry Smoothie: Combine the following in a blender: 1 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk beverage, 3/4 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries, 1/8 tsp. coconut extract, 2 no-calorie sweetener packets, and 1 cup crushed ice. Blend away and enjoy for just 105 calories. 
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