Question:

Is a 450 cal healthy smoothie better for you than 450 cal of some other food item? I’m wondering if there is such a thing as healthier calories.

 

 

Answer:

The nutritional value of foods besides energy matters greatly! Beyond the calories derived from carbohydrate, protein and fat, nutrients critical to optimal health include fiber, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. The best prevention for most major chronic diseases is to avoid saturated animal fats, refined flours and added processed sugars. Take all of these together and you have a spectrum of ‘healthfulness’ provided by foods.

Let’s take a simple apple for example:

A medium fresh apple with skin provides 4 gm fiber and 14% Daily Value of Vitamin C.*
Peel and cook that apple into unsweetened applesauce to get 2.6 gm fiber, 2% Daily Value of Vitamin C and less water content.*

Still healthier than the equivalent calories from straight candy, the applesauce isn’t “good” or “bad”. The comparison is relative. I hope you’d agree that a balanced meal of fish, mixed vegetables and brown rice is healthier than the equivalent calories from macaroni & cheese. So to answer your question about a healthy smoothie or other food item, it depends on the alternative.

You might be giving up the liquid bound in the smoothie if you opt for solid foods, but would perhaps gain more protein or fiber. Plus, what is ‘healthy’ for one person or use may not suit another. A smoothie made with mango, coconut milk, protein powder and wheat germ might be your ideal breakfast, but be troublesome for a person with diabetes who needs a slower digesting meal. A large omelet of egg whites, spinach, salsa and feta cheese could be healthy for someone trying to lose weight, but would be a poor choice for an athlete’s pre-race meal.

Whatever you choose, remember that variety is key. You’ll end up with more nutrients at the end of the week by alternating your meal components rather than eating the same thing every day.

 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

 

*USDA Household Fact Sheets, 2012.

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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