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We love a good morning smoothie to help us start the day right—full of energy and nutrients to accomplish all we've set out to do. However, smoothies can quickly become sugar bombs if you're not careful, causing a crash and burn just a few hours into your day. Luckily, McKel Kooienga, a registered dietitian and founder of the popular blog Nutrition Stripped, shared her hack for keeping the sugar down in your smoothie without compromising on creaminess and flavor—frozen zucchini!
Kooienga says zucchini is the perfect ingredient for bulking up your smoothie because it has a neutral flavor but is creamy and buttery like a banana—a go-to smoothie ingredient. Not only does zucchini offer a texture boost, but it''s loaded with nutritional benefits as well. This green veggie delivers healthy nutrients like potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese, and is much lower in calories than bananas or other creamy smoothie additions, which is nice if you're trying to save calories and lose weight.
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I can personally attest to this simple hack for a tasty and healthy smoothie, and it just takes a little prep the night before to get a delicious, creamy breakfast. All you need to do is wash and chop a small zucchini (or several if you want to do this every morning) and store it in the freezer in an airtight container until you need it. It's pretty tasteless but does add a nice texture boost! You can also use half a banana and half a small zucchini to ease into this new change, or add a little honey or another sweetener like maple syrup to your smoothie if you do the full zucchini.
While we love this swap, especially during zucchini season when there's a lot of these veggies to use up, it's important to note that you shouldn't be concerned about your intake of fruit, including bananas—unless you think you may be eating too little. Fruit is full of essential nutrients, like fiber, vitamins and healthy carbs, and about 75% of us are missing the mark.
Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D., nutrition editor for EatingWell, explains that since fruit is full of all these vital nutrients, our bodies do process the sugar in fruit differently than the sugar in, say, a doughnut or soda. The zucchini hack is great if you already have a fruit-full smoothie, want to enjoy a smoothie on a low-carb diet or are looking for easy ways to eat more veggies, but it shouldn't be used in an effort to avoid consuming fruit.