The Deceptive Fillers To Look Out For In Frozen Smoothie Mixes

Your favorite frozen smoothie mix might be working against you. Freezer aisle smoothie packs are a big convenience, just plop one into the blender with some milk or ice, and bam — instant liquid lunch. Maybe you drink smoothies for the health benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables, or perhaps they are your meal replacement on the go, pre-workout fuel, or simply because they're delicious. Whether you drink them to bulk up or to lose weight, some frozen smoothie mixes have a deceptive, little secret you need to know about: fillers.

The worst offenders in this category are added sugars. Fruits and some vegetables already have their own natural sugars, which you already expect in your smoothie, while hidden processed sugars can be harmful. If you drink smoothies for weight loss, you might not realize how much extra sugar can be hiding within those innocuous frozen packs of mixed fruit. They could contain covert allergen triggers or even affect blood sugar levels.

That being said, you do not have to give up your daily smoothie fix, but you do need to know what's in the mix. Learn to read misleading food labels to spot the fillers, sugars, and other additives that might be lurking in your frozen smoothie.

Frozen smoothie mixes can be filled with added sugars

The average person consumes too much sugar, and the top source to blame for this is sugar-sweetened beverages — including frozen smoothie mixes. The dangers of consuming too much sugar are obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other conditions. If you are already dealing with one or more of these, then avoiding excess sugar is of even greater importance. This is where recognizing deceptive marketing tactics used on food labels comes in.

Despite truth in labeling laws, corporations exploit loopholes to conceal what really goes into their products. For example, there are over 60 different ways to refer to sugar. Those with the word sugar in their name are obvious: beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, confectioner's sugar, palm sugar, etc. But sugar is also disguised by other names. Check for ingredients ending in -ose, such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose, which are all sugars. Other names sugar masquerades as are: barley malt, dextrose, juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, and maltose. Does your frozen smoothie mix list any of these on the label?

Smoothie mixes are sometimes advertised as sugar-free when sweetened with unrefined sugars like agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, or rice syrup. The reality is that these are all still sugar. Companies get away with calling these sugar-free because they do not contain white sugar. Pretty sneaky.

What other additives are hiding in your frozen smoothie mix?

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose can also find their way into frozen smoothies. Are artificial sweeteners better than sugar, or even safe? That's debatable, but we prefer our smoothies to be both refreshing and chemical-free.

Another common additive to watch for is protein powder. Vegans should pay attention to the protein's source, which could be eggs, or milk derivatives like whey. Allergy sufferers must be on alert for triggers like soy, peanuts, and wheat gluten. There are still more fillers used in smoothie mixes to look out for, like the thickeners and emulsifiers maltodextrin, psyllium, xanthan gum, and carrageenan.

The best way to avoid added sugars and fillers in your smoothie is to make your own. Try bananas as a sweet and creamy base with no sugar needed. If you like things super sweet, throw in some dates instead of processed sugar. Hide greens like spinach in a smoothie to boost nutrients, add protein with yogurt or silken tofu, get healthy fats from nut butters or avocado, fiber from oats, and omega-3s from chia, flax, or hemp seeds. There are even genius smoothie hacks to help you save time, like freezing fresh fruit before blending, which adds volume to your frosty treat. You can still enjoy ready-made frozen smoothie mixes though, just be sure to always read the fine print.