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By Lynn Difley

You've seen them sprouting up all over. Smoothie stands. In the mall, just around the corner, drive up and walk in. Selling the latest in health food fads, the delicious beverage nicknamed the Smoothie. Not the outdated "milkshake", too fat and calorie laden to mention, but a newer updated version of thirst quenching. palate satisfier. Maybe you have sampled a few smoothies, they're just the thing for a hot afternoon break. With a smoothie, you can enjoy your favorite flavors and still feel virtuous about watching your calories and fat, right?

Well, yes and no. There are many varieties of smoothies that are a lot lower in calories than the old fashioned ice cream based milkshake. The smoothie is just a handful of fruit blended into a healthy concoction, so claim the advertisements. However, as you probably have learned by now, "things ain't always what they seem" There are many blends of fruit and fruit juices that are both low calorie and packed with vitamins. There are also those that contain as many calories as a whole meal and the fat allowance for the whole day. A delicious concoction called the Papaya Paradise, offered by a California based chain tots up a whopping 552 calories. Just for comparison you could eat two Lean Cuisine roast turkey breast frozen dinners for the same calorie cost. It sounds like a delicious healthy blend, with papaya, peaches, bananas, orange sherbet, coconut and ice. Mix it all up and you have a hefty chunk out of your daily food allowance. How about a Raspberry Madness which contains 425 calories? A McDonalds hamburger, just for comparison has 360 calories. What was it I said earlier about updated healthier milkshakes? I found a smoothie called Hulk, blended up by the Smoothie King chain, which has a delicious blend of premium ice cream, chocolate and other goodies. Total calorie tag- 950 calories with 29 grams of fat. This is about half of your daily calorie allowance, the whole day’s fat, and doesn't have redeeming nutritional value.

Smoothies are not all sinfully costly. Many are made with such healthy ingredients as nonfat milk or yogurt, berries or fruits, and shaved ice. These can satisfy your thirst for less than 100 calories and provide calcium and vitamins, depending on the fruit selected for the drink. To keep calories low, look for fresh, frozen or water packed canned fruit, juices and nonfat dairy products. Beware when you see chocolate, heavy syrup, premium ice cream, peanut butter or whole milk on the ingredient list. Other danger flags are coconut, honey, coconut cream, fruit nectar, and protein powder. Calorie alarm! Calorie alarm! These are destined to go straight to your waistline, without passing your digestive tract. You can increase your vitamin and mineral value by choosing a smoothie with honeydew melon, or cantaloupe, any kind of berries, kiwis, bananas, low fat yogurt or milk and orange or other fruit juices. In addition, choose whole fruit whenever possible, to increase the fiber content and increase satisfaction by giving a feeling of fullness.

Many smoothies also advertise special ingredients called "boosters" or "enhancers" touted as healthy additions to the basic smoothie. Some outlets may claim such health miracles as "cure a hangover" " promote healing", "burns fat", "increases immunity", "restores vitality" etc. Naturally, they come with an additional price tag. Many of these extra ingredients cost 50 cents a pop, which can increase a $3.00 smoothie to a $5.00 price tag quickly.

What are some of these "extra nutrition additives" and are they worth paying for?

Aloe Vera juice. The famous burn remedy, appearing regularly as a miracle cure for a wide range of ailments. There is no scientific proof that swallowing it cures or treats anything. Not only that, some of the constituents may be carcinogenic and it could cause severe cramping, diarrhea and bleeding, in its form as a laxative.

Chromium picolinate. This one is touted as a fat burning, muscle building substance, again with no scientific proof. It cannot increase lean muscle mass, only lifting weights can do that, and it has no curative effect on diabetes, as some claims assert.

Acidophilus- This is a good source of beneficial intestinal bacteria, valuable for assisting digestion, but is also the active ingredient in yogurt, so if your smoothie is yogurt based you can skip this additive.

Turbinado. Sounds impressive, but it's nothing more than sugar.

Bee pollen. This one's been around for years making wild claims for health benefits. The only way you can benefit from bee pollen is if you are a honeybee. Not only does it not boost immunity, it could cause a severe allergic reaction, if you are allergic to bee stings.

Spirulina- Highly touted to do everything from cure acne to impotence, "purify blood" and cures most diseases. It is of little proven benefit. It does have a few vitamins, but not as much, nor as valuable as most fruits. Chlorophyll, one of its main ingredients, is of benefit to plants, not humans.

Ginkgo Biloba. Claims are it improves blood flow and circulatory disorders, prevents or cures absent-mindedness, memory loss, and dementia. Don't I wish? Actual studies show it may have limited benefits for some Alzheimer’s patients, no proven benefit for others.

Ginseng. Another ingredient that's been making miracle cure claims for ages. No evidence that it does anything.

You may also see such enticing offerings as amino acids, echinacea, brewers' yeast, wheat grass and who knows how many other worthless at best additives advertised. Don't bother, you can spend a fortune on such expensive herbal and nutritional supplements in any health food store with equal questionable benefit.

The bottom line is, as usual, read the list of ingredients and make a wise, informed choice. Enjoy these refreshing nutritious drinks by choosing ingredients you know are healthy and low cal. Ask for skim or nonfat milk or yogurt based smoothies. Add any fruits you please, or fruit juices, as well as ice, for the wonderful texture. Turn up your nose at the high calorie additions, and the useless herbal or nutritional supplements.

For your blending pleasure, here are a couple of recipes for smoothies you can whip up at home or in the RV, all you need is a blender. Crank up the generator and enjoy!

Raspberry Delight:

Two servings- with 110 calories each,

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

6 Tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate

1 cup ice cubes

2 sprigs fresh mint.

Process berries, limeade and ice in a blender until smooth. Pour into two frosty glasses and garnish with mint leaves.


Very Berry Shake

serves 2 Cals- 180 adds calcium and is chock a block with vitamin C

1 cup fresh strawberries

1 cup pineapple chunks

1/2 cup raspberries

2 tablespoons limeade

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt

Process all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

A great breakfast in a glass!