Healthy smoothies. Those words are often used hand in hand, but many smoothies aren’t healthy at all. In fact, they often have more calories and sugars than a serving of ice cream. With the right approach, making a nutritious smoothie doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are four tips—along with some recipes—for getting the most health benefits out of this tasty warm-weather treat. 

1. Blend It Yourself

Store-bought and pre-bottled smoothies may be convenient, but they can be packed with excess calories, fat, and sugars. For example, a small Jamba Juice “Strawberry Surf Rider” has 320 calories and a whopping 70 grams (about 17 teaspoons) of sugars. Some of those grams come from the natural sugars in the peaches and strawberries of course, but it’s also sweetened with a lemonade and sherbet blend, which are full of added sugars. Health authorities recommend that 10 percent or less of your daily calories come from added sugars. So if you’re on an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet, you should be getting no more than 45 grams.

You might also be surprised to find that sodium levels in store-bought smoothies can be high. Order a small (which is 20 ounces) of “The Shredder” at Smoothie King and you’ll get 330 milligrams (along with 355 calories). “This is quite a bit of sodium, considering you are only supposed to have 2,300 mg per day,” says Maxine Siegel, a registered dietitian and manager of food testing at Consumer Reports. 

2. Load up on the Veggies

Many of us have trouble incorporating a variety of vegetables into our daily diet, but if you sneak them into smoothies, it can help up your intake. “When you use a blender, as compared to some juicers, you’re getting all of the vegetable’s fiber, which helps you feel full,” says Siegel. Sweeter veggies like beets and carrots are good choices, but you can mask the bitter taste of highly-nutritious dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, by combining them with fruit in your mix. Siegel suggests tossing a handful of kale or spinach into any smoothie recipe. 

3. Skip the Extras

Bee pollen, creatinine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), green tea powder, guarana, vitamin C—these are just a few of the extras found in so-called healthy smoothies available at smoothie shops, gyms, and supermarkets. You’ll often see some kind of claim attached to these extras—more energy, muscle builder, immune system booster, burn fat faster, to name a few. The problem isn’t just that these claims have little, if any, good evidence behind them, some of the ingredients can be harmful if consumed in excess. For example, guarana naturally contains caffeine. Up to 400 mg of caffeine—the amount in two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee—per day can be part of a healthy diet for most adults, but chances are you won’t know how much caffeine guarana adds to your smoothie, and you may easily exceed 600 mg, the amount the Food and Drug Administration says is too much in a day.

What about extra vitamins and minerals? You can skip those too. “The vast majority of people can meet their nutrient needs with food alone. But high doses of some vitamins and minerals can have negative effects and when you start adding them to foods, you risk overdoing it,” says Siegel. Naked brand’s “Power-C Machine” smoothie, for example, packs 1,900 percent of the daily vitamin C recommended in one 15-ounce serving. According to the National Institutes of Health, too much vitamin C can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and other intestinal problems. 

For more, read "Is a Juice Cleanse Right for You?"

4. Add Creaminess the Healthy Way

Almond and soy milks, avocados, low-fat yogurts, and nut butters can give you that smooth texture and add some healthy fats, says Siegel. Toss some flax or chia seeds into your healthy smoothies, which are not only a good source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, but also contain decent amounts of fiber, protein, and vitamins. Frozen fruit also adds that satisfying thickness. 

For inspiration, here are four recipes for some healthy smoothies you can try:

Lean Green Dream: In a blender, add 1 banana frozen then thawed for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 cups chopped kale, 1/2 cup almond milk, and 1 tablespoon honey. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Per serving: 260 calories, 3g fat, 125mg sodium, 6g fiber, 35g sugars, 8g protein. 

Chocoholic's Delight: In a blender, add 1 medium banana frozen then thawed for 15 to 20 minutes, 4 ounces silken tofu, 1/2 cup chocolate almond milk, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Per serving: 230 calories, 5g fat, 80mg sodium, 6g fiber, 25g sugars, 8g protein. 

Fruit-and-Fiber-Frappe: In a blender, add 1/4 cup oats and blend until powdery. Add 1 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries, 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon orange zest. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Per serving: 320 calories, 2.5g fat, 45mg sodium, 8g fiber, 39g sugars, 17g protein. 

Tropical Temptation: In a blender, add 1 cup frozen tropical fruit mix (pineapple, mango, and papaya), 1 6-ounce container non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut-flavored almond milk, 2 teaspoons sugar. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Per serving: 240 calories, 2.5g fat, 130mg sodium, 3g fiber, 32g sugars, 19g protein.