Are Smoothies the New Sandwiches? Here’s the Truth About “Healthy” Shakes

We’ve seen it before — a hungry TV character at home, making themselves the classic sandwich: Two slices of white bread, ham, lettuce, tomato, mustard, and mayo. Our protagonist makes their way back to their couch, excited not only to munch on something that will hold them over until dinner, but that they can enjoy while watching their favorite TV program. From Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy scarfing down a mountain of sandwiches taller than his head, to Joey’s obsession with meaty subs onFriends, sandwiches hold a special place in the snack group and in our stomachs. Yet, with people in the US choosing to invest more in healthier food, and with the slow decline of fast-food sales, sandwiches might just have met their much-healthier match: the smoothie.

Easier, less time-consuming to prepare, and, depending on what kind of smoothie you make, less costly, the smoothie is arguably one of the best snack alternatives to touch our taste buds. But are they as healthy as they seem? Do they pack more nutritional punch and provide as much fullness as the good ole’ sandwich?

According to Stephanie Clarke, RD and Willow Jarosh, RD co-owners of C & J Nutrition, it really depends on what kind of smoothie or sandwich you make.

“A sandwich that uses whole grain bread and includes a protein and fruit or veggies provides an ideal balance of protein and high fiber, which keeps your blood sugar levels steady for longer and therefore helps maintain a more consistent energy level,” Clarke and Jarosh responded in an email to POPSUGAR. “So if you build a snack smoothie that also offers protein and high fiber carbohydrate, then it’s a great snack option.”

While smoothies can be equally as protein-packed as sandwiches, depending on what you make them with, according to Clarke and Jarosh, not all smoothies are healthy. In fact, some smoothies purchased out can contain way more sugar than ideal. “Smoothies that use frozen yogurt, sherbet, sweetened yogurt, or juice (instead of whole fruit) as a base tend to have a lot more sugar than you’d want in a meal or a snack,” Clarke and Jarosh said. “Those smoothies should be considered treats/desserts.”

So then what makes a healthy smoothie? According to Clarke and Jarosh, it’s all about balance—nutrient balance. That means a protein source, a high-fiber carb, and a fat source in your smoothie. You don’t want to stick to just one component. For example, a smoothie composed of only fruit would only deliver high fiber carbs. As a result, you’ll miss out on the protein and fat necessary to keep you satisfied and your energy lasting longer. But most importantly, what makes the “perfect smoothie” is, well, that you enjoy it. “A healthy smoothie should also have great flavor,” Clarke and Jarosh said. “And be something that you get excited to sip!” Guess sandwiches don’t have too much to worry about, after all.