Are Fast Food Smoothies Healthy?

Are McDonald's smoothies healthy?

Smoothies are the latest fast food trend and are marketed as being healthy.  But are they?  Let's de-construct the three types of smoothies you might encounter in life.

The Fast Food Smoothie

Commercials portray the fast food smoothie as whole fruit, magically swirling, into a "healthy smoothie".   Maybe I was expecting something more evil, but these smoothies are actually made from a fruit puree base.  The base is mass produced and made for easy instant dispensing.  But "fruit based" doesn't make it healthy.  The nutrients have long gone and they contain a lot of sugar, preservatives, anti-foaming agents, and all sorts of things that shouldn't be in food.

The "Smoothie Bar" Smoothie

"Smoothie bar" smoothies, like Jamba or Booster juice, are primarily made with fresh fruit, because fruit tastes sweet and good and AWESOME!

But fruit is also full of natural sugar ... which is great as a snack, but not as a 710ml/24oz meal replacement (most people get the large, right?)   While the fruit is fresh, it's hard to know what's in the other ingredients, boosters and add-ons.

Another reason to be choosy about "smoothie bar" smoothies is the sugar content.  Besides the fruit, smoothie bars add juice, which unlike the fruit...has no fiber, just sugar.  Take a look at the sugar content in the following:

1 cups of berries 7g
1 Medium apple 17g
1 Medium banana 14g
Tim Hortons Smoothies (286ml) - 30-32g
McDonalds Smoothies (426ml) - 54 to 70 g
Small Jamba Juice (500ml) - 38-50g
Small Booster Juice (355ml)  15-40g

Surprisingly, some choices at Booster juice were not that bad, mainly the "Hardcore" smoothies and some of the cranberry/berry smoothies.  But most of the smoothies have A LOT of added sugar from juice, sorbets or other ingredients.  You could ask them to sub in water for the juice.

Lucky for me, I live by a health food store with an organic smoothie bar.   Smoothies are made-to-order, with options like organic brown rice protein powder, stevia, unsweetened almond milk, and peanut butter.  But at $8 each, it's for emergency situations only!

The Veggie Smoothie

The veggie smoothie is usually made at home.  Most are not pretty and will make all your co-workers go EW!  The goal is to have a higher ratio of greens than fruit.  Keeping the sugar content low, keeps the blood sugars even, preventing havoc later on.  From there you can add a little protein, and perhaps some other good for you ingredients.

Veggie smoothies take experimenting.  I find baby spinach to be the most tasteless, but like all sorts of greens in my smoothies.  By adding powerful flavors, you can't even taste them.  As with all leafy greens ... organic is truly best.  I buy my organic baby spinach in tubs from Costco or my grocery store.  I add them to my Vitamix jar first, give them a quick rinse with vinegar water, and then carry on with the rest of my ingredients.  (Yes, you need to wash your pre-washed greens!  Google the studies done!)

You can customize your smoothie with many add-ins.  Cocoa Nibs, Chia seed, all sorts of seeds, nuts, lemon, ginger, etc.  When it comes to protein I usually stick to nuts, but I occasionally use an unsweetened organic brown rice powder.  I like adding a few drops of SweetLeaf stevia if my smoothie is not sweet enough.

Here's the key:  You need a powerful EASY-TO-CLEAN blender like a Vitamix.  No one likes a mess and the Vitamix takes 20 seconds to clean.  For more information on which model to buy and where to get the best deals, check out our  How to choose a Vitamix and get the best deal post.

Here's some smoothie recipes and tips:

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