With the craze of juicing, blending and vitamix-ing, what could possibly sound better than a fruit smoothie on a hot summer day? Consumer research shows that even though a large percentage of meals are consumed away from the home, fast food diners desire healthier menu options. In efforts to keep up with the trends, many fast food chains now offer smoothies. With buzz words like “pomegranate” and “low-fat” circulating through ads, a fruit smoothie has got to be a healthy choice, right? In fact, a smoothie just naturally sounds healthy. One important piece of information to remember is that a homemade smoothie is very different from one prepared for you at a fast food restaurant.
McDonald’s fruit smoothies have been marketed as fresh, low-fat and a refreshing way to quench one’s thirst. According to their website, the strawberry-banana smoothie is made with a strawberry-banana fruit base, low-fat yogurt and ice. A small, 12 ounce serving contains 210 calories, 3 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fat. At first, this looks like a great option; however, this fruit drink also packs in 44 grams of sugar. To put things into perspective, one 12 oz can of Pepsi contains 26 grams of sugar. What I find curious with these numbers is the lack of protein found in the smoothie, considering low-fat yogurt is one of the main ingredients.
A 16 ounce blue raspberry and cherry Coolata from Dunkin’ Donuts contains 240 calories, no protein or fat, but nearly 61 grams of sugar. Feeling lucky with Burger King? Their small 12 ounce tropical
mango smoothie packs in 270 calories and 51 grams of sugar. Starbucks’ 16 ounce orange-mango smoothie comes in with 260 calories and 37 grams of sugar. However, unlike other fruit smoothies, this one packs in 16 grams of protein (mainly from the skim milk added to the smoothie).
Are these smoothies worth your money and calories? My vote leans toward no. It may be tempting to go with the larger size because of the better value, but your best bet is to stick with the smallest options available. Look for smoothies that are made with skim milk or non-fat yogurt for the additional bonus of nutrients from protein, calcium and vitamin D.
Smoothies can be a great way to incorporate nutrients into a healthy snack or meal. If you’ve got picky eaters in your household, smoothies are also a convenient way for sneaking in super foods like spinach and ground flaxseed.
How to Make a Smoothie:
Step 1: Start with fresh/frozen fruit. Popular choices include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, mangoes, kiwi and pomegranates. Fruits with a high water content such as watermelon, oranges and pineapple may also be used, but this may cause your smoothie to be more liquid in consistency.
Step 2: Add your liquid/base. This is an excellent opportunity to include a calcium and vitamin D source into these treats. Try milk or low-fat yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant, almond, coconut or soy milk may be used in their place. Yogurts, especially Greek, will result in a thicker smoothie. Try frozen Greek yogurt as a fun replacement.
Step 3: Add your sneaky extras. Adding one tablespoon of ground flaxseed will give your smoothie an antioxidant, omega-3 one-two punch. Extra protein may be added from peanut butter or whey powder. Greens like kale and spinach also blend very well in smoothies and do not offset taste.
If you need additional sweetness added to your smoothies, try natural sweeteners first like ripe bananas, honey, agave nectar, cinnamon or vanilla extract.
Step 4: Add ice and blend away!
Here are two kid-friendly smoothie recipes that will satisfy any hot summer day: