Smoothies seem so healthy—one refreshing drink can help you get a few servings of fruit, which boasts fiber and antioxidants, and some calcium from yogurt or milk.
But many fast-food versions are just vessels for delivering spoonfuls of sugar through a straw.Truth is, most fast-food smoothies are seriously bad for you.
Don’t get us wrong, they taste delicious, but they’re high in calories and often loaded with added sweeteners and super-sweet juice concentrates instead of actual fruit. Some even top 100 grams of sugar per serving—that’s like an entire pint of ice cream! (Why not make your own healthy smoothie recipe with one of these options?)
If you are really in the mood for a smoothie while out and about and can’t get home to make one, make sure to refer to our list below and choose your smoothie wisely.
Here’s, what to pick and what to pass on at eight popular chains:
BEST & WORST FAST-FOOD SMOOTHIES
Worst: Tripleberry Smoothie
Berries are lower in sugar than most fruits, so it’s a little confusing that Orange Julius’ Tripleberry is so sweet. The 16-oz medium has 390 calories and 86 grams of sugar—more sweet stuff than you’d get from four Snickers bars.
Best: Light Strawberry Banana Smoothie
This classic flavor has 200 calories and 42 grams of sugar in the same 16-oz cup—by far the best Julius offering.
Worst: Low-Fat Wild Berry Smoothie
Don’t put much stock in “healthy” claims like “low-fat.” This smoothie is the worst of Panera’s bunch, with 68 grams of sugar and 340 calories in a 16-oz medium cup. Part of the problem? It’s made with sweetened vanilla yogurt.
Best: Superfruit Power Smoothie with Ginseng
You’re way better off with this blend: It maxes out at 210 calories and 34 grams of sugar, thanks to plain Greek yogurt and a bit of the natural no-calorie sweetener stevia. Plus, it has more than double the protein of the Wild Berry flavor, so you stay fuller longer.
Tropical Smoothie Café
Worst: Kiwi Quencher Smoothie
This chain only serves one size (24 oz), so forget about portion control. If you choose this seemingly healthy flavor, you’ll ingest 254 calories and 100 grams of sugar—roughly the sweetness equivalent of an entire pint of ice cream.
Best: Detox Island Green Smoothie
This smoothie (made with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, and fresh ginger) clocks in at a far more reasonable 182 calories and 32 grams of sugar. That’s a sugar savings of 68%!
Worst: Orange Ka-BAM
BAM, indeed: Even in the smallest size (20 oz), this smoothie has 469 calories and 108 grams of sugar. That’s as much sweetness as you’ll get from almost three cans of Coca Cola. In fact, the chain actually adds pure sugar into this smoothie: “Turbinado,” one of sugar’s sneaky names, appears right on the ingredients list.
Worst: The Hulk Strawberry Smoothie
The Hulk offerings also fall under the Fitness Blend category, but they’re intended for those attempting to gain weight for their sport (or for an Oscar-grabbing movie role). The smallest size has an insane 964 calories, most of it coming from the thick butter pecan ice cream in each.
Best: Original High Protein Banana
A 20-oz cup of this smoothie has just 23 grams of sugar and 314 calories. We also like the simple ingredients list: banana, whey protein powder and almonds.
Worst: Greens ‘n Ginger Smoothie
Don’t be fooled by word “greens:” The first ingredient in this smoothie is lemonade. That’s probably why a 16-oz cup has a whopping 66 grams of sugar and 330 calories.
Worst: Peanut Butter Moo’d Smoothie
The cow noise in the title might say it all, unfortunately. Clocking in at almost 500 calories for the smallest size (16 oz.), the creamy treat is just that: a treat. Enjoy it, but remember it contains three times your daily recommended sugar allotment. Might as well have an ice cream sundae.
Best: Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie
This blend still has a high sugar count at 48 grams, but it’s much lower in calories (just 180) and it’s made without added sweeteners. The only ingredients: carrot juice, mangos, banana, and ice.
Best: Purely Carrot Juice
The vivid orange color conveys the vitamin-packed goodness that lies within. This juice contains no dairy, no artificial sweeteners, and almost zero fat of any kind. Plus, one 12 oz. cup boasts 700% of your daily vitamin A, pretty much guaranteeing perfect eyesight with every sip.
Worst: Evolution Fresh Mango Carrot Smoothie
Here’s another example of the veggies-aren’t-always-better principle: Each 16-oz cup of this smoothie has 42 grams of sugar and 230 calories.
Best: Chocolate Smoothie
This flavor is still high in sugar (34 grams per 16 oz), but it does have one advantage over the others: It’s rich in protein and fiber, both of which slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, helping prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. The extra boost comes from a whey protein/fiber powder, but that’s about as much information as we can get, since Starbucks doesn’t share detailed ingredients lists on its website.
Worst: Captain Kid
This “smoothie” is better classified as a dessert: The two ingredients are strawberries and orange sherbet. It’s no surprise that a 22-oz cup packs 350 calories and 75 grams of sugar—that’s more sugar than seven Krispy Kreme original donuts.
Best: PlanetPro Lite Banana & PB
With a total of 27 grams of sugar, this is one of the least sweet smoothies we’ve found. It does have a high calorie count of 540, but Planet Smoothie wisely markets this variety as a meal replacement. Order it for that purpose and you’ll be in the clear.
Worst: McCafé Mango Pineapple Smoothie
McDonald’s has yet to create a healthy smoothie. All three of the chain’s smoothie flavors are basically identical in their nutrition stats, but Mango Pineapple edges out the rest with 56 grams of sugar and 260 calories in a 16-oz medium cup.
We can’t in good conscience recommend a smoothie here. Your best liquid bet if you need a subtly sweet hit on the go is water with lemon. None of McDonald’s beverages made the list of best choices. With artificial flavors, syrups and sugar, we definitely advise you to skip the added calories and choose something better for you, like water or tea!
This summer, definitely try your hardest to make your smoothies at home. This way you know exactly what is in them and you can control the portions much better. If you can’t make them at home and have to order one to-go, then be sure to pick one of the better choices listed above.
It sure is a lot harder these days to know exactly what you’re getting when eating out, so study the menus ahead of time and choose the healthier options. Or, just opt to make your own delicious version at home with whole food ingredients.
We have some pretty delicious smoothie recipes here if you’d like to try them. They all include one amazing secret ingredient…can you guess what that ingredient is? Yep! Oolong tea!
You can’t even taste that it’s there, but you are still getting all of the amazing health benefits of the tea with added fruity goodness!
Have you tried Oolong tea in your smoothie before? If so, what’s your favorite smoothie tea concoction? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
And be sure to visit our online store for tea, accessories & more!