Jumbo Juices and Crappuccinos
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We've been conditioned to
think the word smoothie is synonymous with healthy but many are quite the
opposite. Smoothie's not a word you need to strike from your vocabulary but,
like most things you put into your body, you should pay attention to the
particular ingredients. Some are great, while others are little more than ice
cream in a cup. Here's a quick rundown on the types of smoothies you're likely
to encounter and when, or if, you should drink them.
"smoothies"A smoothie used to be a blend of various whole fruits with,
perhaps, a bit of protein powder and/or other ingredients that were healthy,
didn't taste great, and were best hidden in a mixture of yummy fruit. Nowadays,
they can be almost anything. In stores, however, most of 'em still follow that
traditional blend. They also have the nutritional information listed on the
side so it's easy to see what you're drinking. This, I guess, is why you'll
almost never see a Peanut Butter/Chocolate blast at your local market but
you'll often see spirulina.
Analysis: Most of these
drinks are pretty darn healthy, and it's obvious when they're not. Just read
Jamba Juice, et
al.I'm using the Jamba Juice model because they're the biggest smoothie
chain, but there are plenty of others and most follow a similar format of
varying drink options. Coffeehouses get in on this too, which I'll discuss
Smoothies. Jamba calls these "classics," because it's all they offered
before consumers caught on to their hype and demanded healthier options. Not
that they delivered on consumer demand, but let's start here. These are mainly
made of fruit, with some amount of dairy dessert, like sherbet, added for a
smooth texture. At an average around 500 calories (for an "original" size, or
medium) and 100 grams of sugar, this is not exactly the "light lunch" many
people thought they were getting.
Analysis: The only time
this is an appropriate snack (or meal, really) would be if you were doing an
excessive amount of exercise. Adding protein powder as an option helps balance
it a little bit but, basically, there is no way around the fact that this is a
high-sugar meal, which is only okay if you happen to be burning a lot of blood
- Functional Smoothies. These use industry
buzzwords in drinks like Acai Supercharger, Matcha Green Tea Mist, Protein
Berry Pizzazz, Coldbuster!, and a host of other really healthy-sounding items.
Some of them had a slightly higher amount of protein but checking the bottom
line, an "original" also had around 500 calories, 400 or so of which came from
once asked "what's in a name?" and maybe he was referring to a business he knew
would pop up in a few centuries. Don't believe this marketing hype; their only
function would be to fuel you after a long bout of very intense exercise.
Smoothies. How did they do it? They look the same. They're the same
size. Yet, these average around 300 calories, about 250 of which are sugar. In
order to reduce calories they've used nonfat milk, whey protein, and Splenda.
This does boost their protein content a bit, an improvement over the classics,
but you have to deal with Splenda.
Analysis: Do two pluses
offset a minus? You get fewer calories and more protein, but what's with the
Splenda? This somewhat disgusting artificial sweetener (basically chlorinated
sugar) has a lot of negative press surrounding it. It probably won't hurt you
in small dosages but it begs to ask the question "why?" Surely they could have
found something healthier.
- All Fruit
Smoothies. These don't use dairy products and stick to fruit juice and
fruit. But it's sweetened fruit juice, so their 300+ calories are nearly all
Analysis: Another sugary
sports drink. Sure, there are vitamins and antioxidants in this stuffit's made
of fruit after all. But you're far better off with a piece or two, or three, of
whole fruit, which is healthier, more filling, and doesn't cause a sugar
Moo'ds. These are the chocolate-anything's that invariably show up on
the menu. They like to advertise that they are "made with nonfat milk" or some
other hollow promise but a medium "Peanut Butter Moo'd" contains 21 grams of
fat (190 calories), 122 grams of sugar, 480 mg of sodium, and checks in at 840
Analysis: You might as
well go for the ice cream. If that's what you want, there's not much trade-off
here. These have no place in a healthy diet except as some kind of reward. They
are decadence, pure and simple.
al.Coffee chains have gotten in on the game, too. Sometimes called
smoothies, they are also referred to by various other names. Coffee and tea
don't have any calories and give you a rush. But people seem to want their rush
with other assorted items, like sugar and fat, so now when you order a black
coffee at one of these places you often get a strange look or are asked "are
you sure?" because, I guess, that's not what the cool kids are ordering. So
let's have a look, shall we? Because the kids won't stay cool if they keep
eating like this.
- Frappuccinos. An
average 24-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino (at least it's their large, or venti)
has around 700 calories, 25 grams of fat, 100 grams of sugar, 400 milligrams of
sodium, and 70 milligrams of cholesterol. You can save a few hundred calories
by ordering "light," almost all of them sugar because artificial sugar is
Analysis: These are
dessert items. There is no other way to categorize them.
- Lattes 'n'
such. These are slightly less caloric and vary quite a bit. A grande
nonfat cappuccino might only have 100 or so calories but a venti white
chocolate mocha with whipped cream has over 600.
Analysis: There's a lot
of variance here and, I believe, most of you know the good from the bad. Here's
a quick rundown:
- Coffee or tea:
Zero cals; unsweetened without adding milk or cream, the best option.
- Milks and
cream: Nonfat is best, then low-fat and last is whole, which is highly
caloric and loaded with fat. Half and half or cream is even worse. Soy milk is
a good option for the lactose intolerant but has similar fat and calories of
regular milk. Most non-dairy creamers are filled with sugar and hydrogenated
junk. You're better off with the real stuff
- Chocolate, caramel,
vanilla, etc.: All of these flavorings are sugara lot of
cream: 100% fat and condensed sugar and almost zero food
- Chai and other
holistic-sounding stuff: These follow the exact same pattern as the
Frappuccinos. The only difference is that they use tea instead of coffee as
their base. Often touted as "a taste of Asia" or some such nonsense, these have
long ago lost any trace of "exotic spices" and are flavored by the same junk
that's in all this stuff. It's more like a taste of the Mulan ride at Disney