Friday, July 1, 2011

Fruit Smoothies... Good Food or Sugar Treat?

We love to make smoothies of all types at home, using our beloved BlendTec Home Blender, for a healthy snack, or even a quick breakfast.  We generally keep a big supply of frozen berries on hand, just for this purpose.  Besides the fruit, they might include yogurt, soy milk, protein powder or other various additions.  My favorite is Strawberry-lemon, or mixed berry,  either kind with a handful of spinach thrown in to supply more vitamins and minerals while not adversely affecting the taste... The appearance is another issue, but I quickly learned to ignore the weird color, and the kids don't mind either.  We add minimal amounts of organic cane sugar or Blue Agave Nectar for some sweetness.                                                                                                                           
When our couple of hours of wedding shopping would almost always turn into all-day outings, fruit smoothies were what we'd crave when tired, hungry, and thirsty.  So we've tried a few different kinds lately.  Most seemed very sweet, and I began to wonder if this was the healthy repast we were hoping to revitalize us, or if we were, instead, further burdening our bodies with an overload of sugar.                                                                                                                                                                         
My curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to do a little research on the drinks we usually choose from chain smoothie bars.  I will, in fact, be compiling information as I write, so at this point, have no idea of how the different smoothies will compare.  (I am depending on each brand's websites for their respective nutritional information.)  When finished, I will highlight the best commercial choice, respectively, in calories, protein, sugar, and fiber with green, and the worst with red.                                                                                                                  
Tully's Wildberry Fruit Smoothie, 16 ounce
Calories:  330
Protein: 1 g (although you can add a 'boost', which I did)
Carbs: 82 g
Sugar:  82 g??  (See notes below)
Fiber: 1 g
Notes:  This is the one we felt was the sweetest, and suspected it was more of a sugary treat than helpful meal. Ingredients for this drink are listed as "Ice, Red Tea, and Wildberry Real Fruit Smoothie Mix." Not exactly a detailed list.  They also don't list sugars on their nutritional chart, so I'm not sure how much of the carbs might be fiber and how many are sugar.  I searched the internet further, and found that the site lists the Tully's smoothies' carbs as all sugar.  

Starbucks Strawberry Vivanno Smoothie, 16 oz
Calories: 280
Protein: 15 g
Total Carbs: 54 
Sugar: 39 g
Fiber: 6 g
Notes: Their ingredients: "Natural strawberry puree, 1 whole banana, milk, whey protein & fiber powder, ice."  I wonder if the puree is 100% berries, or if sweetener is added.

Jamba Juice Pomegranate Paradise, 16 oz
Calories: 240
Protein: 1 g (again, I add a protein boost to this)
Total Carbs: 60 g
Sugar: 53 g
Fiber: 4 g
Notes: Their ingredients are listed as "Pomegranate Juice Blend, Strawberries, Mangos, Peaches."  Again, I wonder if any sugar might be added to the 'juice blend?'  Their claim of "All fruit, totally healthy.  Just fruit and juice..." seems to say there isn't.

Jamba Juice Razzmatazz Classic Smoothie, 16 oz
Calories: 270
Protein: 2 g
Total Carbs: 63 g
Sugar: 51 g
Fiber: 3 g
Notes:  Ingredients include "Mixed Berry Juice Blend, Orange Sherbet (definitely added sugar here), Strawberries, Bananas, Ice."

I haven't ordered this one, because McDonalds is a place I avoid, but a TV commercial touting this made me want to check it out:
McDonalds' Mango Pineapple Smoothie, 16 oz (I used their measurements for the 12 oz and scaled up so it could compare to the others at 16 oz)
Calories: 293
Protein: 4 g
Total Carbs: 65
Sugar: 65
Fiber: 3 g
Notes: The ingredients are Mango Pineapple Fruit Base, Ice, and Low Fat Yogurt.  McDonalds, to their credit, actually lists the ingredients of their 'fruit base,' which is mostly juice concentrates, plus a bit of coloring and preservatives...No added sugar, except what was listed in the yogurt. 

Of these, it's pretty clear that the best nutritional choice for lowest sugar and best balance of protein and carbs is the Starbucks Vivanno.  The addition of protein & fiber boosts, which the Vivanno already includes, will help the JambaJuice options come close.  Jamba Juice also has many other offerings I haven't checked that might fare even better than those shown.  I like that they use more whole fruit and have so many selections.  Tullys is the clear loser in the fruit smoothie category, and we will be avoiding that one from now on. (I still like their Espresso Bellaccino and coffee drinks, which I never expected to be healthy in the first place.)  The McDonalds offering looks OK by the numbers, but I'd rather have fruit than all that fruit juice concentrate.

Now to compare to what I make at home...
RHome410 Strawberry-Lemon-Spinach Smoothie, approx 16 oz
Calories: 206
Protein: 2.4 g (plus 6 grams from optional addition of 4 oz plain, Greek yogurt)
Total Carbs: 54 g
Sugar: 36 g 
Fiber: 7.7 g
Notes:  Using SparkRecipes recipe and nutrition calculator (which is pretty cool!) to get these calculated amounts, I put in the following ingredients: 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, 3/4 c fresh spinach, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 5 tsp organic cane sugar (replace with 1/2 to 1 Tbsp blue agave nectar for lower sugar), water.  Their calculator not only gave me the information I posted above, but also a breakdown of vitamins and minerals, and the option to save and share the recipe.
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