The Best and Worst Sips for Your Hips

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Made with wholesome fruit, milk and ice, what's not to love about a healthy smoothie on a hot day? Not so fast—although they may sound innocent enough, these summer sippers could actually be massive calorie bombs in disguise. Many common selections at smoothie chains and fast food restaurants pack two times more sugar than a candy bar and more calories than a burger and fries! Before drinking up, read on for the best and worst picks from popular smoothie establishments across the country. 

(All servings are 16 ounces, unless otherwise indicated.)

Smoothie Calories Fat Protein Carbohydrates Sugar
Sip at Jamba Juice: Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie  180  0.5g 3g 43g 38g
Skip at Jamba Juice: Peanut Butter Moo'd Smoothie  480 10g 13g 83g 72g
Sip at McDonald's: McCafe Strawberry Banana Smoothie  250 1g 4g 58g 54g
Skip at McDonald's: McCafe Mango Pineapple Smoothie  270 1g 3g 61g 58g
Sip at Orange Julius: Orange Light Smoothie  140 0g 0g 35g 32g
Skip at Orange Julius: Tripleberry Smoothie  290 0g 3g 72g 66g
Sip at Panera: Fat-Free Superfruit Power Smoothie (18 oz)  200 0g 15g 34g 31g
Skip at Panera: Low-Fat Wild Berry Smoothie  290  1.5g 6g 63g 53g
Sip at Planet Smoothie: Zeus Juice  180 0g 0g 47g 31g
Skip at Planet Smoothie: PBJ  500 19g 13g 73g 46g
Sip at Smoothie King: Slim-N-Trim Orange-Vanilla (20 oz) 208 1g 7g 46g 36g
Skip at Smoothie King: ''The Hulk'' Strawberry (20 oz) 964 32g 25g 145g 125g
Sip at Starbucks: Chocolate Smoothie (made with skim milk)  280  2.5g 20g 53g 34g
Skip at Starbucks: Strawberry Smoothie  300 2g 16g 60g 41g

Best Overall Smoothie: Panera Fat-Free Superfruit Smoothie
This smoothie's got it all! It has a reasonable calorie count and is relatively high in satiating protein, thanks to the addition of Greek yogurt.  It is also fairly low in sugar when compared with the others in the list. It would make a great morning meal or post-workout snack!

Worst Overall Smoothie: Smoothie King ''The Hulk'' Strawberry
This smoothie takes last place by a landslide. Tipping the scales at nearly 1,000 calories and 125 grams of sugar, this isn't a snack—it's more like two meals rolled into a syrupy-sweet, drinkable package! Although the Smoothie King menu states that this smoothie is designed for weight gain, we think there are healthier ways to do so that don't involve downing so much sugar all at once—much of which comes from a hefty serving of butter pecan ice cream in the ingredients list.

A Note about Ingredients 
When comparing different smoothies, it's important to note that there is more to the bigger picture than just calories and fat grams. Some smoothies contain a boatload of chemicals, additives and thickening agents, while others have more minimal ingredients lists. For example, in Jamba Juice's Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie, the ingredients are easy to pronounce and recognize: Carrot juice, mangos, bananas and ice—that's it! 

Though it might sound as healthy and refreshing as the Jamba Juice smoothie, don't be fooled by the McCafe Mango Pineapple Smoothie—this concoction has an ingredients list a mile long to help thicken, color and sweeten. Furthermore, this ''fruit'' smoothie doesn't even contain any real fruit; it's all puree and juice from concentrate. See for yourself (from McDonalds' website):

Water, Clarified Demineralized Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Mango Puree Concentrate, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Orange Juice Concentrate, Pineapple Puree, Passion Fruit Juice, Apple Juice Concentrate, Natural (Botanical Source) and Artificial Flavors, Contains less than 1% of the following: Peach Puree, Cellulose Powder, Pear Juice Concentrate, Xanthan Gum, Peach Juice Concentrate, Pectin, Citric Acid, Colored with Fruit and Vegetable Juice and Turmeric Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Preservative), Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Sugar, Whey Protein Concentrate, Fructose, Corn Starch, Modified Food Starch, Gelatin.

Wow--that's a mouthful! Be sure to check the ingredients if at all possible when selecting your smoothie (many restaurant websites have it available), and stick with the short and sweet lists to make sure you're getting the good stuff.

Finally, remember that making your own smoothies at home is the best way to control exactly what goes into them and avoid the crazy additives and sneaky calories that often find their way into restaurant versions. Plus, you'll save a good chunk of change—many smoothies can often set you back around $5-8 a pop! Try whipping up one of these healthy smoothie recipes the next time you get a hankering.

Do you drink smoothies? What do you like to put in them?

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EMGERBER 5/26/2021
A great article and I am thankful smoothies are something I do not really care for. Report
CD1260471 7/15/2020
Truepeacenik’s smoothie base:
Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, baby collards, chard). About two handfuls. Frozen? Dump in at least four servings.
Knob of ginger (about the size of the last joint of my thumb, or more)
Handful of berries (or more if I want sweet)
Mint leaves
Lime juice (Any citrus will do, bottled works. It’s for flavor)
Mint tea or water (any herbal tea works here)
A few chunks of pineapple/mango, if it needs to be sweetened
Occasionally cucumber
Celery juice (puréed, strained through a nut milk bag)

Cucumber, celery and parsley are natural diuretics which helps lower blood pressure and edema. Report
ELRIDDICK 7/7/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
Love smoothies on occasion. Thanks for the information. Report
Why do you keep editing me? Others say the same thing and receive NO EDIT! Report
I make my own! Report
Glad people are big on this preparation. Report
I love to make my own green smoothies at home. The grandkids also love drinking them with me. I use fresh ingredients and chia seeds for my thickening agent. Report
I make mine with lots of fruit and low fat or skim milk. Report
I stick with water or make my own smoothie Report
I make my own Report
A few of these were surprises Report
My daughter introduced me to a yummy green smoothie that i love. It consists of romaine, baby spinach, avocado, fresh ginger, lemon juice, few drops of stevia, some ice cubes, and a little water. Thick, refreshing, and great tasting! The look ? Somewhat scary however. Report
Thanks for the info. Report
Great tips Report
Unsweetened tea is even better! Report
I use greek yogurt, avocados, sometimes a banana. Frozen strawberries, or blueberries, baby spinach....yum! Report
I love husband bought me a small blender with several size glasses, lids and two blade attachments. Simular to the Magic Bullet blender. He bought it at Aldi's. I've been making smoothies with it a lot. I mix bananas, spinach, celery, yogurt, frozen fruit, juice, milk, avocados, oranges, tomatoes. I learned that some recipes call for ice, but using frozen fruit does the same. Ice is used only if you want it real cold. You don't have to use ice. It's a lot of fun to mix different things together. I put in whatever I feel sounds good to me. Report
I love smoothies... usually I mix 1 banana with plain yoghurt and little bit of coconut flakes... or banana and strawberry with milk... I don't go to McDonald's or any other place to get my smoothie when I have blender at home Report
I love smoothies. I lost 60 lbs by drinking smoothies daily and eating clean. Granted divorce brought me to gaining a lot of that back but smoothies are a simple controlled way to get fiber and awesome nutrients without
overwhelming someone. I swear by them! As long as they are homemade that is.
I'd rather chew something. Although smoothies are delicious they don't do it for me. Report
No, I don't do smoothies. I'd rather chew my meal than drink it. Report
What is the verdict on Wendy's Frosty ?? ( oh, so tasty-- so probably BAD) Report
Every day I make smoothies in my Ninja blender for my husband and I. This makes two servings. 2 C frozen blend of blueberry/red raspberry/blackberry whole fruit, 2 containers of Krogers Carbmaster strawberry/Pomengranate yogurt, about 1/4 C Kefir plain or strawberry low fat liquid yogurt (depends on how big the banana is) and one banana. Awesome and healthy! Report
as a personal trainer with a busy schedule, i LOVE smoothies. they are an easy way to get quick, healthy foods...the ultimate fast food. i often use the ones that are higher in calories and protein as a meal replacement. i'd tell you to check some of them on here but they don't seem to show up in the search engine for some reason. you can always look me up on facebook though.
I like to make a big batch on weekends and freeze in my grandkids' sippy cups. Makes a perfect size for me and the lid makes it perfect to freeze and then slip a frozen smoothie in my lunch bag for breakfast. They are great when they are thawed or even still slightly frozen - kind of like sherbet. Mine start with plain fat free Greek yogurt and then I add spinach, protein powder, flax seed, an orange (or lemon juice if I am out of oranges) a little honey for sweetener, frozen berries, and sometimes any other fruit I have on hand. Not exactly "smooth" with the flax seeds, but very yummy and healthy! (Also, the Barbie, Dora, and Cars sippy cups on my desk make for great conversation starters at work! :-) ) Report
I like 3-4 strawberries, 1/3 banana frozen, some blueberries, kale or spinach, or collards, (naked mango tango, blueberry-rasberry naked or the greens drink naked- bout 1/4 cup each) about a cup of water, chia seeds, splash lemon j, and ginger... Delicious.. oh yes, sometimes, a half 3-4 oz of plain kefir. Makes delicious smoothies.... Report
I make my own with unsweetened almond milk, low fat, low calorie Greek yogurt, vanilla protein powder, fresh banana, and unsweetened frozen fruit. Sometimes I add a capful of vanilla extract. This smoothie tastes wonderful and I know what is in it. Report
I make my own with organic fruit, almond milk and organic protein powder. Fast food restaurants have a dollar line to meet. They don't care about quality, just quantity. People, quit eating there! Report
Base (for two): sliced banana (frozen helps thicken better), 1 cup orange juice, 2 cups frozen mixed berries, a little water if it's too thick. Good as is, but I sometimes add a scoop of protein powder, a couple of tablespoons ground flax seeds, or a tablespoon of coconut oil (just barely melted to keep it from adding heat when I pour it in). Report
I have a smoothie almost every day. Make my own. Typcially, they have 3 servings of fruit & veggies, 17 grams protein, 8-10+ grams fiber, and approximately 300 calories. A smoothie is my normal breakfast. Report
I'm drinking one right now!! I freeze up a bunch of cut bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and tart cherries and put them in baggies, so they're ready to go. Then I add 1% or almond milk and either 2 Tbsp peanut butter or 1 Tbsp coconut oil...if I want chocolate, I add a teaspoon of raw cacao powder. Delish!!! Report
I love the Orange Carrot Karma from Jamba Juice. It is my favorite. By the way, Jamba Juice also has really yummy steel cut oatmeal. (way better than any oatmeal from starbucks or mcdonalds). That ingrediant list for the McDonalds smoothie made me sick to my stomache. Gross! Report
Every morning: kale ,chard, lemon,blueberries,apples, strawberries, flax seed oil and 1 1/2 cups water the blender.......heavenly! Report
I will have to skip all of them...too many carbs for someone with insulin resistance. Report
I put in 3 large strawberries.. 1/2 banana.. 10 blueberries...1 clementine ... 6 grapes... a thin slice of cantaloupe . . I know 4 grams = 1 teaspoon of sugar yet 125 kcals and 2 of my 4 fruit servings for the day! Report
I enjoy making my own smoothies. I like frozen strawberries, banana, yogurt or Almond milk, flax seed, almond butter. It's filling and I do make it differently at times. Meal or snack. I can't imagine sipping a 1000 calorie anything! Thanking for the information! Report
Never touch them......too high in sugar (4 grams = 1 teaspoon) may as well pick up the sugar bowl and dump it in your mouth. Water, That's the perfect "smooth" drink, or make your own smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, mixed berries, and peanut butter (1 tsp.) and spinach. if you have to add sugar, then 1 tsp. won't hurt. Report
If I buy a smoothie out it's usually a small McD's mango pineapple which has few calories, carbs & sugars than listed or a Dr Smoothie Butternut Squash Mango smoothie from a local coffee shop. I've looked up the nutritional info & with the 7 veg's it's a decent choice. Most of my smoothie's I make myself using one of the 50 calorie or less OJ's, frozen mixed fruit & a scoop of protein powder. I've added flax seed, cottage cheese or greek yogurt occasionally but prefer the fewer ingredients. Report
I agree with what a lot of other people have said....the topic is a good one, i.e. some smoothies are laden with sugar and calories, but some of the details make no sense...sip a smoothie that's 280 calories at Starbucks but skip the 270 calorie one at McDonald's?

A better piece of advice might have been something I didn't know before I ordered my last can ask them to leave out the sugar. In a lot of cases, this solves the problem. It does at Smoothie King. Report
I love smoothies. Unfortunately I seldom get to make them in the mornings (the blender disturbs hubby) I am a huge fan of banana strawberry smoothies. Sometimes I make them with cottage cheese to get the extra protein other times it's Greek yogurt or soy milk. This article was very informative. The only locations where I live that serve smoothies is McD's and the Starbucks Kiosk inside our local grocery. I was particularly concerned when reading the ingredients in the mango pineapple McD smoothie. I will stay away from that one but I probably will check out the chocolate one at Starbucks. Report
After long rides, I make myself a blueberry banana flaxseed protein shake. It's a gut buster (about 700 calories), but it's loaded with nutrients, and right after a ride I need the carbs and the protein.

As much as I love these, I only make them after a long ride. gee, maybe that's the key: pay attention to what you're eating and whether there's room in your daily calorie "budget." Report
ABP's smoothies are decent (although a little pricy). most are around 200 calories and made with real fruit. i watch them make them right in front of me.

also, the only "slim & trim" smoothie i ever had at Smoothie King tasted kind of like a SnoCone in a cup that didn't even have enough flavoring on it. not worth my money. if you want something that tastes good, there are much better options there. not everything is as caloric as the Hulk.

in any case, i'm getting my own blender soon. excited to start experimenting at home. Report
I love smoothies, but of the places on the list that I've actually heard of, Jamba Juice is the only option that works for me. Being allergic to cow milk limits your choices of mix based smoothies, which most of these are, I think. Or at the very least, there's no dairy-free option available.

It would have been nice if the article included a bit more explanation of what criteria they were using to say "good" or "bad." It's nice they pointed out the "Hulk" smoothing from where ever was marketed as a weight-gain drink, but why didn't they also mention that the Peanut Butter Moo'd from Jamba Juice is labeled an "indulgence"? It's not like they're trying to pretend it's good for you.

...sorry, didn't mean to sound like an add, I just really like Jamba Juice smoothies when I don't have the time/ingredients to make my own. :) Report
ok..the mcd's ones are only what 20 calories diff..big deal most smoothies have alot of calories to start with plus from what I have read most smoothies are made with low fat/fat free milk which can hold more sugar then full fat milk.and some fat free/low fat milk have fake sugar which is worse then real.. Report
I would much rather make my own, but let's face it, sometimes you are away from home and can't prepare your own food. Even a homebody like me gets stuck in such a situation sometimes, and it's nice to have an idea of your options ahead of time so you're prepared.

The difference between the sip and skip at McDonald's and Starbucks are so close, I'd just go with whichever one you like more. I'd much prefer mango pineapple over strawberry banana, especially since mango and pineapple are more of an uncommon treat for me as it is, while I eat bananas and strawberries to death. So if I were to eat at McDonald's, which doesn't happen more than once every couple years anyway, I'll take the extra ten calories and crappy ingredient list if I've already consented to eat there, thanks. ;) However, I am really glad to see that it's being treated with a more discerning eye than one that sees just calories and macros.

As for the comment that this is a "ridiculous article," I disagree. Some of the drinks mentioned are pretty terrible for you, and there is still a portion of the population who thinks smoothie=healthy. You might know that's not automatically true, and I might know that's not automatically true, but not everyone has the same awareness. Let's not discount how helpful this could be for them. Report
Like many who have commented, I also make mine at home. The McDonald's and Starbucks ones didn't seem that much different between Sip and Skip, but I'd guess they both taste pretty bad compared to what I make. Report
This is a pretty ridiculous article. Report
I make my own with frozen fruit, almond or soy milk, and silken tofu for protein. Sometimes I put baby spinach in them. I mostly like them in the summer time when it's hot out. You don't need to add sugar to make it taste good. Report