Smoothies are hot. They’re on the menu at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Pinkberry, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and, of course, Smoothie King. And homemade smoothies are so popular, say market watchers, that they’ve boosted sales of frozen fruit and blenders.
Companies are cashing in on the smoothie craze with frozen fruit-veggie blends, frozen “thaw & go” cups, breakfast smoothies, and more. What should you be looking out for?
Juice smoothies are mostly juice plus fruit or vegetable purée. They may have a health halo, but you’re better off eating whole fruit or veggies. Our bodies don’t seem to recognize liquid calories as much as solid-food calories, even if the liquid is fruit juice. That means we don’t compensate for its calories as well by eating less food later. So juice can help pad your waistline.
And some juice smoothie labels are, let’s just say, pretty smooth. Actually, pretty slick. Here are a few of their tricks:
“NO SUGAR ADDED,” says Naked Boosted Blue Machine. True, but a 15 oz. bottle has 320 calories and 13 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar, mostly from (nutrient-poor) apple juice plus some puréed banana and berries. That’s almost twice the calories and about the same amount of sugar as 15 oz. of a sugary soft drink.
How many servings of fruit?
“3 ¾ servings of fruit per bottle,” says the 15 oz. bottle of Bolthouse Farms C-Boost. Really?
A half cup (4 oz.) of juice does count as one serving of fruit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So any 15 oz. bottle of juice has 3 ¾ servings of fruit. (C-Boost is a mix of juice and purée.)
But here’s the fine print: The USDA also recommends that most of the fruit you eat be whole fruit, not fruit juice. So not all of the C-Boost smoothie bottle will count as servings of fruit for most people.
Usually mostly apple juice.
“Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all together in one smoothie? Whoa. It’s like a tiny farmers market in my hand,” says Naked Pure Fruit Berry Blast.
Each 15 oz. bottle has only a handful of berries: 5 blackberries, 4 raspberries, and 4 strawberries. Most of the “Berry” in the Blast is cheap apple juice, which is little more than flavored sugar water.
Get out your magnifying glass if you want to see the greens.
Trader Joe’s Very Green smoothie may look like a bottle of kale juice, but it’s mostly apple juice, fruit purées, and pineapple juice, with less than a tenth of an ounce of “dried greens blend.”
Other smoothies with just a smidgen of greens: Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness, Naked Boosted Green Machine (with “10 green turbo-nutrients”), and Odwalla Original Superfood.
“100% daily value of 13 essential vitamins per serving,” says Bolthouse Farms Multi-V Goodness Cherry. And “32% daily value fiber per serving.”
Big deal. Bolthouse adds a multivitamin pill to its mostly-apple-juice smoothie. Most people already take a multivitamin pill, which is far more economical. And much of the fiber in “Goodness Cherry” comes from dextrin and inulin, not fruit purée. Those processed fibers may not have the same benefits as fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
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