Best and Worst Smoothies

The real skinny on smoothies, plus 3 healthy smoothie recipes.

From the WebMD Archives

They’re refreshingly cool, come in fun, fruity flavors, and are served with a straw. What’s not to like about smoothies? They’re so popular that you can now find them at fast food restaurants, grocery stores -- even coffee shops. But while smoothies may sound like a healthy treat, sometimes they’re anything but.

Smoothies are usually made with healthy ingredients like soy milk, fresh or frozen fruit, skim milk, or yogurt. But some also feature plenty of high-fat and/or high-sugar items like ice cream, peanut butter, sweetened syrups, or chocolate. What you can end up with is a drink that has upwards of 600 calories, enough saturated fat to rival a double cheeseburger, and carbohydrate grams in the triple digits -- and that’s just for the small size.

Consider: A 20-ounce serving of Smoothie King’s The Hulk-Strawberry has more calories than a Burger King Double Cheeseburger with a medium order of French fries (it totals 990 calories, 52 grams total fat, 19 grams saturated fat). Dairy Queen’s Tropical Blizzard (with 1,122 calories, 62 grams fat, and 25 grams saturated fat) has more total fat and saturated fat than the same fast-food meal.

If you’re looking for a healthy smoothie, your best bet is usually to keep it simple. The label on Emerald City’s Fruity Supreme Smoothie, for example, shows just four ingredients: banana, strawberry, nonfat milk, and protein. Any smoothie that includes nonfat milk, soy milk, or yogurt will likely contribute a nice dose of protein, along with other goodies like vitamin D, B-12, and/or calcium.

If you’re having a smoothie in place of a meal, look for a smoothie with at least 5 grams of protein and a similar amount of fiber, so it will be more likely to hold off hunger for more than a couple of hours. If your smoothie is a between-meal snack, you’re better off choosing the smallest size possible and keeping the calories below 300.

The Best and Worst Smoothies

And now for my list of the best and worst smoothies, from a nutritional standpoint. To be considered for the list, the item had to be called a “smoothie” or something very similar. The serving sizes range from 10 ounces to 24 ounces, so I ranked them by calories per ounce.

All of the smoothies in the “best” list are free of saturated fat, contain no more than 61 grams of carbohydrate and at least 4 grams of fiber, and have 17 calories or less per ounce.

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10 Best Smoothies

(Listed from lowest to highest calories per ounce)

Calories

Fat

Sat. Fat

Carbs

Fiber

Protein

Calories per oz

Jamba Juice LightStrawberry Nirvana, 16 oz

150

0g

0g

31g

3g

5g

9

Jamba Juice Light Berry Fulfilling, 16 oz

150

0.5

0

32

4

6

9

Jamba Juice Light Mango Mantra, 16 oz

150

0.5

0

31

2

6

9

Emerald City Smoothie Island Breeze, 24 oz

220

0

0

55

6

2

9

Dannon Light ‘n Fit 0% Plus Mixed Berry & Pomegranate, 14 oz

140

0

0

28

0

8

10

Emerald City Smoothie Pacific Splash, 24 oz

240

0

0

58

6

2

10

Orange Julius Light Smoothie Berry-Pom Twilight, 20 oz

230

0

0

55

5

3

12

Emerald City Smoothie Fruity Supreme, 24 oz

280

0.5

0

59

6

12

12

Smoothie King “Make it skinny” Slim-n-Trim Strawberry, 20 oz

275

1

0

61

5

8

14

Starbuck’s Vivanno Smoothies(Made with skim milk)Strawberry Banana, 16 oz

270

0.5

0

56

7

16

17

10 Worst Smoothies

(Listed from highest to lowest calories per ounce)

Calories

Fat

Sat. Fat

Carbs

Fiber

Protein

Calories per oz

Dairy Queen’s Tropical Blizzard, 20 oz

1120

62g

25g

126g

9g

22g

56

Smoothie King’s The Hulk-Strawberry, 20 oz

1035

32

13

121

8

27

52

Orange JuliusCocoa Latte Swirl, 20 oz

960

23

19

156

5

34

48

Planet Smoothie’s PBJ, small 22 oz

780

32

6.5

115

8

21

35

Planet Smoothie’s Java the Nut, small 22 oz

690

22

8

108

3

14

31

Orange JuliusBlackberry Storm, 20 oz

680

15

13

128

6

12

34

Sonic’s StrawberryFruit Smoothie, 20 oz

670

0

0

166

4

5

34

Emerald City’s PB&J, 24 oz

630

25

4.5

77

12

22

26

Surf City Squeeze smoothiePeanut Butter Banana, 20 oz

629

25

8

95

12

12

31.5

Emerald City’s Coconut Passion, 24 oz

600

23

7

80

24

24

25

3 Smoothie Recipes

One way to make sure your smoothies are healthy is to make them at home. All it takes is a blender and a few key ingredients in your refrigerator.

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Design-Your-Own Fruit Smoothie

One of my favorite combinations for this smoothie is vanilla low-fat yogurt with V8 Fusion Light (Pomegranate Blueberry) for the juice and frozen blackberries or blueberries for the fruit.

Ingredients:

6 ounces (3/4 cup) any light or low-fat yogurt or plain yogurt

6 ounces (3/4 cup) any 100% fruit juice

1 cup any frozen or fresh fruit

1 cup crushed ice

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to blender or food processor and pulse until mixture is blended and smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving

Per serving: 270 calories, 9.5 g protein, 50 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0.8 g monounsaturated fat, 2.9 g polyunsaturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 10.5 g fiber, 102 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 15%. Omega-3 fatty acids: 2 grams, omega-6 fatty acids: 0.8 gram.

Vanilla Chai Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vanilla light soymilk (such as Silk brand)

1/2 cup vanilla light or low-fat yogurt

2/3 cup frozen banana slices

1/2 cup crushed ice

2 pinches ground cinnamon

2 pinches ground ginger

1 pinch ground cloves

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to blender or food processor and pulse until mixture is blended and smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving

Per serving: 149 calories, 7 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 0.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 124 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 6%. Omega-3 fatty acids: 0.1 gram, omega-6 fatty acids: 0.4 gram.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 cup light vanilla soy milk (or 1/2 cup 1% or nonfat milk plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons natural-style smooth peanut butter

2/3 cup frozen banana slices

1 packet Splenda or other alternative sweetener of your choice (optional)

2/3 cup crushed ice

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to blender or food processor and pulse until mixture is blended and smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

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Makes 1 serving

Per serving: 284 calories, 10 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat, 3.8 g saturated fat, 8.2 g monounsaturated fat, 5 g polyunsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 206 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 50%. Omega-3 fatty acids: 0.1 gram, omega-6 fatty acids: 4.5 grams.

NOTE: Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and the omega-3s increase to 2 grams.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2009 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for WebMD and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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