"Nothing to eat for me," my friend Elise said last week. "I'm on a cleanse. I'll just get a smoothie." We were driving to a meeting and the closest quick bite was at Mickey D's. She ordered the healthy-sounding Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie—the large. I ordered the Big Mac, a guilty pleasure.
"I haven't had much success with my cleanse," Elise continued. "I'm not losing weight and am exhausted. I guess I'm just not getting enough calories."
"You're getting plenty," I said. "Problem is, you're not getting the right kind!" Then I offered her a bite of my burger. (If only she'd enjoyed one of these 56 Best Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss she'd be having better luck.)
When it comes to weight loss, calories aren't everything. A balanced diet means a solid mix of protein, fats, and carbohydrates—and a Big Mac is relatively balanced: 25 grams of protein, 28 grams of fat, and 9 grams of sugar for 540 calories. But look at the "healthy" smoothie she ordered: At 340 calories, it had 70 grams of sugar—the equivalent of more than 17 sugar packets—and very little fat or protein.
Even the healthiest smoothies at major chains contain a worrisome amount of sugar. Starbucks, for example, offers one of the healthiest options, but their offerings contain 41 grams of sugar. Most of that sugar comes from real fruit, but be aware: The World Health Organization recommends that we eat no more than 25 grams per day for optimal health, while The USDA recommends that we eat no more than 50 grams. Keep an eye out for the smooth criminals below and trade them in for the 150+ delicious drinks in Zero Belly Smoothies!
DAIRY QUEEN TRIPLEBERRY PREMIUM FRUIT SMOOTHIE
24 oz: 470 calories, 113 g carbs, 103 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 25.75 packets
Sure, this smoothie has fewer calories than a Big Mac, but as we told you before, calories aren't everything. Somehow the ice cream Queen managed to swell this smoothie with 103 grams of sugar, making it one of the sweetest sips on this list. And since there's hardly any protein or sugar to counteract the effects, you bound to suffer a major crash soon after you finish slurping. Ask for the Strawberry Banana Julius instead to slash 40 grams of the sweet stuff from your order. Curious how all of your other favorite DQ treats stack up? Check out our special report Every Dairy Queen Blizzard—Ranked!!
Drink This Instead: Strawberry Banana Julius Original
12 oz: 330 calories, 73 g carbs, 63 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein
JAMBA JUICE ORANGE DREAM MACHINE
28 oz: 590 calories, 128 g carbs, 120 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 12 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 30 packets
Perhaps the "dream" in the name is induced by the sugar crash you have shortly after riding this Machine. Built on a base of orange juice, orange sherbet, and nonfat frozen yogurt, this smoothie is a calamitous collision of sugars. The somewhat similar, but very different, Orange Carrot Karma cuts the calories and sugars significantly, and adds 4 grams of fiber, by swapping carrots into the mix. Speaking of veggies, throw some greens into your smoothie, using one from our new Eat This, Not That! special report: 10 Delicious Greens Healthier Than Kale.
Drink This Instead: Jamba Juice Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie
28 oz: 310 calories, 76 g carbs, 66 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 5 g protein
RED MANGO HONEY BADGER FAT BURNER
24 oz: 590 calories, 125 g carbs, 102 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 17 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 25.5 packets
"Fat burner"? We're assuming the task of fat-burning will be left up to you after you down the sugar equivalent of 14 Fudgsicles. While Red Mango has some of the most drinkable smoothies in the restaurant world, this catastrophe falls, oddly, on their "Body Balance" menu. Whose body are they trying to balance against, Andre the Giant's? Curious what other "healthy" noms will expand your waistline? We've got you covered in our report, 14 "Health" Foods Worse Than a Donut.
Drink This Instead: The Strawberry Sonata
24 oz: 230 calories, 56 g carbs, 28 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 3 g protein
BASKIN ROBBINS MANGO BANANA SMOOTHIE
24 oz: 620 calories, 149 g carbs, 127 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 32 packets
The second ingredient in this healthy sounding sip is sugar, which explains why it contains more of the sweet stuff than five York Peppermint Patties. (Various forms of sugar are also listed as the ninth and tenth most used ingredients in this drink. ) While we typically like to make swap suggestions that are similar in size, in this case, we couldn't swing it. The healthiest smoothie at Baskin Robbins contained over 100 grams of sugar in a 24-ounce serving. Get the Strawberry Banana Smoothie and size down to the 12-ounce cup to keep your love handles from tripling in size.
Drink This Instead: Strawberry Banana Smoothie
12 oz: 250 calories, 60 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 50 g sugar, 3 g protein
RED MANGO THE BANANA PB PROTEIN
24 oz: 630 calories, 91 g carbs, 69 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 26 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 17.25 packets
Aside from the fro-yo, this smoothie sounds like it would be pretty healthy, as it calls for things like banana, peanut butter, flax seeds, granola, and protein powder to round out its flavor profile. But don't get it twisted; this drink is a prime example of a fraud. A mere half-cup of Red Mango's frozen yogurt has 19 grams of sugar, and far more than that goes into this drink. Not to mention, granola is one of the most sugary add-ins in smoothie land. By ordering the strawberry-banana option instead, you're cutting the calorie count in half and getting more naturally occurring sugars in your drink, and less of the added kind, making it the better pick. For even more healthy A.M. picks, check out these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes.
Drink This Instead: Strawberry-Banana Fruit & Yogurt Smoothies
24 oz: 310 calories, 73 g carbs, 65 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein
PLANET SMOOTHIE IPANEMA BEACH
22 oz: 660 calories, 72 g carbs, 49 g sugar, 8 g fiber, 13 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 12.25
Get this: Planet Smoothie actually has a "meal-replacement" menu, and this 660-calorie sip isn't on there. Last we checked no one should be downing that many calories as a snack. If you're looking for a drink to tide you over, the vacation-inspired piña colada banana smoothie is by far the better choice—and speaking of snacking smart, be sure to stock up on some of these delicious high protein snacks.
Drink This Instead: Piña Colada Banana
22 oz: 260 calories 56 g carbs, 32 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 4 g protein
COLD STONE MANGO STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE
20 oz: 694 calories, 117 g carbs, 85 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 21.25 packets
Made with strawberries, mango juice and their "Lifestyle smoothie mix," which sounds suspiciously like sugar syrup, this is not the kind of lifestyle we're aspiring to. With 85 grams of sugar, you'd be drinking the liquid equivalent of four Kit Kat bars. Instead, order the pineapple blueberry flavor—or lose more weight with one of these 25 low sugar fruits.
Drink This Instead: Pineapple Blueberry
20 oz: 322 calories, 46 g carbs, 32 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein
Eat This! Tip
To increase the staying power of your pineapple blueberry smoothie and slow down the absorption of the sugar, ask for a small side of peanuts. (They have them on hand as an ice cream topper.) With 4 grams of protein for just 90 calories per half-ounce, they're just the addition this drink needs to keep you satiated for hours to come.
PLANET SMOOTHIE PBJ
22 oz: 710 calories, 102 g carbs, 64 g sugar, 15 g fiber, 18 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 16 packets of sugar in one serving
The list of ingredients in this smoothie starts out well (peanut butter—we can get behind that for the protein) and turns sinister (frozen yogurt—what is this, a dessert?). The result is a caloric punch that's nearly 200 calories more than a Big Mac—and nearly as much sugar as you'd find in two dozen Ginger Snap cookies. Ditch the froyo and go with the Planet Pro Banana & Cocoa. It might sound counterintuitive, but you'll enjoy dessert flavors at a fraction of the calories and sugar if you choose this protein-packed smoothie instead. For more calorie-saving swaps, check out these 25 Ways to Cut 250 Calories.
Drink This Instead: Planet Smoothie Planet Pro Cocoa & Banana
22 oz: 350 calories, 52 g carbs, 27 g sugar, 8 g fiber, 30 g protein
SMOOTHIE KING THE HULK STRAWBERRY
20 oz: 964 calories, 145 g carbs, 125 g sugars, 8 g fiber, 25 g protein
The USDA recommends that we eat no more than 50 grams of sugar a day. This smoothie breaks through that barrier, blowing through four and a half days' worth of the sweet stuff in one 20-ounce cup! Plus, liquid calories are absorbed more quickly than solid calories, because the digestion process is quicker. That's a sugar rush that will send you flying! Not only will switching to Lean1 Strawberry eliminate nearly 700 calories from your order, it also reels in the sugar count to a far more respectable amount. For even more ways to cut back on the white granular stuff, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar!
Eat This Instead!
20 oz: 270 calories, 39 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 25 g sugar, 16 g protein
JAMBA JUICE PEANUT BUTTER MOO'D SMOOTHIE
28 oz: 980 calories, 152 g carbs, 131 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 26 g protein
Sugar equivalent: 32.75 packets
Stealing the number one spot on our list is this near 1,000-calorie smoothie from Jamba Juice. And considering this sip is made by tossing peanut butter, bananas, vanilla frozen yogurt, and chocolate milk into a blender we can't say we're too surprised. If you wouldn't pound three-and-a-half cans of soda in one sitting, you should be skipping out on this waist-expanding smoothie.
Drink This Instead: Protein Berry Workout Smoothie with Whey Protein
28 oz: 450 calories, 90 g carbs, 76 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 21 g protein