Smoothies are paradoxical beverages—they're either a nutritious, weight-loss-supporting drink or a calorie-laden treat, depending on their ingredients. "Smoothies can be made to be one of the healthiest drinks to sip on or they may be one of the most calorically packed beverages. It all depends on what goes into the blender!" says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Miami, Florida
The major culprit behind unhealthy smoothies is added sugars, hiding in syrups, juices, honey, and more. But Ehsani warns that seemingly innocent protein powders can also contribute to sugar overload. Additionally, a smoothie's fat content can soar with full-fat milks or creamers.
"[Smoothies] may be high in total fat and [saturated] fat if there's full-fat milk or creamers like heavy cream or coconut milk being added to it," Ehsani explains.
On the flip side, a smoothie can be a nutritionally dense beverage that provides you with a good source of fruit, veggies, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. "Plus, smoothies can be hydrating too!" adds Ehsani.
Since smoothies are notoriously sweet, it's important to keep track of their sugar content before you start sipping. To shed light on this aspect, we put together a guide to the 10 unhealthiest smoothie orders across major chains, ranked based on their sugar content. Read on, and for more on what you should be drinking, check out 7 Healthiest Store-Bought Smoothies—and 4 To Avoid.
Gingerbread Smoothie – Jamba Juice
This holiday smoothie is packed with holiday flavor–but also tons of sugar.
"You might be tempted to sip on something with a holiday spirit by choosing this gingerbread smoothie, but it packs nearly your days' worth of saturated fat and is above the recommended added sugar per day as well," says Ehsani.
Pina Colada Julius — Orange Julius
This tropical smoothie is high in saturated fat and sugar.
"This smoothie packs 4.5 grams of saturated fat, which is one fat you should keep to a minimum, to support heart health," says Ehsani. "It also packs 80 grams of added sugar just in the small size. It is quite low in both fiber and protein, so won't leave you full or feeling satiated after, either."
Cookie Crusher — Planet Smoothie
This probably won't shock you–but with "cookie" in the name, it's a sugar disaster.
"The Cookie Crusher at Planet Smoothie is listed under meal replacers, which makes sense as it packs a meal's worth of calories in one 20-ounce drink," says Ehsani. "However, I wouldn't consider this a healthy meal replacement, as its first ingredient is Oreo cookies. It's best to choose a meal replacement drink loaded with fruits and veggies."
Tripleberry Julius — Orange Julius
Although this smoothie claims to be packed with berries, there's way more sugar than fruit.
"The Tripleberry Julius at Orange Julius packs 460 calories in a small size, 100 grams of carbs, and 92 grams of sugar. It's way too high in sugar and only contains 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein, which won't leave you satisfied after sipping down this smoothie," explains Ehsani. "It's better to make your own berry smoothie at home using whole berries (fresh or frozen) to get in plenty of filling fiber and add a cup of Greek yogurt or a scoop of protein powder in there to make it more filling."
PB + Banana Protein (Whey) Smoothie — Jamba Juice
Besides the sugar, you should be wary of this smoothie's calorie content.
"This smoothie is one of the highest calorie ones on the menu for the smallest size, containing 560 calories," says Ehsani. "If you are having this smoothie as a meal replacement, it could work, but if you are having it just for a snack or post-workout snack, it packs a meal's worth of calories in one drink."
PBJ — Planet Smoothie
This small smoothie is anything but–with 20 ounces, it has a ton of calories, fat, and sugar.
"The PBJ smoothie at Planet Smoothie is one to skip," says Ehsani. "It packs 600 calories with 51 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to a meal's worth of calories and days worth of added sugar in one cup."
The Hulk Espresso — Smoothie King
This coffee-based drink packs an insane amount of sugar, and practically no fiber.
"The Hulk Espresso at Smoothie King 20 oz (the smallest size), is high in total calories, total fat, sodium, carbohydrates and added sugar," says Ehsani. "It contains a whopping 90 grams of sugar, in their smallest size, which is way too high of an amount to consume per day! The daily recommendation set by the Dietary Guidelines is no more than 50 grams of sugar (for someone on a 2000 calorie diet), while the American Heart Association even recommends no more than 24-36 grams per day."
Chia Banana Boost — Tropical Smoothie
The ingredients in this smoothie sound healthy, making it deceiving, because it packs 91 grams of sugar.
"When looking at the ingredients of this smoothie, you might be thinking chia seeds, bananas, almonds, oats are healthy for me, and you may be tempted to order this smoothie–but this smoothie is the opposite of a healthy option," says Ehsani. "It packs nearly 800 calories, more calories than an average-sized meal plus 128 grams of carbs with 91 grams of them coming from added sugar!"
The Hulk Strawberry — Smoothie King
Even though this smoothie is fruit-based, it still packs an insane 91 grams of sugar.
"The Hulk Strawberry Smoothie packs nearly 900 calories in one drink! It's by far one of the highest calorie smoothies you may come across," says Ehsani. "It also contains 91 grams of added sugar and 146 grams of carbohydrates, which is almost double the amount of added sugar recommended to have per day. Finally, it is too high in saturated fat, packing 16 grams of sat fat per cup, which is above the recommended 13 grams set by the American Heart Association.
And the highest-sugar smoothie is… the Peanut Butter Cup — Tropical Smoothie Café
Peanut butter cups make this smoothie more of a milkshake.
"Peanut butter lovers will be sad to learn that this smoothie is one to avoid," says Ehsani. "It packs 108 grams of sugar in just one serving, which is over double the recommended amount of sugar to shoot for in one day."