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10 Secrets Smoothie King Doesn't Want You to Know

Here's how to avoid the menu's diet disasters.

Editor's Note: A Smoothie King representative reached out to Eat This, Not That! with some corrections to this article, which was originally published Nov. 4, 2021. We've updated the copy below. 

Whether you're eating healthy or just trying to add more fruits and veggies to your diet, a cool smoothie really hits the spot. Smoothie King promises that its smoothies offer the health-maximizing benefits of natural, real fruits and juices, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein.

When considering a smoothie, especially from a chain like Smoothie King, be aware that smoothies have the potential to be diet-busting bombs. Sugar levels in fruit and juice can boost calorie counts to shake levels, and a scoop of this and a touch of that can add calories, sugar, and sneaky fats that will turn a healthy drink into a hefty liquid meal. Here's how to be on your guard at Smoothie King. (Plus, find out the 11 Secrets Dunkin' Doesn't Want You to Know.)

Stick with the Stay Slim Blends.

stay slim blend
Smoothie King/ Facebook

If you're watching your waistline, don't be fooled by the brand's Take a Break blends. Almost all of them have a sneaky ingredient listed: turbinado. Don't know it? It's minimally processed sugar, the same as you'll find in those Sugar in the Raw packets, and a good way to undo all the healthy aspects of a veggie and fruit drink. Every smoothie that contains turbinado has an additional 100 calories from carbohydrates and 24 grams of added sugar.

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Some of their 'no added sugar' drinks still have lots of natural sugar.

veggie lemon ginger spinach
Courtesy of Smoothie King

Smoothie King considers only sugar and sugar derivatives to be added sugar. But fruit juices can add a ton of sugar and no fiber. Case in point, the Veggie Lemon Ginger Spinach has no added sugar but it contains, mangos, pineapples, and two different juices that bring the sugar total to 60 grams for the 20-ounce smoothie and only 6 grams of fiber.

In an email to Eat This, Not That!, a representative for Smoothie King maintained that "natural sugar, like the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and fruit juices, is different from added sugar when it comes to a balanced lifestyle." They also noted that the chain "uses whole fruit, dates, and fruit juices to sweeten many of its blends naturally and is intentionally transparent about which of its blends do contain added sugar (like turbinado) and which do not so that guests can choose the smoothie that's right for their own unique tastes and goals–which could be different from one day to the next."

14 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugars

Some of the fruit might come from cans.

Smoothie King/ Facebook

According to a post by a Reddit user claiming to be an employee, some of the fruit that goes into your smoothie is frozen, some fruit is fresh, but some also comes canned or sweetened. "The strawberries are frozen in their own syrup. We would get new ones in weekly, and they are only a few days removed from being picked," the employee wrote. "The bananas are peeled by hand. They are left to ripen a little bit, but not too brown. The more brown [sic] the more natural sugar they have. The coconut is shredded dry coconut. The peaches and pineapple come from large industrial cans."

A Smoothie King representative disputed this former employee's claims as "inaccurate" in an email to Eat This, Not That!. The chain "does not use coconut or peaches in any of its current blends or stock these ingredients in store. Additionally, its pineapple is not canned. As part of Smoothie King's Clean Blends initiative, we are transparent and give guests a choice of whole strawberries (no added sugar) or whole strawberries with added sugar based on our guests' goals and preferences."

 Side Effects of Eating Canned Foods Every Day, According to Science

Read the menu very carefully.

smoothie king menu
Monae I./ Yelp

The menu at Smoothie King is huge. Some of the smoothies are low-calorie, like the Stay Slim Blends, others are meant to be 'meal replacements' like the Gladiator line. The Hulk drinks are particularly frightening. Billed as 'bulking smoothies,' each has a base of butter pecan ice cream. The small strawberry version has 890 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 128 grams of sugar. The large has 1770 calories, 64 grams of fat, and 256 grams of sugar!

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Stick with a small.

smoothie king small
Smoothie King/ Facebook

Sizes at Smoothie King are kind of out of hand, with a small being a 20-ounce drink, a medium 32 ounces, and a large coming in at a whopping 40 ounces. As you upgrade, calories and carbs can get out of hand fast. For example, a small Coffee High Protein Almond Mocha is 400 calories for a small and 810 for a large.

 11 Most Fattening Smoothie Ingredients, According to Experts

You're going to feel more full eating whole fruit.

low carb smoothie
Smoothie King/ Facebook

While a smoothie is a nice treat and a seemingly easy way to get your fruits and vegetables, it won't fill you up. In an April 2018 study published in Nutrients, researchers found that energy-containing liquids are less satiating than foods in a small sample size of just 28 participants. Though participants reported feelings of enjoyment of smoothies, eating a whole fruit salad was found to be more filling.

A Smoothie King representative highlighted that it provides a wide range of blends rich in protein to "help keep guests full and power their day" in an email to Eat This, Not That!. "Extra protein can be added to any smoothie on the menu with the addition of high-quality protein powders, nut butters, and more."

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Smoothie King started due to the founder's desire for a dairy-free milkshake.

smoothie king

Founded in the 1970s, Smoothie King is the result of founder Steve Kuhnau experiments with mixing fruit, proteins, and other ingredients in a blender at home. According to Grey Journal, Kuhnau had grown up with extreme food allergies to ingredients such as dairy and had a hard time creating full meals around his allergies, and he was jealous he couldn't drink milkshakes. So, he attempted to replicate a shake with fruit, ice, and juice, instead. As a result of drinking the smoothies often, his blood pressure came under control, so he decided to go public to help others like him. The business was sold in 2012 to Wan Kim, a franchisee from Korea who steered the company to healthier smoothies.

 12 Healthy Smoothies That Taste Like Decadent Fall Desserts

Beware of added sweeteners.

smoothie king sweetener
Smoothie King/ Facebook

Depending on what you're looking for in a smoothie, it's good to be aware that many of the options in the Slim and Trim line have added sweeteners–specifically Stevia. Stevia is a great alternative to sugar because it doesn't add calories and has a low glycemic index, but many experts have speculated that because artificial sweeteners don't activate the release of satiety hormones, they may lead people to overeat at their next meal.

 Secret Side Effects of Drinking Smoothies, Says Science

They make their own protein powder.

smoothie king protein powder
Smoothie King/ Facebook

If you grab a smoothie, like the Gladiator, to recover from a workout or as a meal replacement, you'll probably add protein powder. According to QSR Magazine, The Gladiator contains Smoothie King's proprietary protein supplement. In addition, Lean1, Nutrition53's best-selling fat-burning supplement can be added as an enhancer to any blend on the menu.

While Smoothie King has select proprietary offerings (meaning you won't know the exact blend of ingredients), a representative told Eat This, Not That! in an email that all of the smoothies on its menu and their ingredients "stay true to our Clean Blends Promise, guaranteeing they do not include artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives."

 We Tested 9 Protein Powders & This One Is the Best

You can hack a low-carb smoothie.

smoothie king smoothies
Smoothie King/ Facebook

If you're counting carbs or eating a Paleo diet, smoothie menus can be a challenge to navigate. Luckily, Smoothie King has some great options for hacking a smoothie, such as removing the Sunwarrior Organic Vegan Protein Blend from the Vegan Dark Chocolate Banana smoothie and adding almonds, Califia Farms Almond Milk, and cold brew coffee.

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Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya