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Smoothie Bars-Healthy or Not?

If you’re a Seinfeld fan you may remember the episode where Kramer invests in a “Non-Fat Yogurt” place, all the characters indulge because it’s “non-fat” and subsequently gain weight.  Later it’s revealed that they were all deceived because the yogurt in fact, did contain fat.

This reminds me of smoothie bars.  Not because they’re deceiving you intentionally, but because there is a common misconception that smoothies are healthy–period.  And therefore, people overindulge because they just don’t know any better.

Unless you’re in NYC where most chains are obligated to post calories on the menu, you may have no idea that the smoothie you’re consuming can pack anywhere from 400-700 calories+.  Yikes!

I belong to a gym with a smoothie bar and I see people “refueling” after their workouts all the time.  When I stopped at the smoothie bar to grab a post workout shake myself last night (Note: After 10 minutes of scouring the menu, I chose a soy, banana and vanilla protein shake), here’s what I found.

*The peanut butter…Safeway brand, full of sugar, containing hydrogenated oils.

*Chocolate syrup was an ingredient in many of the shakes on the menu

*Many shakes are made with fruit juice rather than fresh fruit.

*Full fat yogurt/frozen yogurt

Here’s why I’m writing today.  If you work your butt off at the gym burning 400, 500, 600+ calories, yes you need to refuel, but no you don’t need to undo all of your hard work with one 16-20oz drink (primarily comprised of sugar and fat)!

I’m not saying don’t drink smoothies, but here are 4 Tips on making sure you make good choices:

1. Know what goes into your smoothie. Ask to see the label on the protein, yogurt or other ingredients they use.  Ask if they use fresh fruit or fruit juice, what kind of peanut butter and etc.  Below are links to two popular smoothie chains, and some of their nutritional information for context.

Smoothie King Nutrition Facts (note: the calories are posted for 20 oz drinks)

Robeks Nutrition Facts (note: the calories are posted for 12 oz drinks)

2.    16-20 oz is enough. You especially risk ingesting hundreds of unnecessary calories when you opt for larger sized drinks.  Smoothies are pretty filling, choose a smaller size, and if you’re still hungry, grab a piece of fruit or some nuts to complete your meal.

3.  Beware of boosts. “Boosts” are very popular in smoothies these days.  Energy boosts, immunity boosts, performance boosts and etc.  Again, ask to see the ingredients.  Many of these boosts contain lots of chemicals you probably don’t want in your body.

4.  Know when to walk away. Often we find ourselves in situations of having to choose the lesser of many evils.  That doesn’t mean we’re making a good choice, it’s just not as bad as it could be.  Be strong, walk away, and find a more healthy option if you find yourself on the verge of settling for something that isn’t as good for you as you’d like it to be.

Smoothie Bars-Healthy or Not?