If you haven’t already been bombarded with the advertising for McDonald’s new high protein smoothies here’s your official PSA: McDonald’s a new line of smoothies from their McCafe menu that have 18-20 grams of protein and ONE WHOLE serving of fruit. Yup, you read that right! Not only are these smoothies high in protein, they also help contribute to getting your fruit servings in for the day. Talk about a win/win right??
Not so fast!
One of the most interesting parts about my job as a Registered Dietitian is looking beyond the marketing and advertising of food products and deciphering whats really in them, without all the promotional BS. These smoothies are a fantastic example of how companies use some very careful marketing techniques to make their products appear healthier than they really are.
Right now protein is the latest darling of the food industry. Add protein to literally anything and it instantly is viewed by the public as healthy. Cereal, granola bars, even flavored waters are all being pumped up with extra protein.
So, what does the advertising for these smoothies say?
Quite simply, the radio commercial I’ve been hearing gives the basic quick facts: added protein and one whole serving of fruit. Both of these statements are true so there’s no false information being given here. However, upon closer inspection you’ll see that those two statements do not necessarily make these smoothies a healthy choice.
The nutrition facts and ingredient list from the McDonald’s website for a medium Strawberry Mango Pineapple Protein Smoothie:
Where exactly is the real fruit? I’m not entirely sure. Last time I checked banana puree with a dozen other ingredients doesn’t grow on trees.
When it comes to the nutrition facts the first thing we want to take a look at is the serving size. This smoothie is 454ml, which is a little under 2 cups of smoothie. Remember that.
1 gram of fat- fair enough
54 grams of carbohydrate….. FIFTY FOUR?! but it has fruit right? So isn’t this no big deal because it’s probably from the fruit and fruit is healthy?
Let’s break it down…
1 serving of fruit is about 1/2 cup, which provides us with approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate. If our smoothie is almost 2 cups, and the “real fruit” portion of that smoothie is only 1/2 cup, then what the eff is the other 1.5 cups of smoothie made of? There is only 2 grams of fibre in this smoothie as well, so safe to say there is really only one serving of fruit in that cup.
Water, yes….and something else. I’ll give you one guess. It starts with S and ends with -UGAR!
How do I know?
Based on the above nutrition facts this medium smoothie contains 330 calories total. One serving of REAL fruit with 15 grams of carbohydrates is about 65-70 calories. There is a teeny amount of protein and almost no fat in fruit, so most of those calories come from the natural sugars. The added protein in this smoothie is 19 grams, which equals another 76 calories (4 calories per gram). The single gram of fat gives us 9 calories (9 calories per gram). That leaves about 150 calories in this smoothie unaccounted for. It’s not from the fruit, it’s not from the protein, and it’s not from the fat. It’s from added sugars. about 39 grams to be specific. How many teaspoons is that? ALMOST TEN.
If you read my most recent article The Truth About Sugar, you’ll know that that is the SAME amount of sugar that is in a can of pop.
So sure, you’re getting that 19 grams of protein and a single serving of fruit (but trust me, it ain’t really real fruit in my opinion), but you’re also drinking a can of coke alongside it.
They won’t tell you that in the commercial.
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About the Author: Stephanie Hnatiuk is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer who specializes in helping athletes reach their peak potential with nutrition.