Happy St Patrick’s Day! If I were an alien studying the habits of American earthlings, I would infer that this holiday is marked by wearing of green, running a 5K, drinking beer and consuming green milkshakes. Ah, those green shakes. Some folks pine away for the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake all year. Burger King was so envious of the fervor of Shamrock Shake loyalists, they launched their own seasonal green shake, the Oreo Irish Mint Shake. And though Starbucks doesn’t have a mint shake available (yet), I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’re pushing their shamrock-green Green Tea Crème Frappuccino pretty hard in stores right now.
So which of these concoctions is the best choice, or should I say the least bad choice? I’ve taken the publicly available nutrition information so we can compare these concoctions side by side...
All three drinks are mostly made from food-like substances. When I'm making a smoothie or shake at home, I don't typically reach for the cellulose gum (aka gum made from wood pulp) or the high fructose corn syrup. And rarely do I add artificial dye. I’ll spare you an ingredient-by-ingredient breakdown, but it’s pretty clear that all three drinks are mostly made from a variety of sugars blended with food-like substances. Even the whipped cream on all three drinks is full of gunk (this is a technical term)! I’ll give Starbucks a nod for using green tea powder to produce its green hue, and there are fewer artificial ingredients in its sugary drink, which makes it slightly less terrible—still a lousy choice, just slightly less terrible.
I’ve included the calorie count for a 16-ounce drink, not because I want you to focus exclusively on calories, but because this piece of data tells us that these drinks represent a big fat chunk of an average person’s daily caloric needs.
I’ve also taken the sugar in grams and broken it down into more understandable measurements. Consuming one of these drinks completely blows past the recommended daily guidelines for added sugar intake. The Shamrock Shake offers nearly TRIPLE the daily recommendation of maximum added sugars. For the MEDIUM serving, mind you.
My recommendation: I’m all for enjoying a special treat here and there, but these chemical concoctions really offer nothing for you. Instead, why not whip up a simple green shake at home?
Add to your blender a couple ice cubes, 1 frozen banana in chunks, between 2/3 and 1 cup of milk of your choice depending on how thick you like your shake (for a really indulgent shake, use light canned coconut milk for half the milk), 1 Tablespoon of raw cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), and if you crave that minty flavor, add ¼ teaspoon of pure peppermint extract. Miss that green color? Throw in a handful of baby spinach! You won’t taste it, but it will definitely lend that ghoulish green tint.
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