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Sugar High

June 13, 2012

In the Sunday paper, I was appalled to see among the many advertising handouts a coupon for a free Blueberry Pomegranate Real Fruit Smoothie at McDonald’s. It’s hard for folks to pass up anything free, and the cool, refreshing-looking summer drink is apt to prove tempting to a lot of people. Besides, blueberries and pomegranates do something healthy for you, don’t they? And the “Real Fruit” part of the name means it’s good for you, right?

If you don’t believe me that there’s absolutely nothing “good for you” at Mickey D’s, please take some time to browse the nutrition facts section of their website.

Using “Real Fruit” in the name is similar to what in the environmental movement is called “green-washing.” That’s when corporate giants appropriate the language of the environmental movement to try to make their practices and products look healthier and “greener” than they are. In this case, McDonald’s is using “Real Fruit” because doctors, nutritionists and food experts say we’re supposed to eat our fruits and veggies to boost health. In fact, blueberries and pomegranates are wonderful for you, full of fiber and other nutrients, like antioxidants to fight cell damage that can lead to disease.

But if there is “real fruit” in these smoothies – and they don’t have to tell us how much – there’s also stuff McDonald’s doesn’t want to advertise in the circulars. Like the 60 grams of sugar in one 16 oz. smoothie.

That’s about 15 teaspoons of sugar in one drink. (The recommendation for daily sugar consumption is no more than 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men.) If you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet, you’ve gotten about 14 percent of your calories in that one smoothie alone, which has 270 calories. If you super-size up to the 20 oz. drink, you’ll be getting 350 calories and a whopping 77 grams of sugar – more than three times what a woman should consume in a day.

You can make smoothies at home with a cup of fresh or frozen fruit (make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar) and some ice. If you want it creamier, add unsweetened soy, almond or coconut milk or a little low-fat yogurt. If you’re adventurous, try some ground flaxseed or protein powder. Blend and enjoy!

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