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They should be called ‘Reel Froot*†©’ smoothies…

April 23, 2012


A little while back I was having lunch with my daughter at McDonald’s.  They had just come out with these real fruit smoothies.  I had seen the ads and they seemed to say that the smoothies were made with fruit, yogurt and ice, nothing else.  I figured that sounded pretty good, so my daughter and I each got one.  I had the strawberry one and she had the mango one.  I also asked for the nutritional breakdown on the smoothies, but they did not have it at this time.

So the smoothies arrived and I took a sip… and I couldn’t believe it.  They were sickeningly sweet.  Asian Bubble Tea sweet!  Disgustingly so.  They tasted so fake and sweet.  It was painfully clear that there was a tremendous amount of added sugar in this product.  I went back and watched the ad again, and of course, there is no mention of the sugar, just the mention of fruit, yogurt and ice. I went to YouTube to pull up an ad, but I can’t find any as offensive as the current ones, but this one isn’t bad.

You would think the way they are saying real fruit, they would really need to copyright other spellings for fruit, because the only thing I am not sure about in the smoothie is the real fruit.  I hate to harp on this point, but it isn’t that the smoothie is a little bit sweet either.  It is cloyingly sweet.  I went up and asked the person at the counter about the real fruit, is it real?  He answered that he didn’t know, it came as a liquid in a big bag…  I ended up just throwing out my smoothie and my daughter did as well.  We just couldn’t drink them.

They deliver a thin, watery fruit puree to each of the stores.  This is then mixed in a machine with ice and yogurt, so in some sense, you could imagine the logic in them advertising Real Fruit, Yogurt and Ice as the basis for their ingredients.  Still, lets take a look at the ingredients.  They are broken down into 2 parts, Fruit base and Yogurt, and you see, right there is the problem.  Fruit Base.  That isn’t the same thing as Real Fruit.  Not even close.

So, today I was in McDonald’s again and while I was there I figured I would ask for the nutrition facts on the smoothie.   They had them.  They pulled out a binder and let me see the ingredients and nutritional breakdown and, of course, there was sugar in the smoothie, and not just sugar.  For something that appears to only have 3 ingredients on the ad, the ingredients in real life don’t look anywhere near that simple.

The Nutrition

Fruit Base:

Lets look at the Strawberry Banana Fruit Base first.  It gets some good points for having strawberries and bananas in the first two ingredients, but then water, SUGAR, concentrated apple juice, (a nice note here telling us the remaining ingredients are less than 1% of the product), then it has artificial flavours, xanthan gum, citric acid, coloured with fruit and vegetable juices, and pectin.  I photographed the ingredients from the nutritional information (below):

For those of you who are aware, concentrated apple juice is another way of saying sugar, as is concentrated grape juice and I am sure any concentrated tropical juice.  So there are at least 2 forms of sugar in the fruit base.  The most ironic part of this isn’t the sugar though, it is the flavoring.  Really, there probably is a law against advertising your smoothie as Real Fruit and then using artificial flavors.  I would report them, but let’s be honest.  No government is going to do anything.  Maybe we need a class action.

In any case, the Mango Smoothie looks much better nutritionally, at least at first glance: Water, pineapple syrup from concentrate, mango puree concentrate, pineapple juice concentrate, orange juice concentrate, passion fruit juice, apple juice concentrate, natural (botanical source) and artificial flavors, (less than 1 % of the following) peach puree, cellulose powder, peach juice concentrate, pear juice concentrate, xantham gum, pectin citric acid, colored with fruit and vegetable juice and tumeric extract.  Please, note the ingredients are for the US Smoothie, not sure why, but I kept the US spelling regardless…

So, there doesn’t appear to be any added sugar in this base, but the thing is, all of those concentrated fruit juices are really just flavored sugar.  The other thing that gets me is the less than 1% part.  Does that mean that each of the ingredients comprise less than 1% or all of the ingredients after that warning add up to less than 1%.  I say this because there are at least 9 ingredients after the warning.  If each one is about 1% that means that they comprise almost 10% of the product.  I have to think it is the latter because I can’t imagine them adding 0.1% peach juice.  That is 1 part in 1000…

There is also the yogurt base:  Reduced fat milk, liquid sugar, whey protein, fructose, corn starch, kosher gelatin and active yogurt cultures.

Sugar shows up twice in the yogurt as well!! I would expect to find sugar here, but twice.  It is already the second largest ingredient.  Did they break it into 2 parts so that is wasn’t the first ingredient?  Probably…

The thing is, there is no WAY that you can call this healthy or Real Fruit.  It is a travesty.  I can quite often defend McDonald’s for serving what they say they are, but this is nothing short of fraud.  This is as close to a lie as I have ever heard from the food giant.  They are claiming the smoothies are part of a healthy new menu.  What a crock of $#!T.  These are so unhealthy!  Lets look at their nutrition.

Here is the document behind the counter...

Here is the document behind the counter...

and here is what the nutrition calculator on the website claims...

and here is what the nutrition calculator on the website claims...

The Large Strawberry Banana with Yogurt contains 290 calories according to the paper (according to the website it is 310).   By the way, I have no idea where the different numbers are happening between the website and the book.  In any case,  I continually point out that your meal should be between 400 and 500 calories, so a large smoothie is almost a whole meal, which would be fine if it filled you up or contained little sugar and about 1/3 of a meals protein.  Problem with this is that the smoothie contains 64 grams of sugar (73 according to the website).  64 grams of sugar is 16  teaspoons of sugar (almost 18 if you go from the website)…  That is preposterously high.  The United States Department of Agriculture recommends no more than 40 grams of sugar a day (10 teaspoons) and with one of these smoothies you would be getting almost double that.  Apparently, The UN says that sugar shouldn’t exceed more than 10% of the energy intake of a healthy diet.  If each teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories then you are getting 256 calories from the sugar alone (292 from the website).  Strictly calorie speaking, sugar makes up 90% of the smoothie.  I can’t even think of many candies that are 90% sugar!  There is only 1 gram of protein in the product.  This is clearly candy.  The only reason the calories are lower than the McFlurry and the Milkshake are because there is no fat in it.  You can’t rack up the calories without fat.  1 gram of sugar 4 has calories, 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.  That is simple math.

Compared to a Big Gulp

Think about this though, the much reviled 7-11 Big Gulp, the ultimate symbol of excess and poor health is about 32 ounces.  This large smoothie is a fair bit smaller at 22 ounces.  Coke for example comes in at about 100 calories per 8 ounces.  That means a big gulp is about 400 calories.  A bit more than our smoothie above.  400 vs 310.  But wait, we didn’t ad any ice to our big gulp.  If you added just 25% of the volume as ice, which isn’t a lot, your Big Gulp is the same as the smoothie.  This healthy eating item is as bad as a big gulp.  It certainly has as much sugar.

If you think I am taking the worst case scenario Strawberry Banana by the way, I am not.   By any and all standards, the Mango Pineapple is worse.  It has 77 grams of sugar and comes in at 340 calories!!

This product is horrible for you.  Next time you are in a McDonald’s let the manager know what you think of their deceptive advertising and unhealthy offerings.  The marketing for this product is probably litigious it is so deceptive.  These people have proven once again they don’t care about you or your health.  You may think that anyone who could read the nutritional information would be picking up on the scam, but google ‘McDonald’s Real Fruit Smoothie Reviews’ and you will get a bunch of these-(and these, and these) people who think these are healthy!  Stay away from the Golden Arches unless you have gone over EVERY item on their menu and reviewed it nutritionally.  Speaking of which, you are aware that they can be off by 20% of their stated nutrition claims and still be calling it correctly labelled… Do you want to add 20% to the numbers and see how healthy that would make you?  What do you think?  Have you tried the smoothie?  Do you trust McDonald’s and their healthier menu?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2012 3:56 pm

    Nice post, Mark! I never go to McDonald’s, but I saw the ads and was deceived. I thought they were making changes for the better.

    “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    It doesn’t make much sense to trust McDonald’s any more. It was a brilliant initial project from a business standpoint, but it’s definitely a problem for worldwide health.

  2. Chey permalink
    April 6, 2013 2:10 pm

    Ummm, while I enjoyed the information, I would hope anyone going to MacDonalds wouldn’t for a moment think there is anything they serve that is of any proper food value. I haven’t eaten there in years and only by my smoothies where I can see them being made with real ingredients. I don’t think we the consumers will ever win the battle of having these fast food companies be truthful. Our best way to handle them is to vote with our pocketbooks and not eat in their establishment.

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