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Articles Fitness Nutrition

Milkshakes vs. Smoothies

May 18, 2010

On a hot summer day, both milkshakes and smoothies make for refreshing treats. You can get a milkshake just about anywhere, and with the popularity of smoothie shops rising, you can easily find a place to have your favorite fruits and flavors turned into a cold concoction. People normally assume that smoothies are healthier than milkshakes because of the fruit and absence of ice cream, but that's not necessarily true. Both milkshakes and smoothies can have a large number of calories and sugar. Here's a breakdown of the nutritional information for the two.

The Low Down on Smoothies

Smoothies can be healthy. As with any other kind of prepared food you eat, the simpler the ingredient list and the fresher the ingredients, the better. A mixture of fresh or frozen berries, kiwi, ice, low-fat yogurt and a splash of 100% fruit juice (not the kinds made with high fructose corn syrup) makes for a relatively low-calorie treat. You really have to look at the ingredient list when you go to your favorite smoothie shop. Smoothies can range anywhere from approximately 225 calories all the way up to 1035 calories for a 20-ounce cup, the average smoothie coming in at around 350 calories. You can find smoothies with less than 200 calories, but they use sugar substitutes. Speaking of sugar, most smoothies contain around 30-60 grams of sugar. In terms of fat, one of the great things about smoothies is that they're generally low in fat. You only see higher fat percentages in those "indulgent" smoothies (like those of the mocha or peanut butter variety). If you want a smoothie, make sure it's being made with real fruit. Pass up any place selling smoothies where you don't see any fruit being tossed in a blender. Chances are that smoothie was made using fruit concentrates and syrups.

The Low Down on Milkshakes

A milkshake is a dessert any way you cut it. You could consume one as a meal replacement like you would with a smoothie, but it wouldn't hold you over for very long. Milkshakes are full of lots of empty calories--and a large calorie number in general. The average milkshake contains over 300 calories and a high percentage of saturated fat. The saving grace for milkshakes is the protein and calcium content. Since milkshakes are made with milk and ice cream, which contain protein and calcium, you can expect to consume a good 15% of your daily protein and one-fifth of your daily calcium. At the same time, you'll also consume 30 grams of sugar or more when you drink a milkshake.

The Verdict

Neither smoothies nor milkshakes are what you'd classify as "healthy" foods. You're better off eating a piece of fruit instead of a smoothie or having a glass of low-fat milk instead of a milkshake. Overall, though, you can find more ways to make smoothies healthier than you can with milkshakes. Your best bet? Prepare your milkshakes and smoothies at home so you can control the ingredients and the size. Stick to a small 8-ounce serving.

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