shake it up

St. Patrick’s Day themed green smoothies and shakes are popping up everywhere this time of year. Most of them, however, are very high in fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and calories. Sure, they may be delicious, but what’s actually in these popular drinks might make you think twice before gulping one down.

For example, in a 22 ounce McDonalds Shamrock Shake®, there is an astonishing 135 grams of sugar. To put that into perspective, that’s the same amount of sugar you’ll find in 11.5 Krispy Kreme® glazed doughnuts, and well over the recommended 90 gram daily adult intake recommended by the World Health Organization.

But that’s not all. In addition to the high sugar content, the Shamrock Shake also contains:

  • 820 calories (or 4 ½ slices of pepperoni pizza)
  • 23 g fat (or two one-ounce bags of Lay’s® potato chips)
  • 135 g carbs (or three Big Mac® hamburgers)

So what options do you have to actually make a healthy version of the Shamrock Shake®? Vicki March, MD, co-director of UPMC BodyChangers explains that with a little knowledge and the proper ingredients, you can not only make a delicious “green” smoothie, but one that is packed full vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other healthy ingredients.

“First, green smoothies don’t actually have to be green,” explains Dr. March. “It can be blue, red, purple…It all depends on what you put it and how much of each ingredient you use.”

Typically, a green smoothie consists of 40 percent greens, 60 percent fruit and a liquid base. Dr. March recommends using two cups of leafy greens, three cups fruit, and two cups for a liquid base. “Then, you can blend and mix and match as you desire. That’s really the fun of it,” she says. “By using these all natural ingredients, you cut out unhealthy ingredients that can be found in the Shamrock Shake® and other popular St. Patricks’ day themed drinks.”

Dr. March offers some suggestions for ingredients below.

smoothie infographic


Leafy Greens (2 cups)

  • Romaine and other types of lettuces
  • Chard
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Bok choy

Liquid Base (2 cups)

  • Water
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Juice
  • Tea
  • Fermented and cultured beverages

Fruit (3 cups)

First, blend the greens and liquid. Then add the fruits and blend again. Then, presto, you have a healthy and delicious alternative to the Shamrock Shake. This formula makes about two 16 ounce servings. “This is an excellent way to get your full serving of fruits and vegetables, plus it tastes great,” says Dr. March. “You might like them so much that find yourself making them year-round, not just when you’re celebrating the luck of the Irish.”

Looking for more smoothie recipes? Check out UPMC HealthPlan’s green smoothie recipe from last St. Patrick’s Day.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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McDonald's. Krispy Kreme. World Health Organization.

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