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A message from Dr. Smoothie: We have seen some nasty drinks stealing the good name of smoothies. Ultra high calorie, mega sweetened with NO redeeming qualities and very little if any fruit. Please keep your eyes WIDE OPEN when purchasing your smoothies. Even the smoothie shops that make your drinks in front of you can be serving a slurry of chemically laden artificially flavored juices and ice cream/yogurt.

Smoothies: The new junk food ???

That's just what the American public needs, a new junk food. There are thousands of new manufactured foods created each year that show up on supermarket shelves and in fast food establishments. Should smoothies be classified as healthy and nutritious or as a junk food? Perception is the name of the game in the smoothie industry. What the public perceives may not be reality.

A prime example is the public's perception of yogurt. Of course every school child and health conscious person knows that yogurt is good for you. Like magic, when you freeze yogurt it gets even better, because it's supposed to taste like ice cream. Ice cream sales have dropped and frozen yogurt has risen over the last 10 years. Ice cream shops started serving frozen yogurt and the new smoothie shops picked up on the trend and started putting frozen yogurt into their smoothie drinks.

What is the difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt? We can start with the name and almost end there. The similarity between non-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt is about the same as a GMC truck and a Chevy. The frame and skin are the same; only the name makes the difference. With ice milk and yogurt the only difference is that yogurt has, according to USDA regulations, the presence of certain beneficial culture-causing bacteria. The cultures are added, but in most cases not allowed to develop long enough to significantly break down the sugars and proteins.

After a visit to an ice cream and yogurt processing plant, I am convinced that we as a consuming public have been duped. Real natural yogurts are a milk product containing active cultures with no sugar, flavorings, emulsifiers, thickening or setting agents added. There are very few legitimate frozen yogurts in the market today. Altadena dairy is one of the best. Other local providers should be searched out if real yogurt is going to be added to a smoothie.

Hopefully, as a smoothie operator, you are watching out for the health benefits available to your customers by providing them with the real thing; after all, that is what they think they are getting. Ice cream has been classified as a junk food, and frozen yogurt has the perception of a healthy product. But most frozen yogurts fit into the first category.

There is a broad spectrum of what the public perceives the term "smoothie" to mean. The name is being used in many cases as a hook to bring in the well-intentioned customer, based on the fact that smoothies are "good for you" and that they also taste good. Smoothies are supposed to be good healthy foods, not junk foods.

The name "smoothie" has now been attached to just about anything that contains the slightest amount of fruit or fruit juice. There are even smoothies that have been created with 100% processed or artificial ingredients without any hint of fruit or juice. There are factory packaged smoothies showing up in bottles that are served at a cooled temperature, but are just a blend of fruit juices without any significant consistency that would indicate they are a blended product. The ice cream and yogurt factions have also jumped into the arena and have added fruit to their airy based frozen desserts and have called them smoothies. Soft Drinks are now being whipped and cooled in special granita machines and blenders, and are being called smoothies.

What first hooks a customer on smoothies is that they taste good. Taste rules and no matter how nutritious the smoothie is, if it doesn't taste good you won't buy it unless you're a health food masochist. All of the images of fresh fruit hint that this is what the smoothie is made out of. The fruit levels of most popular drinks is between 15 and 30%; the balance of ingredients are juices and, in most cases, sweetened yogurts or sherbets. The real shocker is the sugar levels.

The sugar levels in almost all cases are much higher than the soft drinks being offered. Higher than Coke by a long shot. The supposed healthy smoothie drink has sugar levels ranging from a low of 11 brix to a high of 26 brix. Brix levels are represented as a percent of mass sucrose measured by a refractometer. Popular smoothies produce a range of around 15 to 18 brix. That is a lot of sugar. Let's say the brix content of the fruit in a 24 oz drink is 10 brix. One tablespoon of sugar raises the brix level by two. To raise the brix level to 16, you would add three tablespoons of sugar to the formulation. That means that the 26 brix drink has eight tablespoons of sugar added. That makes Classic Coke look healthy. More sugar means higher calories. No matter how you cut it, if calories aren't utilized they're stored as fat. There is evidence that many avid smoothie drinkers are gaining weight.

A message from Dr. Smoothie: Fred is right, most smoothies are way off the charts with sugar and calories, especially the dairy based smoothies. Brix levels on our fruits are 12 to 14 with strawberry being the exception at 7 to 8. Dr. Smoothie is lightly sweetened to give a brix level of 13 to 15. Dr. Smoothie is at the LOW END of brix levels. Our calories are from the natural fruit sugars. Get healthy with Dr. Smoothie!! Eat FRUIT.

There was an experiment conducted on rats, which implies they could become addicted to sugar and would eat it to the exclusion of healthier foods available to them. When starved, the rats selected sugar every time. People also cannot be trusted to provide a nutritious balance of foods for themselves by instinct alone. Given free access to poorly nourishing foods, we make poor choices and become malnourished. Sugar tastes good.

If smoothies are the food of choice, then the total nutritional profile of the drink needs to be taken into consideration. If the smoothie is going to become a meal replacement, as it has in many instances, then the nutrient levels of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals needs to be balanced to meet USDA recommendations. People are becoming literally addicted to the smoothie.

Diabetes is sometimes blamed on a high refined sugar diet, but it is not seen in sugar-cane field workers. Their diet is high in sugar, but it is unrefined cane sugar juice which has not been stripped of its micro-nutrients nor has it been concentrated at that point. The sugars contained in most smoothies are a combination of sugars from the fruits to the refined sugar in the sorbets and yogurts.

Note from Dr. Smoothie: "Check around and you will see that the mineral content between less refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar is so minimal as to not be an issue."

As a smoothie operator you have the choice of what type of sweetener is used in your drinks. Most of the sugars are hidden, but it is still our responsibility to do the best we can in finding the best possible ingredients. Raw sugar can juice powder can be obtained from Florida Crystals and the Succinat Corporation. The nutrient profiles are the same with a slight difference in flavor. The Succinct has a stronger molasses flavor with the Florida Crystal being more like that of fresh sugar cane juice.

Every good smoothie operator should know the sugar levels of the drinks being served. In the Soft Drink industry, every installer has a refractometer to measure the sugar levels of the drinks being dispensed.

You will be surprised at the ranges found even within the same smoothie bar and with the same recipe. This all means that portion control is not under control, and that we are still flying by the seat of our pants.

The challenge is out there and the smoothie bar that comes up with the best tasting drink with the lowest sugar level will find a permanent place in the market. Let's keep the smoothie out of the junk food category. The smoothie can become the healthy fast food of choice.

"Check our nutritionals.." Dr. Smoothie...

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