A Closer Look at Panera Bread’s New “Green” Smoothie
Panera Bread recently added a new “green” smoothie to their line of specialty drinks. Good for them! I applaud their efforts to add healthier options to their menu. I do, however, have a few concerns.
The nutritional information for the smoothie states a 12.5 oz serving contains:
49 g carbohydrates
4 g fiber (More on this below)
2 g protein
0 g fat
Although I still think this smoothie is a better option than much of the Panera menu, I have the following concerns:
- The high amount of carbohydrates (and calories) and low amount of fiber concerns me. Part of the reason this “smoothie” is so low in fiber is that they are using vegetable juice concentrates instead of making a true smoothie using real veggies. Had they used the real thing instead of juice concentrates, the fiber content would be much higher. Fiber serves to slow the digestion and absorption of carbs.
- This smoothie contains more than three servings of carbs in a paltry 12.5 ounces. That means every ounce contains about 4 g of carbs. That is an incredibly high amount of carbs and is a concern. A teaspoon of sugar contains 4.2 g of carbs, so this smoothie is very similar to plain table sugar in terms of carbohydrate load. (It does have more nutrients, but sugar is sugar as far as the body is concerned.) Before ordering this smoothie, please pause to consider that the sugar content is the same as eating 12.5 teaspoons of sugar.
- The other ingredients in the smoothie and the lack of fiber definitely give this item an extremely high glycemic impact, meaning it will raise blood glucose levels to a high level very quickly. This is NOT a good option if you have any form of blood glucose or metabolic imbalance. It is also NOT a good option for weight control.
The ingredients identified on the Panera website are: Vegetable and fruit base (apple [juice, puree and juice concentrate], pineapple puree, kale, celery and cucumber juice concentrates, water, fruit and vegetable juice concentrates [color], lemon juice, pectin, natural flavors, vitamins [vitamin C, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12], spirulina), water, banana.
Let’s look at these ingredients more closely …
- They are adding pectin as a thickener. Again, if they would use real vegetables, no thickener would be needed. Most pectin used today is derived from non-organic fruits which may be genetically modified. Pectin has zero nutritional value, so it disappoints me that Panera is using a highly-processed additive instead of real, whole foods.
- Vitamins: The fact they are adding vitamins means they are adding synthetic vitamins which cannot be easily absorbed. Again, simply using real food would eliminate the need for synthetic additives.
- Natural Flavors: If you’ve done much reading about food ingredients, the term “natural” is not regulated. Some “natural flavors” are known to include GMOs, MSG, plastics, animal extracts, and/or food allergens. It is difficult to say which flavorings have been added to this smoothie, but the term “natural flavors” always makes me a bit leery. After all, if they were simply adding a cucumber extract, they would say so. The fact they aren’t willing to name the specific product being used is a warning sign. If you’re not drinking one of these daily, the exposure is probably minimal, but be aware of the potential.
So there you have it. What are your thoughts about these new smoothies?
Panera Nutrition Information: Click the “ingredients” link to view ingredients