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.

Green Smoothie

Please note this is a general picture of a green smoothie and is NOT an example of any products sold by Panera Bread.

The nutritional information for the smoothie states a 12.5 oz serving contains:

190 calories
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.

Ingredients Breakdown

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?

Reference Information:

Panera Nutrition Information: Click the “ingredients” link to view ingredients


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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

14 Responses to A Closer Look at Panera Bread’s New “Green” Smoothie

  1. Sheetal P. says:

    Eek! I just had one of these and was wondering why it tasted so sugary. This was what my online research led me to. Thanks for the heads up! I won’t be ordering this again.

  2. John Kurokawa says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I too had a HUGE sugar crash after drinking this… also felt rather bloated too. Too bad it’s loaded with so much sugar- cutting corners by using concentrates and ‘natural’ flavors instead of the real thing is infuriating to me, but a sign of the times I suppose. I’m going to stick to making my smoothies at home where I can control what goes in them!

  3. Tammy says:

    I wish I had read this sooner. I had one because it said it was green and made with low fat yogurt so I assumed it would have a lot of fiber and protein. I’m disgusted by the amount of sugar I ingested…unknowingly. Thank you for writing this!

  4. Nate says:

    Equivilent to 12.5 teaspoons of sugar!! No wonder I felt a sort of sugar crash lnot long after consumption. Too bad it was pretty delicious.

    • Lacy says:

      SAME HERE! i bought one of these hoping to use it as a light dinner, so i could workout a half hour later…and felt so sluggish! now i know why.

  5. Terri Houck says:

    How can they call a “green” smoothie. It seems like false advertising. Come on Panera, give us a tasty healthy alternative!

  6. juju says:

    I had one yesterday, thought it was great, got another one today! then i read this article. i knew the green smoothies were too good to be true! :(

  7. I too think that Smoothies should be made from the original fruit and veg and not from concentrates. I was going to link this until I read that proviso. Thanks for pointing this out

  8. Just when I thought it was safe to go back into Paneras, sigh. Seriously this is really helpful information as I try to manage my carb intake.

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