Frozen and fattening

With whipped cream, syrups and added sugar, frozen drinks and smoothies are packing calories.

08/21/2012 12:00 AM

08/21/2012 9:29 AM

On the warmest of days, nothing beats the summer heat like an icy beverage.

The good news is that frozen drinks are everywhere — from Starbucks to McDonald’s to the nearest gas station.

But alas, some of these cool treats can pack a lot of calories (some topping more than 600) and put a chill on your efforts to slim down. So how does ice, just frozen water, get so fattening? Clinical dietitian Jennifer Teems Seay says all that creaminess, added sugar and syrups and enormous drink sizes add up to a lot of hidden calories.

Still, experts say it’s OK to indulge in the occasional frozen treat, and it’s possible to revel in them on a more regular basis, especially if you do it yourself.

Here are some tips from Seay and Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, on enjoying frozen drinks and avoiding calorie land mines.


A 16-ounce caramel frappuccino has 410 calories, 15 grams of fat and 64 grams of sugar.

Slim it down a little: Go for a light caramel frappuccino lightly blended of the same size for 140 calories, no fat and 29 grams of sugar.

Slim it down a lot: Go with an iced coffee for zero calories. (Add a pump of syrup for about 20 calories.) Seay says: “I do think it’s good that Starbucks has the light option, and (that) is not that much, especially if that’s your only indulgence during the day. These drinks are usually nonfat, so just recognize that most of the calories are probably from sugar. I have absolutely no problem at all with iced coffee. There is constantly a debate going on about coffee in the nutrition world. Does it have health benefits? Does it cause harm to your health? A lot of people disagree on this, but we do know it doesn’t have any calories if it’s black.”

Moore adds: “Another option: Order an iced herbal or vanilla tea. Ask for it plain or at half the usual sweetness.”


Made with real fruit, smoothies can have some redeeming value, but serving size is important.

Those bigger sizes offer more to enjoy, but also a lot more calories.

Smoothie King, for example, offers its smoothies in three sizes: 20, 32 and 40 ounces. A 20-ounce Angel Food smoothie with strawberries, bananas, soy protein and turbinado sugar contains 354 calories.

Omit the sugar and make it a “skinny” smoothie of the same size for 254 calories.

But a 40-ounce Angel Food packs a whopping 708 calories.

Moore says: “Smoothies wear a health halo leading many to believe they are harmless. However, a 20-ounce fruit smoothie can run as much as 500 calories. You have to be a bit of a detective to outsmart frozen drinks. Look out for these code words — whipped cream, creamy, drizzled (with anything) and decadent — and opt out of the whipped cream to save calories.”


Seay and Moore often make smoothies at home.

Seay’s recipe calls for one cup of frozen strawberries, a half cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of frozen raspberries, one banana, one cup of orange juice and either 1 1/2 cups of nonfat milk or 1 1/2 cups of soy milk (the fruit should be covered up with liquid in the blender and then blended).

Note: If you use frozen fruit you don’t have to add ice.

This vitamin-rich recipe makes four, 8-ounce servings with 107 calories, zero grams of fat if made with milk; 1 gram of fat if made with soy milk.


•  Pay attention to serving size.•  Read the ingredients. Avoid added sugar. Don’t make frozen drinks a daily habit. If you are going for a full-calorie splurge, make it an indulgence of no more than once a week.
•  Make it yourself to better control what you are consuming. Turn your smoothie craving into a healthy way to eat by making the drinks at home with seasonal fruit and ice. Consider adding nonfat yogurt, and if you are feeling adventurous, add spinach or kale to pump up the nutrients.
•  Beware of mixed adult beverages. An average margarita has just under 400 calories, coladas even more. Try a lower-calorie beverage by combining equal parts wine and club soda for just 80 calories and half the alcohol of a glass of wine.

Source: Marisa Moore, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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