Panera Bread is a popular fast casual restaurant chain that serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. One of their newer menu items is the Green Smoothie, which contains spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, orange juice, and Greek yogurt. With its bright green color and blend of fruits and vegetables, the Green Smoothie sounds like a healthy choice. But is it actually good for you when examining the ingredients and nutrition facts more closely? Here we will take an in-depth look at the Green Smoothie and determine if it lives up to its healthy image.
Let’s start by looking at the nutrition facts for a 16 ounce Green Smoothie from Panera:
|16 oz Green Smoothie
|Includes 51g Added Sugars
At 270 calories for a 16 ounce serving, the Green Smoothie is moderately high in calories. However, the calorie count is reasonable for a meal replacement size smoothie made with fruit juice and yogurt.
The smoothie is very low in fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. It has no cholesterol. These are positive attributes for a smoothie made with yogurt.
Sodium content is moderate at 140mg or 6% of the daily value. This amount comes naturally from the yogurt. Added sodium is minimal.
Total carbohydrates are high at 61g. This is expected given the fruits and yogurt. However, 51g come from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 25g per day for women and 36g for men. With over 2 days worth of added sugar in one smoothie, excess sugar is concerning.
Fiber content is moderately high at 5g or 20% DV. The fruits and vegetables provide natural sources of fiber.
Protein is lower at 7g. Greek yogurt provides some protein, but the smoothie is dominated by fruits rather than higher protein ingredients.
Now let’s look closer at the ingredients in the Panera Green Smoothie:
– Frozen mango
– Frozen pineapple
– Pineapple juice
– Organic Greek yogurt
– Organic cane sugar
– Natural flavors
The smoothie contains two servings of leafy greens from spinach and kale. Leafy greens provide vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants, and fiber. This is a nutritional plus.
The mango, pineapple, and pineapple juice provide vitamins C and manganese as well as fiber. Frozen fruits are typically picked at peak ripeness and retain nutrients well. Still, whole fruits would be preferable over juices which lack fiber.
Greek yogurt adds protein, calcium, probiotics and vitamin B12. However, the yogurt also increases saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol versus a non-dairy milk.
Organic cane sugar is still sugar with no nutrients. And at 51g per smoothie, this sweetener contributes significant empty calories and added sugar.
Natural flavors don’t contribute nutrients. Processed flavors tend to be less healthy than real food ingredients with naturally occurring flavors.
Overall, while the smoothie provides fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and leafy greens, it is also high in added sugars and lacks whole food ingredients like nuts, seeds, or avocado to provide healthy fats.
At 16 ounces, the smoothie itself is moderately large but not outrageous as far as smoothie portions go. The concerning part is that the nutrition information provided is for only part of the menu item.
The Green Smoothie is served with a multigrain baguette. With the baguette, the total carbs increase to 91g and calories increase to 510.
Consuming over 90g total carbs and 500 calories in one meal is excessive for most people. Even without the baguette, the smoothie alone is high in carbs and calories compared to other light meals.
How does the Green Smoothie taste? Here are some reviews from customers:
“It’s very sweet but you can still taste the spinach. I like that you get veggies in a dessert-like smoothie.”
“This smoothie is way too sweet for my taste. I can barely detect the mango or pineapple over the sugary pineapple juice.”
“The Green Smoothie has a nice balance of sweetness with a light spinach flavor. It’s very refreshing on a hot day.”
“I like this smoothie but wish it had more greens and less sugar. The baguette is unnecessary empty calories.”
The consensus seems to be that the smoothie is tasty and sweet but heavy on the fruit juice and light on the greens. Some customers find it to be overly sweet. The included baguette is criticized as an unhealthy addon that increases the carb and calorie count.
Is it actually healthy?
Looking at the full nutrition facts, ingredients, and taste reviews – is the Panera Green Smoothie healthy? Here are some key takeaways:
– Provides leafy greens from spinach and kale
– Good sources of vitamins A, C, manganese
– Contains fiber from whole fruits and greens
– Lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium
-Includes probiotics and protein from yogurt
– Very high in added sugars from cane sugar and pineapple juice – over 50g per serving
– Lacks healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts or seeds
– Large portion size when served with baguette
– Heavy on fruit juices rather than whole food ingredients
Overall, while the smoothie provides some nutritional benefits from the spinach, kale, yogurt, and fruits, it is too heavily weighted towards tropical fruit juice and added sugar. The high sugar content outweighs the positive aspects.
Removing the baguette improves the nutrition profile but excess added sugar is still an issue. The Green Smoothie has strong potential to be healthy if reformulated with less pineapple juice and sugar. Adding avocado or nut butter could provide filling healthy fats. But in its current formulation, the negatives outweigh the positives when considering this smoothie a regular daily menu item.
If you want a healthy green smoothie, here are some better options:
– Make your own with spinach, banana, avocado, plain Greek yogurt, and almond milk. Use dates, honey or maple syrup to lightly sweeten if desired.
– Try smoothies with lower sugar tropical fruits like mango and pineapple. Pair with spirulina, matcha or a scoop of protein powder for nutrition.
– Opt for an unsweetened green vegetable juice instead of heavily fruit-based smoothies. Or add lemon/lime juice for flavor rather than fruit juices.
– Choose a yogurt fruit parfait with fresh berries and nuts for fiber, protein and healthy fats
– For breakfast, oatmeal bowls have natural whole food carbs versus liquid sugar calories
The Green Smoothie can be a rare treat in moderation. But daily smoothies are better balanced with real food ingredients, limited added sugars, healthy fats and modest portion sizes. Pay attention to nutrition labels to avoid excess sugar when purchasing prepared smoothies. Ultimately, the healthiest smoothies come from making them at home where you control the ingredients.
Is Panera’s Green Smoothie healthy? The short answer is no for regular consumption. While it provides some positives from spinach, kale, yogurt and fruits, it derives the majority of calories from pineapple juice and added sugar. The high sugar content outpaces the benefits. Choosing the smoothie occasionally as a dessert is fine. But daily consumption in place of a well-rounded meal is not recommended due to excessive added sugars. With some revisions to the recipe, the Green Smoothie could live up to its healthy image. But in the current formulation, consumers are better off looking for greener, less sweet alternatives.