Healthier Smoothies at Jamba, Panera, Smoothie King, and Other Chains

Follow these guidelines when ordering a smoothie. Plus, better-for-you menu options.

person with smoothie in a plastic to go container Photo: Adobe Stock

For a fast, nutritious snack or meal, a smoothie may seem like a good idea. And it is if you make your own. But many of the concoctions on menus at smoothie and fast-food chains may not be all that healthy. In fact, in our evaluation of the smoothie offerings at five chains, the good-for-you options were surprisingly hard to find.

“The ideal smoothie is made with whole fruits and vegetables, unsweetened dairy or plant milk or yogurt, and maybe some healthy add-ins like nut butters or seeds,” says Amy Keating, RD, a CR nutritionist. But many smoothies we evaluated contained loads of added sugars such as agave, sweetened plant milks, and raw sugar.

More on Healthy Smoothies

“Unfortunately, chain restaurants aren’t required to list the amount of added sugars they use,” Keating says. (Of the chains we looked at, only Smoothie King listed added sugars on its website.) So it’s hard to tell whether your smoothie’s sugar content is coming from natural sources like fruit or other less healthy ingredients.

To help you make better choices, our experts share three key tips for smarter ordering and some good menu picks.

Look for whole fruits and veggies in the ingredients list. A drink that lists whole produce first is your best bet. Fruit purées can be a fine choice, too. Fruit juices aren’t a bad option as long as they’re 100 percent juice, which contains no added sugars.

Make substitutions. Some chains—particularly those that specialize in smoothies—may be amenable to making ingredient swaps. “When you see a sweetener like agave, ask to leave it out or replace it with some fresh pineapple to add sweetness instead,” Keating says.

Skip the add-on “boosts.” Some chains offer “boosts,” “supplements,” and “enhancers” but often don’t disclose exactly what’s in them, and they’re generally not necessary. “If a smoothie is mostly produce, you’ll be getting a variety of nutrients already,” Keating says.

Jamba Strawberries Gone Bananas
What's Inside
Made with: Apple-strawberry 100 percent juice blend, frozen strawberries, frozen bananas.
  • Serving Size: 10 ounces
  • Calories: 150
  • Sat. Fat: 0 g
  • Carbs: 36 g
  • Total sugars: 27 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 1 g
Why We Like It
This kids’ menu smoothie is smaller than the chain’s 16-ounce small, which keeps calories low. It’s made with juice and fruit—no added sugars. Ask to add in a protein-containing whole-food like nonfat Greek yogurt or peanut butter to make it more satisfying.
Tropical Smoothie Café Detox Island Green
What's Inside
Made with: Spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, fresh ginger.
  • Serving Size: 24 ounces
  • Calories: 180
  • Sat. Fat: 0 g
  • Carbs: 43 g
  • Total sugars: 29 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 4 g
Why We Like It
This was the only smoothie on this chain’s menu that did not contain turbinado sugar (raw sugar). This drink won’t “detox” you, but it is made from just fruits and veggies (no juice). If you order other smoothies on this chain’s menu, ask to leave out the added sugar.
Smoothie King
Veggie Lemon Ginger Spinach
What's Inside
Made with: Mango, pineapple, papaya juice blend, white grape/lemon juice blend, stevia, and organic spinach, carrots, kale, and ginger.
  • Serving Size: 20 ounces
  • Calories: 310
  • Sat. Fat: 0 g
  • Carbs: 80 g
  • Total sugars: 60 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 4 g
Why We Like It
This veggie pick is found on the chain’s “Be Well Blends” menu, which mostly offers smoothies made with whole fruit and fruit juices with no added sugars (but note that this blend contains stevia, a plant-based—but highly processed—sweetener).
Panera Bread
Peach & Blueberry Smoothie
What's Inside
Made with: Mango and peach purées, white grape and passion fruit juice concentrates, unsweetened almond milk, fresh blueberries.
  • Serving Size: 16 ounces
  • Calories: 210
  • Sat. Fat: 2 g
  • Carbs: 49 g
  • Total sugars: 41 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 2 g
Why We Like It
This smoothie is a good pick because it has whole fruit in it and fruit juice with no added sugars. Panera’s Strawberry Banana smoothie is another nice option on this menu: It’s made with whole-milk Greek yogurt and has 7 grams of protein.
Freshii Freshii Green
What's Inside
Made with: Pineapple, banana, kale, avocado, and almond milk.
  • Serving Size: 12 ounces
  • Calories: 200
  • Sat. Fat: 1 g
  • Carbs: 38 g
  • Total sugars: 20 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 3 g
Why We Like It
Of the three fruit/vegetable smoothies on the menu, this one is likely the lowest in added sugars. The company confirmed that the almond milk is sweetened. But the other options are made with honey or frozen yogurt. This one also has more than twice the filling fiber of the other two.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the June 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Rachel Meltzer Warren

Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, is a freelance writer based in the New York area who contributes to Consumer Reports on food and nutrition topics.