Ask JJ: Healthy Smoothies

04/06/2015 01:20 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2015

Dear JJ: You're a big kale fan in shakes. What are your thoughts about the new Starbucks smoothies with kale? And am I kidding myself to think fruit smoothies are healthy?

Last year, Kate Bratskeir wrote an article entitled "Your Starbucks Chai Latte Has More Sugar Than A Snickers Bar."

"A grande (16-ounce) Classic Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks contains more sugar than a Snickers candy bar," she says. "And half a cup of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. And three glazed donuts from Dunkin'."

To be fair, Starbucks never positioned its Chai Latte to be healthy, yet they seem to think their new fruit smoothies earn that halo.

"Seemingly playing off popular health trends, Starbucks says the smoothies are 'Made from only cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, proprietary Greek nonfat yogurt, a dash of nutmeg and ice, these smoothies are free from added sweeteners, preservatives, colors and flavors,'" writes Carly Ledbetter. "According to the same statement, customers will also be able to add things like fresh kale, protein powder or extra Greek yogurt into their smoothies, which should come in around 170-230 calories."

While they certainly sound healthier, Starbucks told me they won't release nutrition specifics for these fruit smoothies until they debut in early May.

If their current smoothies are any indication, these new fruit smoothies won't exactly earn low-sugar impact stripes. While a 16-ounce non-fat Strawberry Smoothie (their smallest size) offers 16 grams of protein (as whey) and seven grams of fiber, it also packs 41 grams, or over eight teaspoons, of added sugar.

Still, that's nothing compared to some other healthy-sounding smoothies I found:

Planet Smoothie Lean Green Extreme (32 oz.)

Leafy greens and 11 grams of Planet Pro vegetable protein in this smoothie sound perfectly healthy, but pineapple, mango, and bananas lend this smoothie most of its 52 grams -- that's nearly 10.5 teaspoons -- of sugar.

Red Mango Pomegranate Smoothie (24 ounces)

Don't let the probiotic blend, blueberries, nonfat yogurt, and PureVia (zero-calorie stevia sweetener) fool you into thinking you've made a healthier choice. A 24-ounce smoothie packs a whopping 90 grams or 18 teaspoons of sugar.

Jamba Juice Greens 'n Ginger Smoothie (28 oz.)

Notice how green (in the title and actual smoothie) gives this smoothie a healthy aura. Don't bank on it. While Jamba Juice calls this a "beautiful blend of Mangos, Peaches, Kale, Lemonade and Ginger Puree," a 28-ounce smoothie also packs a not-so-pretty 90 grams (18 teaspoons) of sugar.

Smoothie King Carrot Kale Dream (40 oz.)

"Get green, get lean," promises Smoothie King about their admittedly healthy-sounding smoothie. Unfortunately, the 40-ounce version of this smoothie, which combines carrots, kale, bananas, orange juice, apple juice, and a vanilla protein blend, packs an astounding 80 grams or 16 teaspoons of sugar.

The take-home here is no matter how cleverly stores try to position them, never automatically assume healthily marketed smoothies are actually healthy or low-sugar impact.

Always visit their website or ask for a nutrition-facts brochure (most places have them). Remember too some places list sugar amounts by serving size, and a gargantuan smoothie could deliver three or more times that amount.

Better yet, skip the commercial, probably high-sugar impact smoothies and make your own. You'll find plenty of healthy smoothie recipes here.

Have you become more aware about sugar impact of even healthy-sounding smoothies or coffee drinks? Share your thoughts below. And keep those fab questions coming at Ask