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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Nutripol! Although originally intended to celebrate the Irish saint and his dedication to the Christian faith, this holiday is more associated with extravagant costumes, themed parties, and an abundance of beer. But it wouldn't be St. Patrick’s Day without the annual release of the Shamrock Shake® -- a colorful treat with a massive caloric price tag.
For others like me who have also committed the sin of never trying a Shamrock Shake® from McDonald’s, fear not. This seasonal beverage has a cult following that rivals Wawa’s (I can confirm that this is the best gas station-convenience store in the game) with plenty of anecdotes and online reviews to describe it for us. At its core, it’s a fluorescent green milkshake with “a hint of fresh mint toothpaste flavor” complete with a dollop of whipped cream on top. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why something that resembles toothpaste is revered so highly among those who love it, but nonetheless, let’s get into the Think About It!
The milkshake is made up of only three main ingredients: Vanilla reduced fat ice cream, “Shamrock Shake syrup,” and topped with whipped light cream. The use of low-fat dairy options may be an attempt to limit the calories per serving, but one medium shake still contains 16 grams of fat, most of which is saturated. A more detailed article on the nuances of saturated vs. unsaturated fat is forthcoming, but the bottom line is that saturated fat is linked to higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. The FDA recommends no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day -- and one Shamrock Shake® has 10 grams.
With this being said, the amount of fat is not the main antagonist in this story. That accolade belongs to sugar -- one medium shake has 78 grams of sugar. A few of these can be attributed to the lactose found in dairy products, but the vast majority is added sugar from the “Shamrock Shake syrup.” The FDA recommends that individuals consume less than 50 grams of added sugar in an entire day, yet some of the “Shamrock Shake syrup’s” most abundant ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar.
The mere volume of these shakes makes it easy to see why one medium drink has 560 calories (nearly 25% of the FDA-recommended daily value). Perhaps more ominously, the McDonald’s website has suggested pairing the Shamrock Shake® with some other high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods -- the Big Mac® , Quarter Pounder®, Chicken McNuggets®, and World Famous Fries®. Adding any of these items has the potential to skyrocket the calorie count well into the quadruple digits, as well as massively overshoot the FDA’s guidance for total fat and saturated fat consumption. As you may imagine, this is less than ideal from a nutrition standpoint.
How to Think About It:
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed nutritionist nor a registered dietician. The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and each individual is ultimately responsible for his/her dietary and nutrition practices. Please consult a physician before starting a new dietary program.