In March of 1970, McDonald’s introduced the world to its homage to St. Patrick’s Day, a pale green potion of mouthwatering magnificence, known as the Shamrock Shake.
Since its creation, the Shamrock Shake has morphed into a seasonal icon, spawning countless copy cats and generating an avid fan following.
The problem is that, like many things fast food, the beverage isn’t especially healthy.
According to nutrition information found on the McDonald’s website, a 12 ounce Shamrock Shake contains 530 calories, 15 grams of fat (10 of them saturated fat), 73 grams of sugar, and 160 milligrams of sodium.
But, that doesn’t mean that the nutritionally-conscious among us must be forced to forgo one of the springtime’s most anticipated culinary creations. You can unleash your inner Irishman with a healthier, homemade version of this iconic drink.
The secret to a diet-friendly Shamrock Shake
Typically, pre-packaged, highly-processed shakes aren’t very healthy, especially for the elderly. But, a homemade smoothie is a wonderful way to enjoy a snack that is both tasty and nutritious.
The key is to make sure you only use all-natural ingredients. “Making your own shakes can also save a lot of money,” says Ruth Frechman, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Here’s a senior-safe recipe based on McDonald’s minty creation:
- 6 ounces plain, low fat yogurt
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ tsp. peppermint extract
- All-natural sweetener to taste
- 2-3 drops green food coloring
- 5-7 ice cubes
Directions: Toss all of the above ingredients into a blender, press “blend,” and wait until the mixture has achieved the right thickness. Pour into a glass, or, if you really want to get into the spirit, a drinking horn, and enjoy.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that a homemade shake will taste the same as the fast-food version, but it’s certainly a healthier option.
Replacing the reduced fat vanilla ice cream used by McDonald’s with a yogurt and milk combination cuts down on the fat and may up the amount of bone-strengthening calcium and digestion-regulating probiotics in the drink. Opting for fat free or 1 percent milk can save even more calories, according to Frechman, author of, “The Food is My Friend Diet.”
Using a small amount of natural sweetener such as raw honey, agave nectar, or Stevia (a calorie-free natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant) significantly reduces the shake’s sugar amount and calorie count. It also makes the drink more diabetes-friendly because these sweeteners have low glycemic indexes, which means that, while they will raise blood sugar some, they won’t cause dangerous blood sugar spikes.
Of course, this recipe (while healthy and yummy) is still somewhat plain. There are ways to customize this basic formula to better fit your specific nutritional needs.
Keep reading to discover ideas for add-ins that can boost the health benefits of your homemade Shamrock Shake…
Here are a few examples of healthful add-ins to jazz things up a bit and add surprising health benefits to a DIY Shamrock Shake:
- Healthy weight loss: When you’re trying to shed a few pounds, introducing sources of healthy fats into your diet can keep you feeling full, making it easier to avoid giving into unexpected temptation, such as a co-worker who brings in leftover goodies from a weekend party. To easily add “good” fats to the above recipe, make the yogurt full-fat, throw in half of an avocado for a creamy source of heart-healthy Omega-3s, or grind up a handful of almonds in the food processor and then mix them into the finished shake.
- Boost immunity: Foods high in vitamins A, B and C are champions at upping your immune system’s functioning. Strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and spinach are all good sources of these various vitamins. Chucking a few berries or pieces of kiwi into the blender will add a naturally-sweet immune boosting punch. Another surprising way to beef up the disease-fighting benefits of a homemade shake is to make a pot of black or green tea, freeze it and use the frozen tea as a substitute for the ice cubes. Both black and green tea contain copious amounts of L-theanine, an immune system strengthening amino acid.
- Promote bone health: Eating foods with adequate amounts of calcium is essential for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis as you age. Adults 50 years and older should aim to consume anywhere between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Depending on which brands you buy, the six ounce serving of yogurt and ¾ cup of milk called for in the recipe above can bestow anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of this amount. To be fair, the largest size of Shamrock Shake (22 ounces) can provide 60 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium. Unfortunately, it comes with a price tag of 820 calories and 115 grams of sugar. Adding a cup of spinach to the shake not only contributes additional calcium, it also offers vitamin K–a nutrient that helps prevent bone loss. “Spinach can be used to naturally give the shake a gorgeous green color, instead of adding artificial coloring,” says Frechman. Tossing in a frozen banana can contribute a bit of healthy sweetness as well as various nutrients which can aid calcium absorption.
By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor