When it comes to grab-and-go food, smoothie bars and juice shops can be the most confusing to navigate as a healthy eater. At a burger joint like Wendy’s or McDonald’s, it’s pretty straight-forward that the salad options are typically going to be more nutritious than a burger and fries. But smoothies can be murkier territory. Yes, they’re often full of healthy fruits or buzzy add-ins, like chia or acai, but they often also pack in a hefty dose of sugar.
At Jamba (formerly known as Jamba Juice), there’s both food and smoothies on the menu, which leads to more choices—and more potential confusion when you order. That’s where registered dietitian Carrie Dennett, RD, comes in. Here, she breaks down which options (both food-wise and smoothie-wise) are truly the best ones, especially for plant-based, low-sugar, and ketogenic eaters (all of whom can have a tough time in a smoothie bar). Keep reading to see the RD-approved picks.
What an RD says: Jamba has a whole menu of plant-based smoothie options. Cream of the crop is the new Vanilla Blue Sky smoothie, made with unsweetened almond milk, vanilla coconut milk, pineapple, and spirulina. “The 16 ounce size has five grams of fiber, which is pretty decent,” Dennett says. (The goal is to get 25 grams a day.) While it is a bit high in sugar (27 grams), Dennett says that it’s at least from the pineapple and coconut milk and not from any syrups. The spirulina is also a surprising-yet-healthy add-in, as the superfood can boost the immune system and even promote better sleep. Dennett also likes the Smooth Talkin’ Mango Smoothie, which is made with oat milk, mango, pineapple, and organic agave. “All the other smoothies on the plant-based menu are made with a fruit juice blend, which is going to include artificial sugar,” she says. “This smoothie is still a bit high in sugar [37 grams in a 16 ounce], but at least it’s coming from the fruit.” (And, to be fair, agave.)
Order tweaks: For both smoothies, Dennett says the protein content is too low to count as a satiating meal (two and four grams, respectively), so she suggests adding a food item on the side to ensure it will truly fill you up.
Food menu pick: Newly added to the menu, Jamba Juice’s PB Banana Toast is an entirely vegan option with 11 grams of protein, thanks to the peanut butter and chia seeds sprinkled on top. Pair it with your smoothie to ensure you won’t be hunting down a snack an hour later.
What a RD says: Healthy eaters trying to keep their sugar intake on the moderate side don’t have many options at Jamba; Dennett points out that most are made with a juice blend base, which can take the sugar content past the 50 gram mark. She suggests looking for smoothies made with an alt-milk base instead of a juice base, like the Vanilla Blue Sky smoothie and the PB & Banana Protein smoothie. The latter has 36 grams of protein—enough to work as a complete meal.
Order tweaks: Echoing her advice for plant-based eaters, Dennett reiterates that the protein content in the Vanilla Blue Sky smoothie is too low to work in place of a meal, so you’ll want to have it as just a snack or pair it with a food item.
Food menu pick: “Both the spinach ‘n cheese breakfast wrap and the roasted tomato, spinach, and feta breakfast sandwich are healthy food options with good protein [15 grams and 11 grams, respectfully],” Dennett says, adding that for 240 calories, that’s a lot of bang for your bite. (They’re both very low in sugar, too.)
What an RD says: A major part of following the ketogenic diet is keeping carbs and sugar to a minimum—even if it comes from natural sources, like fruit. While the ketogenic diet doesn’t have a specific limit for sugar, it counts toward the carb cap [30 grams a day], and most fruits high in sugar are also high in carbs. (A mango, for example, has 50 grams of carbs per fruit.) This is why Dennett’s smoothie picks for keto dieters are the exact same as for low-sugar, the Vanilla Blue Sky and PB & Banana Protein smoothies; they’re the lowest sugar options on the menu. “The sugar content is still higher than what is technically ‘allowed’ for keto, but sometimes you have to work with the best of what’s available,” she says.
Order tweaks: While Dennett says the PB & Banana Protein is nutrient-dense enough to work in place of a meal, she recommends rounding out the Vanilla Blue Sky smoothie with a food item to up the protein.
Food menu pick: “The spinach ‘n cheese breakfast wrap is a great food pick for keto—minus the tortilla wrap,” Dennett says. With 7 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, and three grams of fiber, it’s a healthy option if you skip that one carb-heavy component.