‘Healthy' summer drinks hide more kj than a Big Mac, health experts warn

Wednesday 13 January, 2016

Leading health experts are warning Victorians to be wary of store-bought smoothies, frappes and shakes this summer, after a LiveLighter investigation found many contain more kilojoules than a McDonald's Big Mac and are extremely high in sugar.

LiveLighter analysed the kilojoules, sugar and fat in 40 cold drinks sold at six chain cafes and fast food outlets this month. The most shocking findings were:

  • Half of the 40 drinks surveyed (including three ‘healthy' drinks) had more kilojoules than a McDonald's Big Mac (2060kj)
  • 24 drinks were hiding at least 16 teaspoons of sugar – more than a regular 600ml bottle of soft drink
  • The seemingly healthy 98% fat-free Mango Fruit Fruzie from Gloria Jeans had the most sugar – a whopping 31 teaspoons (123g)
  • Some shakes and iced-based frappes had up to 20.5g of saturated fat – almost twice as much as a Big Mac (10.7g saturated fat).

LiveLighter Victoria Campaign Manager Alison Ginn said some drinks which appeared healthy contained more sugar than the average adult needs in a whole day.

Food outlets use phrases like 97% ‘fat free' or ‘dairy free' to make their smoothies and frappes sound healthy, but with up to 31 teaspoons of sugar and as many kilojoules as a Big Mac, these drinks can actually do more harm than good," Ms Ginn said.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that added sugars make up no more than 5% of people's daily energy intake, or 6 teaspoons per day, for the biggest health benefit. You would consume up to five times this amount from just one drink alone.

"Like with soft drinks and other sugary drinks, regular consumption of frappes and smoothies can contribute to weight gain and a build up of toxic fat around your organs, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers."

Heart Foundation Victoria Healthy Living Manager Roni Beauchamp said in addition to being very high in sugar, most milkshakes, thickshakes and iced café drinks were also found to be high in saturated fat.

"Our research found that on top of their high sugar content, milkshakes, thickshakes, iced coffees and frappes, which are laden with cream and/or ice cream, were also alarmingly high in saturated fat – some have more saturated fat than we should consume in an entire day," Ms Beauchamp said. 

"For good health we should aim to limit saturated fats in our diet as they can raise cholesterol levels and put us at greater risk of heart disease. The average Australian should not have more than 16g saturated fat per day1".

As the weather warms up, Ms Ginn is warning people to avoid falling for so-called ‘healthy' drinks and opt for water instead.

"If you want to give your healthy New Year resolutions a real chance of success, steer clear of the high-kilojoule smoothies and frappes sold in cafes, even if they do sound healthy. You're better off staying hydrated with water and snacking on a piece of fruit instead," Ms Ginn said.

"If you do decide to have one of these drinks, you can limit the damage by asking for skim milk, choosing the smallest cup size available and sharing with a friend. Better yet, make your own version at home so you know exactly what you're drinking. The LiveLighter website has some healthy and tasty smoothie recipes which are easy to make."

For more tips, recipes and advice, visit the LiveLighter website www.livelighter.com.au

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign which encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. Delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation, the LiveLighter campaign is funded by the Victorian State Government. For more information visit www.livelighter.com.au

Note: Findings are based on nutrition information found on various food outlets' website  on 11 January 2016. 


  1. Heart Foundation recommendations on saturated and trans fat daily intake http://heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/fats-and-cholesterol/saturated-and-trans-fat