Recently, Starbucks released their limited-time Unicorn Frappuccino. This drink has raised a lot of controversy and questions about where food and beverage companies should draw the line. Some see it as fun, whimsical treat, while others see it as a health risk. Here are a few of the questions it raises and lessons from the popular beverage for those who are health-minded.
So, how bad is it for you, really?
We’re not trying to pick on Starbucks’ pretty, creative drink, but it does provide a good lesson on what to pay attention when it comes to nutrition facts so you don’t counteract all your hard work at the fitness center. Specifically, the pink and purple-swirled drink clocks in at 410 calories for the 16-ounce size. That would be a satisfying meal if it were food, but liquid calories don’t take up much space, so this is more likely to be a very high-calorie snack.
Secondly, it has 59 grams of sugar in various forms. That’s twice the American Heart Association’s recommended daily allowance for both women and men. That’s also 62 grams of carbohydrates. Finally, it has 25 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated, for 50% of the recommended daily value.
Are there any redeeming nutritional qualities?
To make you feel a little better if you drank one of these, it does have a few nutritional qualities: two of the fruity syrups are derived from fruit juice concentrate, which is probably how the beverage manages to contributes 15% of your daily value of vitamin C. It also contains 20% of the recommended daily value for calcium. Still, you can get these vitamins and minerals from much more nutritious sources.
Isn’t it okay to enjoy something like this as an occasional treat?
Even people who are health-conscious might justify trying the drink as a treat or cheat meal. It’s perfectly fine (and recommended) to leave some wiggle room in your diet for special foods and treats now and then.
But, it’s also important to consider how a treat this decadent will affect your body. Loading up on that much sugar is a recipe for a blood-glucose spike that ends in a crash. You might feel sluggish the rest of the day, or even get a stomach ache. Your energy level will suffer, and, likely, so will your workout at the fitness gym.
Can’t I just burn off the calories?
You could justify enjoying a treat like this because you know you’re scheduled for a HIIT workout at the gym later that day. Do you know how many miles and minutes or cardio it will take to burn that Unicorn Frappuccino off? Based on calorie count, you’d need to run at least 46 minutes and walk at least 112 minutes to burn it off.
Even if you burn off the calories and avoid weight gain, a worst side-effect is that sugary treats can make it harder to resist cravings for sugar every day. In other words, you might struggle harder to stick to a healthy diet after a splurge like this. One splurge could lead to many more splurges and ultimately de-rail your fitness goals.
Lessons from the Unicorn Frappuccino
The important thing is to make an informed decision about what you’re putting in your body, whatever that decision is. Make sure you’re reading labels, understand what recommended macro and micro-nutrient intake percentages mean, balance your calorie intake with your output, and do what’s best for your body most of the time.