Clean Eating Clean Swaps Seasonal Favorites

Shamrock Shakes: Without the 20 Teaspoons of Sugar

March 22, 2022

As St. Patrick's Day quickly approaches, you're probably considering your favorite green shirts and accessories to wear and scrolling through Pinterest for on-theme appetizers and drinks you'll be sharing at gatherings with friends and family. However, some of us may be fighting the urge to make a pitstop at a McDonald’s drive-thru for one of the most iconic guilty pleasures of the season - the Shamrock Shake. It's minty, it’s creamy and it’s festive, but it’s loaded with preservatives, bad ingredients and leaves you feeling, well…not so great.

McDonald's makes it ultra-easy to get this ever-satisfying spring treat, but is it worth the sugar bomb? If you're looking for a green drink that tastes just as delicious, you can make your seasonal swaps without the whopping 20 teaspoons (Yes, 20!) of sugar. Let's explore the ingredients inside the notorious Shamrock Shake and take a look at an alternative that won't have you crashing before the fun activities on St. Patrick's Day.

What's in a McDonald's Shamrock Shake?

For starters, the shake is just that - a shake. That means the base is ice cream (Milk, Sugar, Cream, Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate—to be exact) and in this case, it's vanilla “ice cream.”

mcdonalds style shamrock shakeBefore blending, the Shamrock syrup is mixed in—a conglomeration of high fructose corn syrup, yellow 5, blue 1, and stabilizers. Less than 2% of the shake is the actual mint flavor we all love. Before being handed to the customer, the shake gets topped off with "light" whipped cream (Cream, Nonfat Milk, Liquid Sugar, Mono and Diglycerides, Natural Flavors, Carrageenan, Whipping Propellant). Did you count the ingredients? There’s over 20!

When you ingest something like this, it causes an energy spike, followed by a huge crash. If you're a very active person, you'll probably feel jittery for a bit, consider exerting this energy with some exercise (if you can with all that sugar and dairy) and you'll be alright. 

For those who are out of shape, the effects can be even worse. For these people, you'll have a sugar crash, tiredness, irritability, bloating - the list goes on. You'll feel far worse after drinking the shake than you did before, and it can put a damper on your St. Patrick’s Day plans. 

Food is Fuel

A treat is fine every once in a while but processed food, in general, is so accessible and so cheap that our grocery store makes them hard to avoid. When we start reaching for clean eating alternatives to our favorite foods, it can retrain our brain to want to eat healthier. One way to improve the quality of the foods we eat is to swap out refined sugars for natural, whole-food ingredients.

For instance, if you're wanting a festive, cold drink around the holiday, a green smoothie is a perfect choice. Starting with a clean protein powder (or vanilla) and adding in green fruits and veggies, you can have the experience without the damage to your health. Some fantastic green fruits and veggies to include are:

All of these plants add powerful nutrition to your shake and give it that beautiful green coloration we all want this time of year. While green smoothies aren’t exactly a Shamrock Shake, they might satisfy your craving until you can get your hands on the ingredients for our clean Shamrock Shake recipe below!

A Clean Shamrock Shake Recipe

Like we always say, there is a clean swap for almost everything! If you want as close to an approximation of a Shamrock Shake as possible without the guilt, there are some methods and recipes you can try. Start by considering the key flavors, vanilla and mint.

jen holding a clean shamrock shake

Here's our version:

  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. of pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. of vanilla extract
  • 1 handful of ice
  • 1 handful of mint leaves

Add the ingredients to a high speed blender and blend away until a shake consistency is reached. You can add more sweetener or mint if you so choose. Top with our homemade whipped cream recipe, garnish with mint and grab a straw—you will have a delicious, nutritious shake that can keep you fueled rather than making you want to take a nap. For a visual presentation of this recipe, check out our YouTube video.

Consider Healthy Swaps for Your Seasonal Favorites

Clean recipes don't have to be boring—you can enjoy all the foods you love and feel good. The first time you have our version of a Shamrock Shake in place of the real deal, you'll immediately notice a difference. We often don't realize just how bad our food makes us feel after eating it until we quit the bad habits.

The next time you find yourself thinking "Shamrock Shakes are only here once a year; what's the harm?", reconsider that position. One bad food choice can affect your whole day.

Enjoy the Real Deal and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Eat simple and feed good—if you don’t recognize the ingredients, neither does your body. It’s time to wake up and read the labels! Diets and restrictions do not work. You don’t have to run or meal prep to turn your health around. We show you how to feel your best without giving up the foods you love. To learn more about clean eating or to start your own journey, check out our website, follow us on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

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Here at Wake Up and Read The Labels, we help people learn how to read ingredient labels on the food they eat. We are not licensed, medical professionals. We are here to educate. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

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