Just how healthy are Tim Hortons smoothies?

Tim Hortons markets its new ‘healthier’ beverages as having ‘real fruit.’ Does sugary juice count?

Smoothie operator

Photography by Andrew Tolson

Since March, Tim Hortons has adorned its coffee shops with gigantic pictures of bananas, strawberries and other berries for the launch of its “healthier” snack: Real Fruit Smoothies. Available as mixed berry or strawberry banana, they contain only 130 calories (for a small serving), and half a cup of fruit (equal to one of the seven to 10 servings doctors recommend adults consume every day). A closer look at nutritional values, though, reveals the drinks contain no fibre or protein, which means that there is no fresh fruit actually being thrown in the blender, says registered dietician Nicole Springle.

In fact, the “real” fruit comes from purees and juices, confirms a Tim Hortons spokeswoman. That doesn’t have the same health benefits of the fresh stuff, says Springle, because those purees and juices don’t come with the fibre and protein that help slow down the pace at which we assimilate the sugar that fruit naturally contains. Hortons’ Real Fruit Smoothies have 30 grams of sugar. That’s more than the sugar content of any Tim Hortons doughnut.

The marketing of healthy beverages has been a controversial issue. Unsubstantiated claims, from the wildly unlikely ones promising help with heart disease, erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer, to the simple “healthy” label placed on certain drinks, have attracted a slew of lawsuits against the food industry. In January, a British advertising watchdog banned Coca-Cola from using the word “nutritious” to market its sports drink, Vitaminwater. The company has landed in court in the U.S. and Canada as well over Vitaminwater’s marketing. The drink allegedly contains about 30 grams of sugar, as much as a Tim Hortons’ Smoothie.

Hortons’ Smoothies remain a healthier choice than one of its maple dip or sour cream glaze doughnuts, and certainly a good alternative to carbonated soft drinks, because at least the smoothies have some vitamin C, according to Springle. In sum, they are indeed “better for you”—if you consider all those sugary soft drinks and sports drinks on the market today.

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