What's in that McDonald's Shamrock Shake and how you can make a healthier one at home.


Now that it's March, it's time to break out the green stuff for St. Patrick's Day! But if you're planning to do so by indulging in a cool, minty McDonald's McCafé Shamrock Shake to celebrate the Irish holiday, there's a few things you should know before hitting the drive-thru. Available for just a limited time, you probably already know that the Shamrock Shake isn't exactly healthy for you. But, let's go over the nutrition facts. A 16-ounce serving of the Shamrock Shake has 550 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, no fiber, 82 grams of sugar and 13 grams of protein. The Shamrock Shake is made with McDonald's low-fat vanilla soft-serve ice cream and Shamrock Shake syrup, and then topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Compared to other fast-food calorie-bombs, the Shamrock Shake isn't the worst thing out there, says Mary Hartley, registered dietitian and online nutritionist at AskMaryRD.com. For example, a 16-ounce Dairy Queen Blizzard has 1170 calories and 152 grams of sugar! But that doesn't mean the Shamrock Shake is a healthy choice. "The 82 grams of sugar is the worst," Hartley says. "It's like eating around six slices of bread all at once. The saturated fat is also high, at 40 percent of the daily limit (the goal is 10 percent). On the other hand, it is loaded with calcium (460 milligrams percent)." In fact, the 550 calories in a two-cup serving are about 28 percent of the average woman's daily caloric requirement, so drinking this shake is more like eating lunch than having a treat, she says. A healthier option at the McDonald's drive-thru would be a McCafé large coffee, which has zero calories, fat and sugar. But, Hartley admits, if you're a true Shamrock Shake fan, you shouldn't be afraid to indulge a little. After all, you drink a Shamrock Shake for fun and camaraderie - not for health, she says. Making your own healthier version at home might be the perfect Shamrock Shake compromise. "If I wanted to blend a sweet and creamy green drink at home, I might try the Citrus Avocado Smoothie recipe. That looks good to me," she says. "I might add a drop or two of green food coloring to make it even greener for the kids. Also, here's a Copycat McDonald's Shamrock Shake recipe from Food.com. I would change the ice cream to frozen yogurt and the 2-percent milk to skim, and call it my own!" Are you a fan of the Shamrock Shake? Can't imagine a St. Patrick's Day without it? Wouldn't touch it? Tell us about it!


Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.