At a chili cookoff a few months ago, I struck up a conversation with one of Houston's many McDonald's franchise owners. The gentleman had owned and operated the McDonald's near the downtown Greyhound bus station for many years and despite having an endless array of bizarre stories about the antics of "customers" that had wandered over from the bus station, all he wanted to talk about were the new fruit smoothies that the chain was launching soon.
I remember thinking, "They're just smoothies. Big deal."
The smoothies have finally hit the stores here in Houston, and I tried one for myself this morning. A medium wild berry smoothie -- with tax -- ran me $3.02, far less than a Smoothie King version would have.
And it was surprisingly good.
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The smoothie, made with blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, was tart and a little dark but perfectly sweet and not overly saccarine tasting. It shocked me in both its bright flavor and icily smooth consistency.
Unlike most of the other cold beverages/treats at McDonald's, the fruit smoothies come in at a very managable 260 calories and one gram of fat for a medium. Even better, you're getting fiber and protein (four grams and three grams, respectively) and 100 percent of your daily value for Vitamin C. There's even a bit of calcium and Vitamin A in there for good measure. Try finding anything else on the fast food menu at McDonald's that'll do that for you.
The smoothies -- as advertised -- are made with real fruit, low-fat yogurt and ice. Nothing else. And while they aren't necessarily going to win any smoothie contests, nor can you add fancy "power" or "immunity" boosts, they're pretty good. Not to mention they're less expensive, with far more locations than Jamba Juice outlets.
So the next time you're stuck without any good breakfast options, keep this in mind: There's always a McDonald's nearby, and the smoothies are a real treat.