Milk shakes usually have lots of calories, but this can vary based on the types of ingredients added. Adding banana to a milk shake may boost the calories, but it also pumps up the nutrition. With careful preparation and the use of healthy ingredients, this sweet treat can be a healthy dessert.
The Foundation - Ice Cream
Ice cream is the traditional base of a milk shake. The type chosen can make a big difference in the calories. Rich premium brands can have double the calorie levels than lower quality brands. But this reduced cream amount makes the end result healthier, with fewer calories and less saturated fat. Premium brands tend to have 250 to 300 calories per 1/2 cup serving. A lower quality brand typically has 150 to 200 calories per serving.
Healthier options are available, too. Dreyer's Churned Style ice cream tastes like full-fat ice cream but has about half the fat. It also contains around 100 calories per serving. Frozen yogurt and ice milk both have around 100 calories per serving or less. No-sugar-added ice cream tends to have a little below 100 calories. And for a high-protein, lean option, use low-fat or nonfat yogurt with ice cubes.
Milk is the next biggest contributor to calories in a milk shake. There are many calorie-influencing options here as well. Whole milk has the most, at around 150 calories or more per cup. Reduced fat, also known as 2 percent, has around 120 calories. Low-fat, or 1 percent, has around 100 calories. And nonfat comes in at a little less than 100 calories per serving. Soy milk or other alternatives to milk usually have similar calories to nonfat or low-fat milk. Check the nutrition facts for exact amounts.
The Fruit - Banana
Pick fresh bananas that have become a bit over-ripe for a great-tasting shake. This will allow some of the starch to be broken down into sugar for a sweeter taste. Wait for the banana to become a little soft, with some brown spots starting on the skin.
Keep ripe bananas on hand by putting a brown banana straight into the freezer. Then it can be pulled out for a shake any time. Adding banana to a shake typically adds about 100 calories per banana. It also provides a high dose of fiber and potassium.
Extras for a Variety of Flavors
Jazz up the traditional banana milk shake with some of these ingredient options. Check the nutrition facts on each to be sure how many extra calories these items will add: peanut butter, at about 100 calories per tablespoon; chocolate chips, at about 150 calories per 1/2 cup; chocolate syrup, about 50 calories per tablespoon; and other fruit or caramel syrups, at 50 to 100 calories per tablespoon. Adding other fresh or frozen fruit can create a blend of sweet flavors with few extra calories.
With an average of 1/2 cup ice cream, 1 cup milk, and one banana, the milkshake will come in at out around 300 to 500 calories, depending on how it's made. Check the nutrition facts when buying milk shakes at restaurants. They tend to be higher in calories than the homemade version because of higher fat and sugar ingredients. Always go with the small size, which can still be 300 to 500 calories. Some large milk shakes tip the scales at almost 1,000 calories per shake.
- USDA's Nutrient Database
- "Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 15th Edition"; Jean A.T. Pennington; 1987
- "Understanding Nutrition"; Elanor Noss Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes; 2010