This is Why You Should Never Drink a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake
Updated February, 21, 2018
St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, which means McDonald’s has released their annual green, minty and sweet “harbinger of Spring,” the annual McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Also known as The McCafe Shamrock Shake, the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is a classic drink that has an almost cult-like following. Each year, thousands of people joyfully rekindle a love-affair with the McDonald’s minty February/March phenom known as the Shamrock Shake.
Release date for 2018
If you are a Shamrock Shake addict, I’ve got some intel for you. McDonald’s (participating locations) started rolling-out Shamrock Shakes on Thursday, February 22, 2018 and will continue through March.
Four new flavors for 2017
OooWee… excited? If yes, you will also be pumped to learn that MickeyD’s is releasing more than the original Shamrock Shake. This year, for a limited time, there will be an entire line of Shamrock Shake flavors and varieties on the menu. Get all of the deets about this insanity by visiting my latest article,
Update: Missing in 2018 is the Shamrock Shake-related quartet unveiled in 2017. McDonald’s has decided NOT to release the Chocolate Shamrock Shake, the Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé, the Shamrock Mocha and the Shamrock Hot Chocolate this year.
Nostalgic but not all that it seems
The Shamrock Shake evokes nostalgic feelings for many and since its introduction in the 1970s, over 60 million Shamrock Shakes have been sold. I credit McDonald’s marketing strategy – it’s rather brilliant. However, there’s more to this shake than what you can see. One would think there are about 4 ingredients that make up the Shamrock Shake – ice cream, syrup, whipped cream and cherry, right? Well, yes… and no…. heavy emphasis on the no.
The truth, unraveled
We all know that a sweet treat from McDonald’s is not going to be “healthy” by any means. Great… but do you know how unhealthy this particular indulgence, the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, is? If not, hold onto your shakes, folks. I am about to reveal the truth of what is in this minty, sweet trip down memory lane. It will then be up to you to decide whether or not you will continue drinking Shamrock Shakes. 🙂 For everyone who has already decided that the cons outweigh the pros of this drink, keep reading, because I include healthy alternatives (complete with recipes) in this article.
The McDonald’s Shamrock Shake may be festive and fun, but it packs a punch. It is a fast-food calorie-bomb that consists of a staggering number of ingredients (35), many of which are obscure additives and dangerous chemicals. Let’s take a closer look:
Nutrition facts for McDonald’s Shamrock Shake (McCafe Shamrock Shake)*
A large, 22-ounce McDonald’s Shamrock Shake contains:
- 820 calories
- 200 calories from fat
- 22 grams of fat (34% U.S. recommended percent daily value, DV*)
- 14 grams of saturated fat (72% DV)
- 1 gram of trans fat
- 131 grams of total carbohydrates (44% DV)
- 90 milligrams of cholesterol (30% DV)
- 115 grams of sugar [28.75 TEASPOONS] (The AHA recommends consuming no more than 25-36 grams/day)
- 280 milligrams of sodium (12% DV)
To equal the amount of calories (830) in one large Shamrock Shake, you would have to eat one of the following options:
- 1.5 McDonald’s Big Macs (540 calories per Big Mac)
- 2.5 McDonald’s Hot Fudge Sundaes (330 calories per Hot Fudge Sundae
- 2.8 McDonald’s Egg McMuffins (290 calories per Egg McMuffin)
- 4.3 Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnuts (190 calories per Original Glazed Doughnut)
A medium, 16-ounce Shamrock Shake contains:
- 580 calories
- 150 calories from fat
- 16 grams of fat (25% DV)
- 10 grams of saturated fat (52% DV)
- 1 gram of trans fat
- 74 grams of total carbohydrates (30% DV)
- 65 grams of cholesterol (22% DV)
- 80 grams of sugar [20 TEASPOONS] (The AHA recommends consuming no more than 24-36 grams/day)
- 190 milligrams of sodium (8% DV)
A small, 12-ounce Shamrock Shake contains:
- 470 calories
- 120 calories from fat
- 14 grams of fat (21% DV)
- 9 grams of saturated fat (49% DV)
- .5 gram of trans fat
- 74 grams of total carbohydrates (25% DV)
- 55 milligrams of cholesterol (18% DV)
- 65 grams of sugar [16.25 TEASPOONS] (The AHA recommends consuming no more than 24-36 grams/day)
- 150 milligrams of sodium (6% DV)
- Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be lower depending on your calorie needs.
- These nutrition facts and ingredients were updated on February 1, 2017.
If your mind is blown by these nutrition facts, hold onto your skull because there is more. The ingredients that make up this creamy treat concern me more than its calories and fat content. The McDonald’s Shamrock Shake consists of 35 different ingredients! THIRTY-FIVE ingredients for a SHAKE. I’d say that might be okay if those ingredients were straight-forward, natural and safe, but sadly, most are not. Many of these ingredients are artificial, chemical-heavy preservatives that wreak havoc on our health. Let’s take a closer look:
McDonald’s Shamrock Shake (McCafe Shamrock Shake) Ingredients
We all know that a dessert from McDonald’s is not nutritious, but many people are unaware of how unhealthy some of these menu items truly are. After a quick glance, the five ingredients of a Shamrock Shake look innocent.
These ingredients include:
- Vanilla reduced fat ice cream
- Shamrock Shake syrup
- Whipped topping
- Maraschino cherry
- Green sugar crystals (a new ingredient debuting in 2017)
However, upon closer inspection, each main ingredient has several ingredients of its own – and the majority are chemicals in the form of additives, food dyes and preservatives. Yes, we and our environment are made up of chemicals, but I am talking about the chemicals that are not naturally found in whole foods – synthetic compounds that have been proven by science to be detrimental to our health.
Much of the food we consume (healthy and unhealthy) consists of more than one ingredient, but I want to emphasize that most of the main ingredients listed above have between 10 and 15 individual total ingredients, many of which are harmful to our health.
Here is the full breakdown of the ingredients in a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake:
- Some ingredients such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan, and artificial flavors are repeated, which means that the final product has double and sometimes triple the amount of such ingredients. The ingredients which I have highlighted are linked to online resources.
VANILLA REDUCED FAT ICE CREAM
- Nonfat milk solids
- Corn syrup solids
- Mono- and diglycerides
- Guar gum
- Sodium citrate
- Artificial vanilla flavor
- Sodium phosphate
- Disodium phosphate
- Cellulose gum
- Vitamin A palmitate
SHAMROCK SHAKE SYRUP
- High fructose corn syrup
- Corn syrup
- Natural flavor (plant source)
- Xanthan gum
- Citric acid
- Sodium benzoate (preservative)
- Yellow 5 (Banned in Norway and Austria)
- Blue 1 (Banned in Norway, Finland and France)
- Nonfat milk
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Contains less than 1%: mono-and diglycerides
- Beta carotene (color)
- Natural (dairy and plant sources) and artificial flavor
- Mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E) to protect flavor
- Whipping propellant (nitrous oxide)
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Malic acid
- Citric acid
- Natural and artificial flavor
- Sodium benzoate (preservative)
- Potassium sorbate (preservative)
- Red 40
- Sulfur dioxide as preservative (contains sulfites)
GREEN SUGAR CRYSTALS
A “shake” should have four-to-six ingredients and less than ten in total, not 35. With the Shamrock Shake and its 35 ingredients, McDonald’s is serving up a chemical shit-storm that is full of artificial preservatives and colorings that are toxic to your body’s systems. Many of the ingredients in this drink have been linked to various health issues and behavioral traits including:
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Chronic inflammatory diseases
- Fertility issues
- Gastrointestinal issues such as colitis
- Headaches and migraines
- Immunity suppression
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Metabolic syndrome/obesity
- Skin conditions
- Weight gain
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan, MS, NLC
Obviously, drinking one McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is not going to send you six-feet under right now, but its ingredients (refined sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, artificial dyes, additives and emulsifiers such as polysorbate-80) will very likely contribute to an inflammatory response within the body. Inflammation often begins in your gut and affects multiple aspects of your health. If not managed, inflammation can lead to disease and illness later on in life, sometimes sooner than you would think.
Many of us have chronic systemic inflammation years before its symptoms become apparent or clinically significant. The shakes and lifestyle you choose now will impact your health in the future. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), once said that “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.” I strongly believe there is truth in this statement.
Knowledge is power
I want you to be educated on the food system and what “food” is on menus of places such as McDonald’s. Knowing what the ingredients are in the food you eat allows you the freedom to choose whether you will feed disease or fight it. Numerous things we come into contact with daily (traditional Western Diet, sedentary lifestyle, non-organic meats and veggies, depression, anger, stress and anxiety, cigarettes, alcohol and pollution) already contribute to chronic inflammation within the body. Why drink this chemical cocktail and add another trigger to the list? … and does a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake really taste THAT good?
Alternatives to the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake
If you are jonesing for a festive sweet-treat and care about your health, please stay away from McDonald’s and create your own Shamrock Shake. Here are three healthy alternatives:
- Traditional homemade shamrock shake recipe by me, Jen at Bamboo Core Fitness
- Paleo and dairy-free homemade shamrock shake recipe #1 by The Healthy Beast
- Paleo and dairy-free homemade shamrock shake recipe #2 by Delicious Perspective
Continue reading to learn more about each recipe.
If you are craving a traditional homemade Shamrock Shake with ice cream and CAN tolerate cow dairy, visit my “Homemade Shamrock Shake” article for a perfect go-to milkshake recipe. This cold, creamy and minty shamrock shake will not disappoint and is very simple to make at home. Avoid the lines (and disappointment of broken shake machines at McD’s.)
It’s ingredients include:
- Organic vanilla ice cream
- Coconut milk
- Organic mint flavoring
- Fresh mint leaves
- Homemade coconut whipped cream (optional)
- Allergic to cow’s milk? No problem. Substitute a store-bought or homemade dairy-free ice cream.
- When buying the ingredients for this recipe:
- Stick with organic whenever possible.
- Avoid low-fat and no-fat ice cream and coconut milk – choose full-fat when possible.
- Make sure the ice cream you buy does not contain unnatural preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, or colors.
- Choose a brand of ice cream with the least amount of ingredients. It should contain milk, cream, eggs, a sweetener like cane sugar, and vanilla bean. Nothing more.
Get the complete recipe here: “Homemade Shamrock Shake.”
Note: This recipe is healthier than the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, but is still high in sugar and calories. Remember – sugar and dairy contribute to inflammation. Also, be mindful of food allergies and intolerances.
If you are dairy-free, as many of my readers are, and want a shamrock shake version with less sugar than a traditional shamrock shake recipe, this recipe by The Healthy Beast may be a good choice. It is paleo and dairy-free and uses five to six main ingredients.
The main ingredients of the homemade shake include:
- Chilled coconut milk (coconut extract, water)
- Vanilla extract (vanilla beans extractives, water, alcohol)
- Peppermint extract (water, alcohol, peppermint oil)
- The recipe calls for almond milk, but I suggest omitting this ingredient (unless you make your own almond milk) due to the additives found in many of the almond milk store brands. You can substitute a full-fat, organic coconut milk for the almond milk.
- Buy as many ingredients organic as possible – especially the extracts.
- If you want to avoid alcohol, or are sensitive to it, you can substitute fresh vanilla beans and mint leaves for the extracts.
Granted, if you are used to the sugary-sweet version from McDonald’s, this shamrock shake is going to be a far cry from what you are used to… however, it may be a good alternative for people looking to improve their diets – just be sure you are not allergic to the ingredients. I have not made this version of the Shamrock Shake yet, but am looking forward to experimenting with it… hopefully the taste will be as good as the photos show it to be!
To see the complete recipe, visit the Healthy Beast: “Shamrock Shake: 6 Ingredient Copycat (Dairy-Free, Paleo) Recipe“
Note: Yes, the fat and calories from this shamrock shake recipe may be on the higher side of things due to the coconut milk and avocado, but I am not concerned with this because unlike that of the MickeyD’s version, coconut milk and avocado are healthier sources of fat.
Consuming these whole foods (provided you are not allergic) will create a less dramatic blood sugar reaction within the body, help you feel more satiated (making you less likely to overeat), and will provide anti-inflammatory benefits (eating fresh, whole foods fights inflammation and prevents illness). Don’t forget to balance this healthy eating with an active lifestyle.
The main ingredients in Pip’s homemade shamrock shake recipe include:
- Coconut milk
- Mint leaves
- Organic sweetener (or dairy-free ice cream such as FoMu Avocado)
Check out Pip’s homemade shamrock shake recipe: “Jonesing For A St Paddy’s Day Shake“
… and let her know your thoughts. While visiting the Delicious Perspective blog, be sure to read Pip’s post, “Shamrock Shake article brings out the naughty leprechaun in some.” In this, she shares her perspective on the recent attention my article has received.
So there you have it – three alternatives to the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. What do you think?
Huffington gets down with a Shamrock Shake infographic
The Huffington Post has created an infographic that provides more details about the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Click “Shamrock Shake: What’s Really In McDonald’s St. Paddy’s Day Drink?” to view the document more clearly.
Frustration with the food industry
I am saddened and frustrated that our food industry is backwards in the sense that the health and wellbeing of Americans are NOT a priority. It is shocking that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows this kind of crap to end up in consumers’ bellies. Yes, people have the option to buy or not buy (and eat, or not eat) foods like this, but sadly, many people are not aware of the dangers that lurk in these “food-like-substances.”
Lack of transparency
Often, things aren’t as straightforward and transparent as they look. Large corporations like McDonald’s use tricky marketing ploys to suck people into their establishments. Without the proper education about what’s in their foods, it can be rather confusing to navigate all of the nutritional information that is floating around us.
Become aware and take action
I write articles like this to enhance your awareness of restaurant (and fast-food) menu items so that you know what foods (or food-like substances) are lurking on your and your children’s plates. I don’t think anyone should drink a toxic cocktail like this, but, in the end, it is up to YOU to decide what you will do with this information.
Get the word out
Knowledge is power. If you find any of this information appalling, surprising, useful and/or eye-opening, please help me spread awareness by sharing this knowledge with your friends, family and anyone else who will benefit… and skip the McDonald’s Shake this season.
Share this article on your social media sites, print and pass it out, talk about it at your dinner table and in your schools. Call and write to McDonald’s, demanding that they make changes to the nutrition and ingredients of their products!
Just say no to the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake (McCafe Shamrock Shake) this Saint Patrick’s Day. Instead, create a new tradition – quench your seasonal minty-green cravings with one of the homemade versions listed above instead.
What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear your opinion(s). Please join hundreds of others by sharing your thoughts about the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake in the comment section below this article.
- Have you had a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake? If so, what do you think of its taste?
- Some say the taste of a Shammy Shake is amazing, others say it tastes like toothpaste and chemicals. What’s your take on it? Yay or nay?
- If you like (or love) its taste, will you continue to drink McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes, knowing that they each contain 35 ingredients, many that are harmful to your health?
- Are your McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes days over? Why or why not?
- Do you have a favorite homemade Shamrock Shake recipe? If you do, please share with the BambooCore family.
Please share your thoughts and/or recipes in the comment section below. I want to hear and learn from you!
Happy St. Paddy’s Day from Jen at BambooCore Fitness!
- McDonald’s fast-food chains across the country have shaken 2017 up by releasing FOUR new, chocolatey Shamrock Shake flavors.
- Learn more by clicking: McDonald’s Adds Four New Chocolatey Shamrock Shake Flavors To The Menu.
- One of the newest Shamrock flavors is the Chocolate Shamrock Shake – a hybrid of a Shamrock Shake and a Chocolate Shake.
- One Chocolate Shamrock Shake contains between 20-117 grams of sugar. This is between 17.5 and 29.35 TEASPOONS of sugar!
- One Chocolate Shamrock Shake has 2.8-5% more than the daily recommendation of total added sugar for children, teens, women and men!
- Click on the link above to learn more shocking facts about the Chocolate Shamrock Shake!
- I created a homemade recipe that is even better than the original. My cold, creamy and minty homemade shamrock shake is a healthy alternative to the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. YUM!!
- Click on the link above and get ready to excite your tastebuds!
- The STRAW, dubbed “Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal,” is McDonald’s new engineered limited-edition straw designed to enhance the drinking experience of a Chocolate Shamrock Shake.
- Learn what the STRAW is, when and where you can find it, and check out a review – click: McDonald’s Shamrock Shake STRAW.
- Bray, G., Nielsen, S., & Popkin, B. (2004, April 1). Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/4/537.full#ref-list-1
- Chassaing, B., Koren, O., Goodrich, J., & Poole, A. (2015, January 14). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14232.html
- CSPI. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest; 2010. [[accessed 15 Sep 2010]]. Available: http://tinyurl.com/2dsxlvd.
- Food Additives ~ CSPI’s Food Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm
- Melnick, M. (n.d.). Shamrock Shake: What’s Really In McDonald’s St. Paddy’s Day Drink? Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/shamrock-shake-calories-nutrition-ingredients-mcdonalds-st-patricks-day_n_2885415.html
- McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf
- Product Nutrition – Shamrock McCafe Shake. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/product_nutrition.mccaf.1056.Shamrock-McCafe-Shake-Large.html?itemName=Shamrock-McCafe-Shake-Large
- Tobacman, J. K. (2001). Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(10), 983–994. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1242073/pdf/ehp0109-000983.pdf
When she is not helping others to slay fat, build muscle, and live amazing lives, Jennifer can be found exploring the outdoors with her dogs, cooking, traveling and playing/coaching lacrosse. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.