Smoothie Smackdown: Homemade vs. Fast Food

Summer is here, and with the hot weather comes everyone’s cravings for a sweet treat! I enjoy fruit smoothies because they can be nutritious while also hitting the spot. Going to grab a smoothie at a fast food joint seems like the perfect idea for a hot day, but these smoothies can be pretty expensive… and high in sugar. Could making your own smoothies solve this issue?

This week, I tested out two smoothies: one that I made at home from scratch, and one from a popular smoothie franchise in Ames. Both of them were peanut butter, banana, and yogurt smoothies. I compared the taste, nutritional value, and simplicity of the two. Which one do I think is better? Let’s find out!

HomemadeFast Food
Amount16 oz.16 oz.
Time it took5 minutes20 minutes
Fat9 g11.5 g
Carbohydrate50 g70 g
Sugar34 g53 g
Protein16 g22 g

My thoughts:

Homemade: This smoothie was quick, easy, and DELICIOUS! All I did was throw the ingredients (which I already happened to have) in a blender. It had the perfect touch of sweetness along with a thick, creamy consistency. This smoothie provides a good amount of protein and has a reasonable amount of sugar and calories for me—and you can’t beat the price! Recipe from:

Fast Food: This smoothie was very tasty, but also really sweet. It tasted similar to my homemade one, but almost as if you had added ice cream to it! It provides a good amount of protein and kept me full, but also has a steep amount of sugar and calories especially when compared to the homemade version. Paying $6 for a smoothie that I could make at home doesn’t seem very practical to me, especially when I had to drive there and back to get it. (The whole container was 24 oz., but I only ate 16 oz. to stay consistent with the homemade one.)

The Verdict:

I prefer the homemade smoothie! It’s delicious, easy, and cost-friendly. Another perk of making your own smoothie is that you know exactly what’s going into it. Fast food or store-bought smoothies can be high in added sugar. The homemade smoothie I made contains mostly natural sugar (which comes from fruit and dairy), along with just a touch of added sugars which come from the flavored yogurt and peanut butter. Over time, making your own smoothies will be better for your bank account and your overall health, without sacrificing any of the yumminess.

Written by Maggie Moeller – Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

My children and I love making smoothies for breakfast or as a special treat to go along with supper. We do not use a recipe very often because it is fun to use what we have on hand to make something tasty. However, our June recipe of the month, Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie, is a recipe we all like.

The first step of this recipe is an important one – freeze your banana for at least four hours before making this smoothie. I usually try to freeze at least one banana per week. Then I always have a frozen banana on hand for smoothies or to thaw for banana bread. You can freeze bananas whole with the peel on, but for this recipe you need to peel the banana, cut it into 4 to 6 pieces, and freeze it in an airtight container.

Once you have your banana frozen, you are ready to make your smoothie. All you have to do is add the frozen banana, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter to a blender and blend until smooth. You can double or triple this recipe to make more servings or to make some extra smoothies for another day. Store the extra smoothies in airtight containers in the freezer. As a bonus, if you bought a bag of chia seeds for our May recipe of the month, you can add a spoonful of chia seeds to this smoothie to add some texture and nutrition.

Find the full recipe:


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Cool Treat for Summer’s Heat

berry banana popsicles

During the summer, I can often find my kids looking through our freezer to see what kind of frozen treat they can find. Usually they can find some sort of popsicles and, once in a while, some ice cream. They also like making their own popsicles. One of Paige’s favorite kind of popsicles to make are the Berry Banana Popsicles from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

I like the recipe too because it is a simple, yet filling, snack for my kids. The only ingredients are strawberries, bananas, and yogurt. We like to chop the fruit up and mix in the yogurt before putting into the molds to freeze. You can also mix all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth before putting into the popsicle molds.

If your family doesn’t like strawberries or bananas, use different fruits such as blueberries, cherries, or raspberries. We also have a recipe for Apricot Pops.

Making the popsicles is a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen. They can chop the fruit up with a butter knife or plastic knife and stir into the yogurt.

Share with us what kind of fruit you would use in your popsicles.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Banana Ice Cream

Our July recipe of the month is Banana Ice Cream. This is a tasty summer treat that my family likes to make and eat together. My daughter, Eliza, helped me make some over the weekend and she did a great job! You can watch our kitchen adventures in the Banana Ice Cream video.

Banana Ice Cream is one of our summer favorites because:

  • It is a great use for overripe bananas. I find that bananas ripen very quickly in the summer, so I have to find creative ways of using them before they go bad.
  • It is a simple recipe. It only requires bananas and a little bit of milk. In the evening, Eliza helped me slice and freeze the bananas. The next morning, she ran the blender while I added the milk.
  • It works for any meal or snack. Eliza likes to have Banana Ice Cream for breakfast because she likes to tell people that she is allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast.
  • It is ice cream on demand if you keep sliced bananas in the freezer. No need to go out and wait in line at the ice cream shop on a hot night.

If you have some bananas ripening too fast like we did, give Banana Ice Cream a try. I think you will like it. Enjoy!

banana ice cream

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Berry Banana Popsicles

Our July recipe of the month is Berry Banana Popsicles.  This recipe comes at a perfect time for me as I am trying to stretch my food budget, especially when it comes to snacks (see my blog from last month).  My children need two or three snacks each day and I am trying to cut back on pre-packaged snacks this summer. We are doing …

Berry Banana Popsicles meet my family’s snacking needs for several reasons:

  • The children can help make them.  They can cut up the bananas and berries, they can mix everything together, they can pour the mix into popsicle molds or cups, and they can put in the sticks.
  • They are filling.  These popsicles are made with yogurt and whole fruit so they will fill up my children’s tummies better than a popsicle made from juice.
  • They are easy. I can keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and we can reach for them whenever we need them.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Oatmeal for Breakfast – A New Way!

Banana Oatmeal Bread WebIn the winter months, I crave a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I love to sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar, chopped nuts, and sliced bananas. But in the summer, I rarely want a hot breakfast. I like to have something on hand that the children and I can eat quickly so we can get outside and enjoy the day before it gets too hot.

If I have the oven going for supper, I will make up a quick bread or some muffins for breakfast the next morning. This saves on energy costs because I only have to heat the oven up once and I get two meals (or four meals if I plan for leftovers). I feel like it also saves me time because it frees up my mornings to enjoy some time with my children.

Our Banana Oatmeal Bread is a great way to combine my love of oatmeal with my desire for a quick and easy breakfast. The oatmeal in this recipe is a whole grain, which provides fiber to our bodies. Eating enough fiber can help us feel full, ease constipation, and prevent diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. That is a pretty impressive list! I hope you try out this recipe for breakfast this summer.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Fruit Pizza

You have to try this Fruit Pizza!  It really is one of the biggest recipe hits we have created for our Healthy and Homemade Calendar.  It is quick, easy, and uses common ingredients including whole grains (oatmeal).  Plus it tastes and looks fabulous.

Since we introduced this recipe it has turned up at birthday parties, coffee breaks, receptions, kids cooking lessons, and picnics.  Each time the flavor is a little different depending on the fruit and yogurt chosen.  In the winter, there were more mandarin oranges, bananas and apples on the pizzas, now I see peaches, berries, and melon which are plentiful and in season.

Sometimes it is served in wedges; other times the crust is divided into 8 individual cookies so that each person can “decorate” their cookie with the fruit of their choice.  Kids can help make the cookie and they love to decorate with their favorite fruits.

Another idea is to use the shape of the cookie or the fruit colors to tie into the theme of a party.  Last year I made a football shaped cookie for a Super Bowl Party.   Berries could support a patriotic 4th of July fruit pizza.

Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast

Fruit smoothies and drinks have joined the menu at many coffee shops and quick serve restaurants.  Manufacturers have also joined the bandwagon with many bottled or frozen mixes on grocery store shelves.  It is no wonder they are so popular, they are a great way to get fruits into your and children’s diet.

When smoothies are made with dairy products and fruit like those at Panera, Starbucks, McDonalds, etc., they are a fabulous snack because they add calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, protein, and fiber to your diet. However, be sure to read the nutrition information.

Purchased smoothies often cost $2.00-$3.00 per serving.  You can make your own for a fraction of the cost especially if you buy fruits in season.  Our Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast is around $.75 per serving.  It is made with strawberries, banana, and strawberry yogurt. Almost any combination of fruit and yogurt will work (eg. banana-peach, mango-berry).

Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast

½ banana
½ cup frozen berries
1 (6-ounce) container strawberry yogurt

Blend all ingredients well in blender.
Pour into your favorite glass and enjoy!

TIP: Smoothies are a great way to use over-ripe fruit

Waldorf Summer Salad

WOW, what an easy salad and one that kids love (it’s the marshmallows).

Because you can use almost any fruit, Waldorf Summer Salad is a great one to use with seasonal fruit. Right now, in Iowa, we have lots of luscious peaches, plums, cherries, berries and melons in the markets, so I probably wouldn’t make it with the apples and bananas shown in the picture.

Don’t make this salad too far ahead, but do let the kids help. If you need a few more servings, just add another fruit or two and a little more juice.

Waldorf Summer Salad


  • 1 medium apple, diced*
  • 1 banana, cut up
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup fruit juice (any kind)
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • Optional: ¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or peanuts


  1. Place apple, banana, and raisins in a bowl. Pour juice over and stir to coat.
  2. Stir in marshmallows and, if desired, chopped nuts. Serve.
    *Invite your family to experiment with flavor combinations, such as pears, peaches, kiwi, canned pineapple, and other dried fruits.

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