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Taste-Off: The best (and worst) supermarket smoothies

A new year and a new you? Even if efforts to eat better or lose weight don’t last long, it’s fun to try — especially when trying means grabbing a sweet, fruity gulp of smoothie goodness.
Blending up a tall, cold glass of drinkable produce at home isn’t complicated, but when there’s no time for the mess, no worries. A handful of tasty and nutritious options to fit every preference and diet are on tap at local markets. Packets and bottles of myriad flavors are loaded with protein, laced with probiotics or amped-up variations of minerals and vitamins. Some are pureed with seeds and extracts, others incorporate soy, cashew, milk protein, pea protein or coconut. And for purists, there’s always the all-fruit smoothie.
For this taste test, we stuck with fresh berry and berry-banana smoothies — both protein- and fruit-only variations. Textures and flavor profiles may vary widely, but it’s easy to spot the best smoothies. They’re minimally sweet, pleasantly smooth and offer a juicy pop of fresh fruit flavor. Bad smoothies are oddball purees with so many elements in the mix that they drink like wet dirt — and taste like it, too.
Here’s the scoop on the best of the bunch — and the ones to avoid. Nutrition details refer to an entire bottle, which can range from 11 to 15.2 ounces.
Forager Project Organic Strawberry Cultured Probiotic Plant Shake
This creamy, yogurtlike drink tastes like berries and cream. Made with cashew milk and coconut cream, it’s velvety rich and minimally sweet, allowing the strawberries to shine. 220 calories, 11 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 17 g sugar, 5 g protein. $4.49 for 12 ounces at Whole Foods. (4 stars)
Suja Organic Cold Pressed Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothie
Bright strawberry flavor and just a touch of texture from ground chia seeds make this light pink elixir a big win. Made with almond and rice milks, it delivers a nice hit of protein and just enough sugar to make it taste like a treat. (Note that this does not include chai tea — that’s a typo on the label.) 270 calories, 7 g fat, 75 mg sodium, 29 g sugar, 9 g protein. $3.79 for 12 ounces at Sprouts. (4 stars)
Odwalla Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Those looking for an all-fruit drink will love this sweet, juicy blend of strawberries and banana that tastes like homemade. 230 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium, 47 g sugar, 1 g protein. $2 on sale for 15.2 ounces at Whole Foods. (3½ stars)
Naked Strawberry Banana Juice
This thick, decidedly sweet puree has authentic, tart-sweet strawberry flavor, but the banana flavor is quashed by too much apple concentrate. 250 calories, no fat, 10 mg sodium, 44 g sugar, 2 g protein. $2.99 for 15.2 ounces at Whole Foods. (3 stars)
Bolthouse Strawberry Banana Smoothie
The fresh fruit flavors in this smoothie are nice, but the drink is far too sweet, and the pear and apple concentrates steal the strawberry spotlight. 260 calories, no fat, 30 mg sodium, 56 g sugar, 2 g protein. (Note that the package divides these numbers in half, claiming 2 servings per bottle.) $2.99 for 15.2 ounces at Sprouts. (2½ stars)
Naked Double Berry Protein Blend
This dusty purple elixir made with soy and whey is a tad grainy, but big berry flavor and a judicious hit of sweetness make it one of the better high-protein drinks. It’s a higher calorie smoothie, too. 420 calories, 4 g fat, 250 mg sodium, 55 g sugar, 30 g protein. $3.79 for 15.2 ounces at Safeway. (2½ stars)
Odwalla Strawberry Protein Shake
The consistency of this thirst-quenching blend is pleasant, but the soy and milk proteins dampen the flavor of strawberry. The aftertaste of stevia is also problematic. 320 calories, 7 g fat, 135 mg sodium, 33 g sugar, 25 g protein. $2.99 for 15.2 ounces at Safeway. (2 stars)
Bolthouse Balanced Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Watered-down flavor and an odd, unpleasant aftertaste, thanks to monk fruit sweetener, make for a distasteful puree. The monk fruit sweetener may be popular with those on keto diets, but it’s a tough sell, flavor-wise. 140 calories, no fat, 110 mg sodium, 26 g sugar, 1 g protein. $2.99 for 15.2 ounces at Safeway. (1 star)
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TruVibe Eat Clean Berries, Maca and Chia
This uber-gritty gulp is pretty and it’s packed with all kinds of nutritious elements such as mushroom extracts and turmeric, but it’s far too vegetal and the bitter note is just unpleasant. 310 calories, 14 g fat, 270 mg sodium, 29 g sugar, 15 g protein. $5.79 for 12 ounces at Sprouts. (½ a star)
Evolution Fresh Organic Strawberry Smoothie
If cutting calories is the goal, this is a total win — it’s nearly impossible to swallow. It has both the texture and flavor of mud. On the upside, it’s made from healthy things: coconut milk, strawberries, lemon and beets, plus chia, brown rice and oat bran. 220 calories, 3 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 28 g sugar, 13 g protein. $4.99 for 11 ounces at Whole Foods. (No stars)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at timespickyeater@gmail.com. Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off .

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