Well Being

I’m Sorry, But Jamba Juice Isn’t A Healthy Snack For Kids

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A friend once described her family-oriented neighborhood in San Francisco, mocking the mothers who, pushing a stroller in one hand and toting a 20-ounce Jamba Juice cup in the other, would utter frustrations with not being able to drop the last few pounds of baby weight. Zing! True, my friend was in her 20s and looking for any way to poke fun at mommy culture, but her analogy also speaks to a problem that many of us have had: That “health food” chains like Jamba Juice don't really dole out health food. Which is why I find it disturbing that Jamba is going start selling their smoothies to schoolchildren.

Our friends at Well+Good NYC report that Jamba Juice is planning to sell their smoothies in elementary, middle, and high schools through a new chain of “JambaGo” express shops. Supposedly, the plan is a retaliation against Starbucks' plan to move into the health and wellness category with new juice shops, according to Nation's Restaurant News:

Jamba’s growth plans were discussed just ahead of Thursday’s news that Starbucks Coffee Co. will open a new juice bar concept as well as sell Evolution Fresh juices in its coffeehouse locations and build a consumer-packaged goods line of juice products. The move – spurred by Starbucks’ $30 million acquisition of Evolution Fresh – pits the coffee giant more directly against Jamba Juice, which has been working to build its presence in the health-and-wellness category.

James White, Jamba Inc.’s chair, president and chief executive, said in a statement Thursday that Starbucks’ move “validates the health and wellness strategy and mission that Jamba Juice has been executing against for the past 20-plus years.”

Third-quarter results indicate that Jamba Juice is “strong and strengthening,” said White.

“We are growing globally and we remain a top-of-mind health-and-wellness brand among consumers,” he said.

Um, I'm sorry, but Jamba Juice should not be the first thing you think of when you're looking for something healthy to eat! It's true, the smoothies contain some fresh fruit. But they are also pumped up with sugars from pasteurized fruit juice, sorbet, sherbet and frozen yogurt, all of which should be considered more “dessert” than “healthy snack” for kids or adults (no matter how many powdered supplements you load them with).

Of course, given that congress is may count pizza as a vegetable in school lunches, Jamba Juice might not be the worst thing that kids eat in the course of their day. But as someone who's taught kids (of elementary, middle, and high school ages) before, I have to say: Big, sugary drinks make for a very difficult learning environment. Even apple juice boxes are enough to spike kids' blood sugar when eaten as a snack without some kind of healthy protein or fiber, and the result is a classroom full of kids who'd be better off learning double dutch than anything they can do sitting down.

Parents—or people who just want a healthy snack on the go—I implore you: Don't blindly buy these Big Gulp-sized sugar bombs just because they contain fruit.

Photo: Serious Eats