McDonald’s sells millions of shakes worldwide but is not one of the most popular menu items. McDonald’s shakes typically come in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. In other countries, they do offer other options (in the UK, banana shakes are available), and once a year, McDonald’s releases the Shamrock Shake, a minty treat in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
McDonald’s started in 1954 as a very small burger restaurant in San Bernardino, California. A man named Ray Kroc saw an opportunity for a franchise and now McDonald’s has over 37,000 restaurants in 120 countries. Since its humble beginnings, McDonald’s has focused on hamburgers, french fries, soda, and milkshakes.
Does McDonald’s Have Milkshakes?
McDonald’s has shakes that are made using their reduced-fat soft serve, syrup, and topped with whipped topping. These uncomplicated treats cannot be legally called “milkshakes” because of dairy regulations. In some states, strict dairy laws prohibit the use of the word milkshake to describe a product that has less than 3.25% milkfat.
Since McDonald’s reaches millions of people across the world daily, the owners and operators of the McDonald’s Corporation decided they did not want to deal with the legal hassle of complicated dairy regulations. This brought them to exclude the word “milkshake” from their menus altogether, and strictly calling them “shakes”.
McDonald’s three main types of shakes are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. These flavors have been the base of McDonald’s shakes since the 1950s. They come in small, medium, and large sizes. In countries outside the US, although the menu is often different, in most places the three main flavors remain the same.
All shakes are made with McDonald’s reduced-fat vanilla soft serve. The soft serve is made up of milk, sugar, cream, corn syrup, natural flavor, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, vitamin A palmitate. Mixed with “shake syrup”, which is mostly sugar, corn syrup, and water, the shakes are then topped with whipped topping.
As of October 2021, a small shake at McDonald’s is going for $2.19. Medium size is $2.59, and a large-sized shake in vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate, is selling at $2.99. These are average prices in the US. Prices vary from state to state. In California, a small shake is $2.80 and a large shake is almost a dollar more.
To find out what shakes, as well as other McDonald’s items, are going for in your state, check out fastfoodmenuprices.com. McDonald’s prices vary greatly from state to state and are dependant on operating costs and minimum wage in that location.
McDonald’s has three sizes of shakes: small, medium, and large. According to nutritionix.com, an app and food database that tracks nutritional information for products, a small McDonald’s shake is 12 ounces, a medium is 16 ounces, and a large is 22 ounces.
In the 1960s, a small shake was 7ounces. The sizes and portions of every item at McDonald’s have grown significantly larger in the past 60 years. For the period between 1987 and the early 2000s, McDonald’s coined the phrase “supersize”, which meant to upgrade to an extra large-sized portion. They eliminated this option in 2004, to improve their health choices and simplify their menu, according to spokesman Walt Riker on CBSnews.com.
Within the past few years, McDonald’s has taken it a step further, phasing out artificial ingredients from their menu items.
McDonald’s uses reduced-fat soft serve in their shakes, the most prominent ingredient of which is milk. McDonald’s shakes are made with real ice cream, however, the definition of what constitutes “real ice cream” varies from state to state due to dairy regulations. In 2016, the chain began to remove artificial flavors from its soft serve.
The FDA regulations for what is real ice cream state that it must weigh at least 4.5 lbs to the gallon contain no less than 20 percent milk solids, and no less than 10 percent milkfat. It is apparent that even though McDonald’s shakes contain all the necessary ingredients to be ice cream because they are reduced-fat, it is not legally so.
Besides the milk fat content, the content of other ingredients in McDonald’s shakes may surprise you.
There are 55 grams of sugar in a McDonald’s small vanilla shake, 68 grams in a medium, and a whopping 92 grams of total sugar in a large according to the McDonald’s US website. A large Shamrock Shake contains even more, with a large including 113 grams of sugars.
To put that into perspective, according to The Charlotte Wellness Center in North Carolina, healthy adults should not consume more than 90 grams of overall sugars in a day. Over time, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can lead to heart disease.
Reducing the amount of milkfat in McDonald’s shakes did not make up for the overuse of sugars, but just how healthy are they?
McDonald’s is certainly not known for its healthy options, and the shakes are no exception. Milkshakes are not a healthy choice no matter where you get them from, but especially so at McDonald’s. They are high in calories, high in sugar, and have a disproportionate percentage of saturated fats.
When it comes to unhealthy shakes, McDonald’s is not the top dog. In a list of the Top 20 Worst Restaurant Milkshakes, McDonald’s large chocolate shake only made #12. Coming in first? The uber-unhealthy large Oreo Peanut Butter Shake from Sonic, at a ridiculous 1,720 calories, it more than doubles that of the McDonald’s shake.
McDonald’s restaurants do sell milkshakes in the US and most countries. They are available in small, medium, and large, and prices vary by state. Even though they are made with reduced-fat soft serve, they are far from a healthy alternative to ice cream.
Over the past decade, McDonald’s corporation has made an effort to improve its menu options to include more healthy alternatives. McDonald’s even changed its shake ingredients in 2016 in an attempt to cut back on artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Besides their attempts to simplify and improve their ingredient listings, not much has changed about the McDonald’s shake in 66 years except their ability to call it a milkshake.