Milkshakes sold at popular British chains can contain as many calories as four cheeseburgers and more salt than two portions of McDonald’s fries, MailOnline analysis shows.
Anti-obesity campaigners today called our findings ‘outrageous’ and argued it was ‘about time these food chains acted more responsibly’.
We compared the nutritional content of milkshakes at a dozen of the UK’s most popular restaurants, including Five Guys, Shake Shack and Creams.
Among the worst offenders was a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake with whipped cream at Five Guys, which contained 1,196 calories — equivalent to 14 chocolate digestives, six original glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts or a large Big Mac meal.
It also makes up 60 per cent of a woman’s daily recommended calorie intake and half of a man’s.
The Five Guys drink was also the saltiest shake on sale, containing 1.48g — equivalent to two-and-a-half portions of McDonald’s medium fries.
Meanwhile, Shake Shack’s loaded chocolate cookies and cream option contained 108g of sugar per serving — 3.6 times the maximum added sugar people are advised to stick to each day. For comparison, a can of Coca Cola has around 35g.
Action on Sugar said milkshakes are often viewed as a ‘nutritious option because milk is their main ingredient’ but insisted ‘that’s not always the case’.
Britons are advised to eat no more than 30g of added sugar and 6g of salt each day. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and tooth decay, while a salt-heavy diet can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The NHS tells men to eat around 2,500 calories per day to maintain their body weight, while the average woman needs 2,000 calories daily.
Consuming too many calories can lead to obesity, which affects a quarter of Britons and raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and having a stroke.
MailOnline compared the nutritional content of eight of the most popular food outlets that sell milkshakes, including Five Guys, Shake Shack, Krispy Kreme and McDonalds. Among the worst offenders was a serving of Five Guys’ chocolate and peanut butter milkshake with whipped cream, which contained 1,196 calories — equivalent to 14 chocolate digestives, as well as 60 per cent of a woman’s daily recommended intake and half of a man’s. Meanwhile, Shake Shack’s loaded chocolate cookies and cream beverage contained 108g of sugar per serving, 3.6 times the maximum added sugar people are advised to stick to each day and as much as three cans of full-fat Coca Cola
MailOnline analysed the unhealthiest milkshakes at Five Guys, Shake Shack, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, McDonalds, KFC, TGI Fridays, Frankie and Benny’s, Krispy Kreme, Caffe Nero and Cream’s.
We picked the most calorific drink out of different options and sizes at each of the chains and also examined their sugar and salt levels.
Five Guys’ milkshake, which allows customers to pick and choose their own flavours, was the most calorific (1,196 calories) when adding chocolate, peanut butter and whipped cream to the drink.
The drink, which costs (£5.95), was also the second-most sugar laden (103g).
For comparison, a single chocolate digestive contains 84 calories and 4.8g of sugar — 14-times fewer calories and 21-times less sugar.
Shake Shack’s loaded chocolate cookies and cream shake, sold for £6.25, was the second worst on calories (1,160) but held the title of the most sugary option, containing 108g per serving.
For comparison, a regular doughnut from Krispy Kreme contains 12.6g of sugar — 8.5-times less than the shake.
Cream’s large premium thick shake with Snickers was found to be third in the list for calories (869) and the priciest option (£6.95).
Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s double chocolate milkshake, one of the largest at 500ml had half as many calories (663) and a quarter less sugar (73g) than Five Guys’ and Shake Shack’s options.
But the drink, sold for £4.90, still contained around a third of a woman’s and a quarter of a man’s daily calorie intake and twice as much added sugar as Britons are told to limit themselves to each day.
Frankie and Benny’s banana ice cream custard shake (£4.20) contained fewer calories, at 517.
TGI Fridays’ chocolate shake (£3.99) and Krispy Kreme’s caramel sensation shake (£5.45) both contained a similar number of calories — 460 and 420, respectively.
McDonald’s medium vanilla milkshake (£2.29) and KFC’s Milky Bar Krushem (£1.99) drinks had similar calories (366 and 320, respectively), despite McDonald’s beverage being nearly twice as large.
However, McDonald’s version was one of the most sugary options, with 60g sugar, while KFC’s included 39.8g.
Caffe Nero’s strawberry milkshake (£4) was the least calorific and sugary (235 calories and 39g sugar).
A similar analysis by Action on Sugar in 2018 found that just one ‘freakshake’ Toby Carvery was packed with up to 156g of sugar — equivalent to 39 teaspoons. Its survey of 140 products also found a shake made by Five Guys had 149g sugar — or 37 teaspoons.
The group previously called for any milkshake with more than 300 calories to be banned.
Holly Gabriel, nutrition manager and registered nutritionist at Action on Sugar, told MailOnline today that people often view milkshakes as a ‘nutritious option because milk is their main ingredient’.
But these ‘outrageous findings clearly demonstrate that’s not always the case as well as providing further evidence that the UK Government’s voluntary sugar reduction programme is not working’, she said.
Ms Gabriel added: ‘Food and drink companies that want to do the right thing are crying out for a level playing field which can only be achieved by setting mandatory targets for calorie and sugar reduction.
‘Whilst sugars are naturally present in milk and milk products, there’s no excuse to add excessive levels of added sugar which can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. It’s about time these food chains acted more responsibly.’
The findings come amid a national obesity crisis, which worsened during the pandemic. One in three children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave school, while three-quarters of over-45s are too big.
The NHS spends more than £6billion per year treating obesity-related health problems and the cost is set to rocket to £9.7billion by 2050.
The Prime Minister announced a crackdown on obesity in 2020 after a near-fatal bout of Covid which he attributed to being overweight.
As part of the plan, new laws restricting offers on foods high in fat, sugar and salt are due to come into effect in medium and large shops in October. Junk food giants will also be banned from advertising online and before 9pm on TV by January 2023.
No10 is also planning to end ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions for unhealthy food and stop the products from being placed in prominent locations in shops, such as entrances and checkouts.
And a rule came into effect earlier this month requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 staff to list calories on their menus.
And through the NHS, Britons can now get access to apps as well as free or discounted membership to gyms and programmes such as Weight Watchers to help them shed weight.
But there are concerns Mr Johnson may dilute or drop some of these plans to appease Tory MPs who oppose nanny-state interventions.
|Five Guys Milkshake with chocolate, peanut butter and whipped cream
|Shake Shack Loaded Chocolate Cookies & Cream Shake
|Gourmet Burger Kitchen Double Belgian Chocolate
|TGI Fridays Chocolate shake
|Krispy Kreme Caramel Sensation Kreme Shake
|McDonalds Medium Vanilla Milkshake
|KFC Milky Bar Krushems
|Caffe Nero Strawberry Milkshake
|Frankie and Benny’s Banana Ice Cream Custard Shakes
|Cream’s Large Premium Thick Shake with Snickers
|Crepeaffaire Reese’s Peanut Butter Luxury Shake