Why You Should NEVER Drink a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

McD's Shamrock Shake

Just in case you were thinking about grabbing a large, 22-ounce McDonald’s Shamrock Shake today…you may want to know that it contains:

This is roughly the same amount of calories as:

  • 1.5 Big Macs, or
  • 2.5 Hot Fudge Sundaes, or
  • Nearly 3 Egg McMuffins

If you opt to downsize to a medium, 16-ounce Shamrock Shake, you will consume:

  • 19 Grams of Fat (29% U.S. Daily Value)
  • 12 Grams of Saturated Fat (61% U.S. Daily Value)
  • 1 Gram of Trans Fat
  • 660 Calories
  • 93 Grams of Sugar
  • 210 Milligrams of Sodium (9% U.S. Daily Value)

If you decide to order a small, 12-ounce Shamrock Shake, you will drink:

  • 15 Grams of Fat (24% U.S. Daily Value)
  • 10 Grams of Saturated Fat (49% U.S. Daily Value)
  • 1 Gram of Trans Fat
  • 530 Calories
  • 73 Grams of Sugar 
  • 160 Milligrams of Sodium (7% U.S.Daily Value)

Oh…you may also be interested in learning that the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake consists of 33 different ingredients, a fact that concerns me more than the amount of calories


We all know that a dessert from McDonald’s is not going to be nutritious, but many people are unaware of how unhealthy some of these menu items truly are.

After a quick glance, the 4 ingredients of a Shamrock Shake look innocent.

The main ingredients include:

  1. Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream
  2. Shamrock Shake Syrup
  3. Whipped Cream
  4. Maraschino Cherry

However, upon closer inspection, each main ingredient has several ingredients of its own – and the majority are chemicals in the form of additives, food dyes and preservatives. Yes, we and our environment are made up of chemicals, but I am talking about the chemicals that are not naturally found in whole foods – synthetic compounds that have been proven by science to be detrimental to our health.

Much of the food we consume (healthy and unhealthy) consists of more than one ingredient, but I want to emphasize that each of the main ingredients listed above has between 10 and 15 total ingredients, many which are harmful.

Here is the full breakdown of what is in a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake:

(Highlighted ingredients are linked to articles, studies, etc.)

(Note: Some ingredients such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan, and artificial flavors are repeated, which means that the final product has double and sometimes triple the amount of such ingredients.)


  1. Milk
  2. Sugar
  3. Cream
  4. Nonfat Milk Solids
  5. Corn Syrup Solids
  6. Mono- and Diglycerides
  7. Guar Gum
  8. Dextrose
  9. Sodium Citrate
  10. Artificial Vanilla Flavor
  11. Sodium Phosphate
  12. Carrageenan
  13. Disodium Phosphate
  14. Cellulose Gum
  15. Vitamin A Palmitate


  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  2. Corn Syrup
  3. Water
  4. Sugar
  5. Natural Flavor (Plant Source)
  6. Xanthan Gum
  7. Citric Acid
  8. Sodium Benzoate (Preservative)
  9. Yellow 5
  10. Blue 1


  1. Cream
  2. Nonfat Milk
  3. Corn Syrup
  4. Sugar
  5. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  6. Contains Less Than 1%: Mono-And Diglycerides
  7. Carrageenan
  8. Polysorbate-80
  9. Beta Carotene (Color)
  10. Natural (Dairy and Plant Sources) and Artificial Flavor
  11. Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E) to Protect Flavor
  12. Whipping Propellant (Nitrous Oxide)


  1. Cherries
  2. Water
  3. Corn Syrup
  4. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  5. Sugar
  6. Malic Acid
  7. Citric Acid
  8. Natural (Plant Source) and Artificial Flavors
  9. Sodium Benzoate (Preservative)
  10. Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)
  11. Red 40
  12. Sulfur Dioxide as Preservative (Contains Sulfites)

Toxic cocktail

A “shake” should have 4-6 main ingredients and less than 10 in total, not 33. With the Shamrock Shake, McDonald’s is serving up a chemical shit-storm full of artificial preservatives and colorings that are toxic to your body’s systems.

Many of the ingredients in this drink have been linked to various health issues and behavioral traits including:

  • Acne
  • ADHD
  • Allergies
  • Blood Sugar Imbalances 
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
  • Fertility Issues
  • Gastrointestinal Issues such as Colitis
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Hyperactivity
  • Immunity Suppression
  • Leaky Gut
  • Metabolic Syndrome/Obesity
  • Skin Conditions

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan, MS, NLC

Obviously one McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is not going to put you in the grave, but its ingredients (refined sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, additives and emulsifiers such as polysorbate-80, etc.) will very likely contribute to an inflammatory response within the body. Inflammation often begins in your gut, affects multiple aspects of your health and if not managed will lead to disease and illness (see above).

Many of us have chronic systemic inflammation for years before its symptoms become apparent or clinically significant. So the shakes and lifestyle you choose now may impact your health in the future. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), once said that “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.” I strongly believe this is true.

Knowing the ingredients in the food you eat allows you to choose whether or not to feed disease or fight it. So many things in our lives that we may come in contact with daily (traditional Western Diet, sedentary lifestyle, non-organic meats and veggies, depression, anger, stress and anxiety, cigarettes, alcohol and pollution) already contribute to chronic inflammation within the body. Why add another thing to the list?

Eating more fresh and whole foods is one way to fight inflammation and prevent illness.

Make your own

If you are jonesing for a green sweet-treat and care about your health, please stay away from McDonald’s and create your own Shamrock Shake.

If you are dairy-free, as many of my readers are, and want a version with less sugar, this recipe by The Healthy Beast may be a good choice. It is paleo and dairy-free and uses 5-6 main ingredients. It has a total of 7 ingredients, which is quite different than 33.

Yes, the fat and calories may be on the higher side of things due to the coconut milk and avocado, but I am not too concerned with this because unlike that of the McD’s version, coconut milk and avocado are healthier sources of fat. Consuming these particular whole foods (provided you are not allergic) will create a much less dramatic blood sugar reaction within the body, help you feel more satiated, make you less likely to overeat, and will even provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Just be sure to balance this with an active lifestyle.

The recipe calls for almond milk, but I suggest omitting this ingredient (unless you make your own) due to the additives found in many of the store brands. I also recommended buying as many of the ingredients organic as possible – primarily the extracts.

The main ingredients of the homemade shake include:

If you want to avoid alcohol, or are sensitive to it, I suggest substituting fresh vanilla bean and mint leaves for the extracts.

Get the complete recipe: here.

I myself have not made this version of the Shamrock Shake yet, but am looking forward to experimenting with it…hopefully the taste is as good as the photos show it to be! Granted, if you are used to the sugary-sweet version from McDonald’s, this is going to be a far cry from what you are used to…however, for those who are looking to improve their lifestyle, and are not allergic to these ingredients, it may provide a good alternative.

Learn more

The Huffington Post has created a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake graphic. To view this more clearly, click here.

Mmmm mmm mmmm.  Are you still “loving it”…?!  I know for sure that I am not.


This St. Patrick’s Day, I say you are better off if you eat a hearty Irish dinner (choose your meal – organic beef and cabbage, colcannon, shepherd’s pie, whiskey cake, etc.), and wash it down with a pint of your favorite, additive-free local brew, non-alcoholic beverage, or a homemade Shamrock Shake. Do your best to stick to high quality meats and veggies free of hormones andpreservatives.

Sure, with this meal you may consume some natural sugars and sodium, but it will be a lot healthier (and for me, more satisfying) than a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.

Please spread the word

I feel saddened and frustrated that our food industry is so backwards and that the FDA allows this kind of junk to end up in consumers’ bellies. Yes, people have the option to buy or not buy (and eat, or not eat) foods like this, but sadly, not enough consumers are aware of the dangers that lurk in these “food-like-substances.”

Often, things aren’t as straightforward and transparent as they look. Large corporations like McDonald’s use tricky marketing ploys to suck people into their establishments, and it can be rather confusing to navigate all of the nutritional information that is floating around us.

I post articles like this to help others become more aware of what is on restaurant menus and on our plates. In the end, it is up to you to decide what you will do with this information. Please help me spread awareness by sharing this knowledge with your friends, family and anyone else who will benefit.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear your opinion. Have you had a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake? If so, what do you think of the taste? If not, will you still drink this shake, knowing that it contains 33 ingredients, many that are harmful to your health?

Do you have a favorite homemade Shamrock Shake recipe?

Please share your thoughts and/or recipes in the comment section below. I want to hear and learn from you!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day from Jennifer at Bamboo Core Fitness!

Note: Edit, 3/3/15:  

Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe #2:

I forgot to mention in my original post that if you are craving a more traditional homemade Shamrock Shake and CAN tolerate dairy, an option is to blend together vanilla ice cream (organic, full-fat and hormone/soy-free is best – the fewer the ingredients, the better), milk (coconut, cashew, cow, etc. – make sure it is organic and hormone-free and not 0% or low- fat), and organic mint extract (free of preservatives) or mint leaves. It can be topped off with homemade whipped cream. This recipe is a lot healthier than the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, but still has a high sugar and caloric content. Remember that sugar and dairy contribute to inflammation and be mindful of food allergies/intolerances.

Photo Credits:

  1. www.mcdonalds.com
  2. www.delish.com


  1. Bray, G., Nielsen, S., & Popkin, B. (2004, April 1). Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Retrieved fromhttp://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/4/537.full#ref-list-1
  2. Chassaing, B., Koren, O., Goodrich, J., & Poole, A. (2015, January 14). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Retrieved March 2, 2015, fromhttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14232.html
  3. Food Additives ~ CSPI’s Food Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm
  4. Melnick, M. (n.d.). Shamrock Shake: What’s Really In McDonald’s St. Paddy’s Day Drink? Retrieved February 27, 2015, fromhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/shamrock-shake-calories-nutrition-ingredients-mcdonalds-st-patricks-day_n_2885415.html
  5. McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf
  6. Product Nutrition – Shamrock McCafe Shake. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/product_nutrition.mccaf.1056.Shamrock-McCafe-Shake-Large.html?itemName=Shamrock-McCafe-Shake-Large
  7. Tobacman, J. K. (2001). Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(10), 983–994. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1242073/pdf/ehp0109-000983.pdf

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