Shake Smart is one of the best food-related things to ever happen to the Cal Poly SLO campus, and it couldn't have come at a better time. As a first-year student, I live on campus and therefore eat almost strictly campus food. That being said, I am pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the food at Cal Poly; however, Shake Smart is the only dining location where I'm pretty much an expert (self-proclaimed, but stick with me!). I eat there almost daily and have tried countless acai bowls and customized shakes.

The customizing ability, as I've witness through friends and my own experiences, can be overwhelming. That's exactly why I decided to create a go-to guide for ordering shakes and bowls at Shake Smart, which is located not only on the Cal Poly Campus, but also at San Diego State University, California State University Northridge, University of Texas in Austin, and Texas State University!

First Things First

Miranda Knight

Let's hit it off by talking about how to order. When you begin the high-tech process of ordering on the tablet at the counter, the options can seem a bit daunting. There are several ways in which you can revamp the shakes and bowls; you can add, remove, swap, and adjust ingredients, as well as make any smoothie into a bowl (a.k.a. your favorite shake can now be topped with granola and we all love granola)

So what can I add?

You can add in items such as almond butter, peanut butter, spinach, chia seeds, superfood, as well as an array of fruits like pineapple, pitaya, and blueberries. The additions offered for each shake or bowl vary between the order you're customizing, but that's because Shake Smart is avoiding letting you create unappetizing combinations like blueberries in your coffee shake.

What else can I do?

Miranda Knight

First, you can remove all or half of the protein, as well as all or half of the agave. You can even swap out your liquids with options like low-fat milk, soy milk, almond milk, water, or even coffee in some cases--you can even swap out whey protein for soy.

Alright, it might still seem like a bit much to take in, but that's why I'm going to break it down just a little more for you. While the customization ability at Shake Smart is awesome for making a delicious tasting shake or bowl, you can also utilize the personalization tool to get the best nutrition, watch out for excessive calories, and cater to any dietary needs (hello lactose intolerant and vegan friends!).

Optimizing Nutrition

Miranda Knight

Let's begin with ingredient removal. Shake Smart advertises as having at least thirty grams of protein in each shake or bowl, as well as not using any added sugars.

The RDI (recommended daily intake) of protein for college-aged women is around 46 grams per day, while for males it is around 56 grams per day. That means that with a singular shake, you would be consuming more than half of your protein needs in one sitting, not accounting for any additional protein-rich ingredients such as peanut or almond butter. This is not entirely bad, considering it is optimal to get about 25 grams of protein after exercising; however, if you are getting a shake or bowl in the absence of a workout, I would recommend removing half of the protein to avoid overconsumption of protein throughout the day. 

Now for the claim of no added sugars. Technically, they aren't lying to you; however, don't let yourself get mislead. There is agave added to every shake and bowl, and, according to a Web MD article by Jenn Horton, "The American Diabetes Association lists agave as a sweetener to limit, along with regular table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and all other sugars." Also, "agave has about 60 calories per tablespoon." Shake Smart adds around 2 tablespoons to their shakes, so I tend to remove agave from my order, or at least take out 1/2 if I want to keep it a bit sweeter. On the other hand, you can add ingredients in order to get more nutritional value out of your shake or bowl. A few of my favorite additions include spinach, chia seeds, and bananas. Just one cup of spinach, at seven calories, delivers 56 percent of your daily Vitamin A needs, plus the leafy green is one of the best plant-based sources of iron. As for chia seeds, they can "boost the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your diet."

When it comes to bananas, I always recommend adding them because they make the shakes creamier and naturally sweeter, plus pack in some potassium (13% of your daily value in one medium banana) which is great for heart health, muscle growth, and cramp prevention.

The Great Calorie Count

Miranda Knight

I'll be upfront and say that I would never recommend counting calories, unless for medical or other necessary reasons. Getting stuck in a calorically-consumed cycle of eating is not fun nor healthy. With that being said, indulging in a shake worth half of your daily recommended calories isn't healthy either. With the option to upgrade your regular sized shake to a large (no shame in that; a college kid's gotta eat!), you can quickly increase your shake's calorie count by 1.5 times. This is nothing to dwell on, unless you go on to add extra protein powder, several fruits, and nut butters. For example, adding extra protein, banana, pitaya, and peanut butter to the large shakes, which already contain around 400 calories, could increase the count by around 350 calories! Follow your dreams and customize your shakes, but remember to be conscious of excessive additions.

#Spoontip: Removing agave can take off nearly 90 calories!

Want to Do Without Dairy?

For those who are lactose intolerant, dairy sensitive, or even vegan, do not shy away from Shake Smart -- they easily cater to your needs! There are drinks such as the Shake Your Coffee or Carrot Cake Shake that don't include milk as their liquid, and for the ones that do, you are always given the option to have soy or almond milk instead (you actually get a choice!).

The milk choices are an upfront option that you will be presented with, but do not forget to customize your drink and swap out the whey protein for soy. Luckily, they have both a soy vanilla and chocolate protein option. Sadly, I'm still waiting on the vegan cookies and cream protein so I can finally try the Cookies N' Cream shake that my roommate raves about. 

My Pro-Tips

Miranda Knight

Pro-Tip #1) Add spinach! Sure, your drink might turn a funny color, but you can't taste it and there's no better way to get in your daily greens (we all know you weren't going to get a spinach salad for dinner).

Pro-Tip #2) Shake Smart isn't just shakes and bowls, it also has nut butter sandwiches, oatmeal, and even wraps at certain locations! Out of these other options, I have only tried the almond butter sandwich (pictured above), which I would definitely recommend. 

Pro Tip #3) Get the Shake Smart app! Every $55 you spend, you get $5 back. This works great if you use meal plan money or if you frequent Shake Smart.

My Favorite Shakes

Miranda Knight

My first favorite is the Carrot Cake Shake with added almond butter. When I feel like I need a vitamin C boost or an extra vegetable serving, I always opt for this drink because it is made with carrot juice! The shake tastes great on its own, but the almond butter gives it an extra kick. Another preference of mine is the Shake Your Coffee shake, with banana and almond butter. There's some mornings that I don't have time to grab coffee and breakfast, so I run to Shake Smart to get this two-in-one deal! Adding the banana and almond butter are what make it acceptable as a solid breakfast item, though, so don't omit them! Lastly, the newest addition to my favorites is the Acai Energy with spinach and chia seeds. The variety of ingredients (fruits and veggies) allow you to get a wide range of nutrients into your body, all while tasting incredible at the same time!