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Sunkist Naturals: a product review

Posted Feb 02 2009 11:43pm
A couple of months ago I received an email from a company asking me to try, and then review on my blog, their new smoothie product. My first thought was "huh?" followed closely by "huh?" so I checked out their website to see what I was being asked to try.

I'm not a big smoothie drinker, I normally prefer to chew my calories rather than drink them. In theory I carefully watch each and every thing I consume, especially when I'm training for something (which is all the time). Since my stomach problems of last summer I haven't been eating a lot of fruit; the acidity is still troublesome so avoidance has been my practice. Apples are ok, pears less so (I don't get it either), bananas are fine but I don't seem to get the calorie bang-for-the-buck I'm looking for, eating any citrus makes me feel like I'm drinking battery acid, blueberries ok, melons are out of season. I tend not to eat strawberries except when I know they're freshly picked because I detest that plastic taste of the unripe fruit, so I avoid them just so I don't bite into an unripe one. But ripe strawberries, ripe raspberries, ripe -- oh, ripe mostly any fruit -- I'm all in favor of eating at any time. In the small quantities my stomach allows these days.

During the summer when I was training my guts out for the triathlon I usually finished my weekday workouts long after a decent time to eat and digest dinner. I ended up either skipping dinner, eating some ice cream (way healthy, I know), or going to bed too late because I wanted to eat something and needed to digest it before sleeping. When I was asked to try Sunkist Naturals I thought they might be a good replacement for a late post-workout dinner. And probably much better for me than ice cream.

I replied back that I'd like to try either their strawberry dream, glorious greens, or the orange cream. To my surprise they said they'd send me all of them. So I waited, and waited, and totally forgot about the whole thing until the delivery of a big box. Since the smoothies are natural (hence the name), they need refrigeration. They were shipped in a cold box with cooling packs to keep them fresh.

So here I was, middle of freaking cold winter, in the 30's outside and the mid-60's inside, and I needed to try these chilly concoctions. I don't tend to drink cold things when I'm chilled. Then I came down with the cold from hell and didn't want to eat. Didn't want to drink. Didn't want to do anything except lie around and whine. Perfect time to try a vitamin-packed, hopefully tasty, fluid smoothie. I looked over the ingredients and the strawberry dream was loaded with vitamin C, just what I needed for the cold. I shook it up, poured about half the bottle into a glass, and took a sip. Holy schmoley, it really did taste like fresh strawberries. Like fresh ripe strawberries. With a banana/orange undertaste, but mostly strawberries. I sucked it right down and poured a little more into the glass, trying to be conservative since I didn't know what the 100% fruit drink would do to my stomach. Wow, I really liked it. And it ended up being very easy on my stomach. I liked it enough that I rationed out the remainder of the bottle for a sip here and there when I craved something fruity.

I wanted to try the orange cream because it contains protein; 11 grams per 8 ounce serving. I figured this could be a substitute for eating something after a long workout. There's that 30 minute window (which is also called a 20 minute window or a 40 minute window depending on who you talk with) (I mean, with whom you talk) where you need to replenish protein after hard exercise. It's something I always have a problem with since I have no desire for food immediately after a workout (only time ever that I have no desire for food). One day after cycling I poured some into a glass and gave it a try. It tasted almost exactly like a creamsicle with a faint aftertaste of -- something I couldn't figure out. It wasn't a bad aftertaste, but it was there. It didn't thrill me like the strawberry but I could definitely see drinking this intead of forcing myself to eat solid food after a long run or ride. I rationed out the remainder of this bottle too; a couple of ounces here and there when I didn't think eating ice cream was a good idea.

My luck ran out with the glorious greens. I was expecting a flavor like mixed apple, kiwi, pineapple but what I got was more grassy. More wheatgerm-ish. Less fruit, more natural health-food hippy green good-for-you tasting. I know several people who would adore this drink (and dislike the fruitier smoothies) but it wasn't for me. The color wasn't appetizing to me either; green and grainy. On second, third, fourth and fifth tries I liked it maybe just a little better (or I was getting used to it) but it definitely isn't my style.

Because of the lack of preservatives or other unnatural things there is an expiration date on these, just like with any other fresh juice, but the ones I got didn't expire for more than a month after I received them. And although they say they'll keep for 7-10 days in the fridge after opening, I found the taste lasted for the 2 weeks I had the strawberry and orange ones open. Possibly the vitamins weren't as good, but it didn't hurt me that I could tell.

Will I buy them? If either of my local Whole Foods stores is carrying them I will. At this point it seems that Whole Foods is the only place in my area that currently carries the Sunkist Naturals, and they may not carry the entire line. I will buy the strawberry dream in a heartbeat, and will buy the orange cream this summer for after hot runs or swims. I also want to try the berry cherry bountiful and the berry blue bountiful. I will not buy the greens (or finish the bottle) and I don't think I'll bother to try the mango or carrot since mangos aren't at the top of my fruit list and I think carrots should only be eaten as carrots or as cake.

I'm still a bigger fan of chewing my fresh fruit than I am of drinking smoothies, but these will make a nice change and a nice substitute if fruit isn't available or if my stomach is still having issues. If you try them, let me know what you think of them. Especially the green one!
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