This picture was taken on April 19, 2017. My (gasp) thirty-third birthday. It was day 5 of my yearly birthday stay-cation (a tradition I started when I turned thirty). I was out enjoying my day, doing typical girly fun things, and decided I would see what the hype and negativity was all about.
If you are involved in the nutrition and wellness community in some way, you probably saw all sorts of blog posts or social media posts about this little drink. Specifically, the paleo and “clean” eating community repeatedly trash talked and bashed this special limited edition offering from Starbucks.
As soon as the drink was announced, and listed on their menu, the trash talk started. Things from the mainstream news media like “… tastes like sour birthday cake and shame…” to Food Babe’s blog post analyzing all the ingredients and discouraging parents from buying it for their kids and many many others expressing outrage over the sugar content, and perceived marketing toward kids, yada yada yada.
So with all that negative feedback, why would I, a health and wellness minded counselor who treats eating disorders, order and ENJOY the unicorn? There are a few reasons. I’ll start with the complaints about the ingredients
The unicorn frappuccino is honestly no worse than any of the other Starbucks Frappuccinos. Anyone that thinks a frappuccino is a healthy snack is kidding themselves. Just check out the ingredients and nutrition information on their website. In fact, MOST of the drinks at Starbucks are far from nutritious. You can definitely make better choices, and there are options such as hot tea or coffee with whatever add ins you choose (whole milk, almond milk, stevia, honey). But, come on, most people are not ordering those things. I view any drink at Starbucks as a treat or indulgence, I can make hot tea or coffee at home.
Next, the issue with marketing to children…. while I agree there are definite problems with our food industry marketing crap fake food products to children, this is nothing new! Starbucks has a Pokemon GO! Frappuccino for crying outloud. Fast food restaurants sell KIDS MEALS with TOYS in them. Cereals have cartoon character mascots. These are all BIG FOOD businesses, who are ultimately interested in the almighty dollar. I don’t have kids yet, but I can tell you, my kids will be allowed occasional well thought out treats, and yes, that might mean, a unicorn frappuccino (likely shared, with a discussion about mindful eating and why these are occasional treats.) And, to be honest, the unicorn was probably more marketed to instragramming basic white girls. Not 5 year olds.
Ok, so my main reason for choosing to drink the unicorn was simple. I wanted one. Plain, and simple. It looked pretty. It peaked my interest (way to go Starbucks Marketing, you accomplished your task.) It was my birthday. There were so many mixed reviews on the flavor, I was curious. But, what about being health conscious and working with those who have eating disorders? What about the fact that I, myself, have struggled with binge eating and sugar addiction (and, to be honest, still do at times)? When it comes to recovery, and clean eating, my philosophy is simple: 80/20 eating, mindful eating, and all foods fit once you are IN recovery. Would I recommend that one of my new clients who is still regularly binge eating, and has not gone through “detox” from sugar and crap food drink the unicorn? Nope. Would I recommend it for everyone? Nope. When I chose to try it, I shared the choice with my binge eating group, so that I had accountability. I ordered a small. I drank it slowly, and mindfully. I thought about the different flavors and textures. I laughed at the insane colors and funky sprinkles. I thought about all the outrage, and wondered what all the hoopla was about. I decided, it was OK as far as flavor is concerned, and realized how much more I enjoy my whole food fruit smoothies, coconut milk ice cream, and thick creamy Greek yogurt these days. Later, my husband and I ate a yummy home cooked dinner (steak, roasted potatoes, green beans, grilled peppers). I enjoyed my birthday, and really had no regrets about the indulgence of the unicorn.
For me, that was THE best part about drinking the unicorn. No guilt, no shame, no fear about the food choice I made.
I enjoyed it.
I had FUN.
And afterwards, it was back to healthy whole foods, and I enjoyed those too.
So, cheers to the unicorn and an occasional well thought out treat.