When the grotesquely over the top milkshakes, quickly dubbed freakshakes, first hit the scene in an Australian café named Patissez they were a sensation. With candy colors and extra tall proportions, they were a treat for the eyes as well as the tongue. Patissez sold hundreds upon hundreds a day. These giant milkshakes were a hit with Instagrammers for their visual shock value. Any milkshake that uses massive amounts of whipped cream as glue to keep a puff pastry lid in place is sure to cause a stir. But there is no way to sugarcoat it: they are truly awful for you.
Patissez set out to, “Take the humble milkshake and make it into something special.” The problem with that statement is straightforward: there is nothing humble about a milkshake. Milkshakes are a delicious, high-calorie treat that shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s daily diet. Even a simple, small vanilla milkshake at Dairy Queen is 520 calories with 73 grams of carbohydrates and 65 grams of sugar. McDonald’s is about the same and Burger King’s is 580 cals with 98 grams of carbs and 85 grams of sugar. While milkshakes might be something you indulge in occasionally, no one should think of them as pedestrian drinks that need to be even more decadent.
A freakshake is gilding the lily. More worryingly, these freakshakes are growing from the artisanal store where they started to mainstream and trendy restaurants. Baskin-Robbins had a limited time offer for them over the summer. An Oreo version they sold was an Oreo milkshake with an extra scoop of Oreo ice cream, chocolate sauce, Oreo crumbles, a slice of Oreo brownie, whipped cream, a cherry, whole Oreos and a sugar cone. There are also how-to videos on YouTube and Pinterest tutorials so you can make freakshakes in your kitchen.
As time has gone on, competitors are trying to one-up each other in sumptuousness, appearance and size. No one needs a slice of cake on top of their milkshake. Even if that sounds good, no one wants sour gummies and wrapped candy on their ice cream. These monstrosities were invented for bragging rights and Instagram likes. The problem comes when someone tries to eat one of these shakes — which usually retail for around $15. With calories counts that break the 1,000 mark and dozens of tablespoons of sugar, it’s time to stop calling these milkshakes decadent and start calling them obscene.
Health groups in Britain are seeking to ban freakshakes after discovering a fast food Unicorn Freakshake with 1,280 calories and 156 grams of sugar. They want milkshakes with more than 300 calories per serving to be removed from menus. In response, restaurants argue that they aren’t marketing them to children and that calorie counts are available online. But when there are talks of bans, there are always push back. Customers don’t want to be told they can’t have something.
Perhaps, the best thing to be done is not to ban them but to educate people. Many of us want to indulge when eating out, we order food we couldn’t make at home or desserts we don’t have the ingredients for in our pantry. When it’s a special night out, we figure out ways to stay healthy while having dessert. But, there is no way to budget calories or sugar around 1,280 calories and 156 grams of sugar. Instead of banning it, making the nutritional information printed clearly on the menu allows people to make their own educated choices. Then, without a ban, people will reject the product. If people knew that a freakshake has as much sugar at four cans of Coca-Cola, no one would order one. It would become a food eaten as a dare or a once in a lifetime thing — like the Luther Burger.
Another option is to change the framing of the shake. Instead of marketing it as an indulgent treat for one, in a promotional photo, show eight people around it with a caption saying, “Gather your gang: our Unicorn Freakshake serves eight!” That way people are being offered a 160-calorie serving with 19.5 grams of sugar. Then, if people are curious and want to try it, they can go with friends and enjoy it as a group. By marketing it as a shared food, companies can change the perception of the product.
People should have all the information presented to them and make their own choices as to their diet. This is especially important for people with health concerns. We all look at a giant milkshake topped with cheesecake and know it’s not healthy but having the nutritional information visible informs us of just how bad it is. If that were to happen, freakshakes would fall out of favor very quickly — no ban necessary.