Fruity, fresh and fun are all words that come to mind when one thinks about smoothies and acai bowls. These healthy treats are great for anyone who wants to get some energy for the day but don’t want all the processed sugar, carbs or fat that most snacks have. Eating healthy for college students is notoriously hard, but has Montclair State University found the answer to that problem?
This semester, the university’s dining services opened up Smoothie Lab, a location on the Student Center Patio for the Montclair State community. The announcement of this new option generated a lot of buzz from students, as many were excited about having an option reminiscent of Playa Bowls.
Before this semester, healthier options on campus were limited, with only two locations, Panera and the Venture Cafe, offering a handful of basic smoothie options. Otherwise, you were left with the stomach-destroying choices at Panda Express and California Tortilla, or you could risk getting food poisoning from one of the dining halls on campus. Either way, your body sure won’t be thanking you later.
So when students heard that Smoothie Lab was coming to campus, many were glad that they would have a healthier option to turn to. That, plus the passion many students have for stores like Playa Bowls, equaled high expectations.
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room: the smoothies. Now, options are limited: Smoothie Lab only offers four different smoothies. For a place with the name that it does, one would think that there would be more of a variety in smoothies.
I’ve had two of the smoothies: the Elemental Smoothie and the Reactor Smoothie. The Elemental was a mix of orange juice, strawberries, banana, pineapple and honey. I was looking forward to this one, as I am a fan of all the ingredients in this drink.
I don’t know if it was the ratio of ingredients in the smoothie or just the potentness of the ingredients, but the orange juice and the pineapple completely overtook the whole thing. The rest of the fruits had no impact on the taste of the smoothie, and the pineapple was so strong that it left an acidic aftertaste in the back of my mouth. It was average, but I certainly wouldn’t get it again.
I liked the Reactor smoothie much better. This was right up my alley, with a combination of blackberries, bananas, acai, rice milk and honey. But although this was good, it was a bit boring. Much like the Elemental Smoothie, I didn’t taste much else besides the blackberries and acai. All in all, the smoothies are trying to do too much while accomplishing very little.
Now let’s move to the acai bowls. I opted for an item called Bowl-tonium, and I fell in love with it right away. With an acai base, bananas, granola, mini chocolate chips and sunflower seed butter, it was a match made in heaven for me.
The two other bowl options at Smoothie Lab. Berry-ology was a blend of acai, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and granola, while Bowl 2-0 contains acai, mango, pineapple, blueberries, chia seed and granola.
The prices are a bit expensive at Smoothie Lab. Each smoothie cost $6.50, which is more than both the smoothies at Panera and the Venture Cafe. Additionally, each acai bowl costs $9.50. Students can add extra items to their smoothie or bowl, but for $0.99 per additional ingredient.
Taliyah Bacon, a freshman public health major, said that she was surprised to learn that the Smoothie Lab was a dining option.
“I was a little bit shocked,” Bacon said. “I never really heard of anything of any smoothie places [on] campus.”
Some other students weighed in about Smoothie Lab. Genesis Garcia-Morales, a sophomore visual arts major, said that she preferred Panera’s smoothies.
“I actually taste a strawberry in the banana when I order [the smoothie at Panera],” Garcia-Morales said. “[In the Elemental] I only tasted the orange juice and the banana.”
Garcia-Morales also expressed her happiness that there was now a healthier option for students.
“I think it’s like a good thing that they’re opening smoothies [because] not many people are able to eat in the morning,” Garcia-Morales said. “And I think the smoothie [is] a good thing to give you energy, especially if you have like a test or something like that.”
The Smoothie Lab is open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and is located at the Student Center Patio.