The 20 Unhealthiest Drinks in America
By David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding for Men's Health
My buddy, Bill, came to me a while back looking for advice on how to banish the bulging belly he had acquired in his later years. I skipped the diet lecture and instead gave him a copy of the book, Eat This, Not That!, and a single piece of advice: Start with the drinks chapter.
Four months later, Bill has adopted the simple food swap philosophy and dramatically altered his calorie intake without giving up the foods and drinks he loves. His reward: 25 pounds and three inches off of his waistline—in around six weeks!
I told Bill to start with beverages because between soda, coffee drinks, smoothies, and booze, he was sipping away more than a quarter of his daily calories. He's not the only one. A study from the University of North Carolina found that we consume 450 calories a day from beverages, nearly twice as many as 30 years ago! This increase amounts to an extra 23 pounds a year that we're forced to work off—or carry around with us.
There's good news and bad news when it comes to liquid calories. The bad news is they are the most difficult calories for us to gauge, because we have none of the greasy, cheesy visual cues we get when we go face-to-face with a plate of loaded nachos or a triple cheeseburger. The good news is that they are the easiest calories to cut from your diet. Just ask Bill.
I've identified the most bloating beverages in gas stations, bars, smoothie counters, and coffee shops across America and replaced them with sensible and satisfying stand-ins for a fraction of the caloric cost. So you can sip what you want, skip the diet, and still lose lots of weight this year.
20. Worst Light Beer
Samuel Adams Light (12 oz bottle)
# 124 calories
# 10 g carbohydrates
Not a bad beer, but don't think you can sit around sipping these for four quarters without eventually paying the price in belly fat. With tasty beers like Beck's 64-calorie Premier Light readily available, why throw away 60 calories every time you twist the top?
19. Worst "Healthy" Drink
Glaceau VitaminWater (20 oz bottle)
# 130 calories
# 33 g sugar
Vitamins and water might sound like the ultimate nutritional tag team, but what the label doesn't say is that a bottle of this stuff carries nearly as much sugar and calories as a can of Coke. Makes sense, though, since this so-called functional beverage is produced by our often-sugar-crazy friends at The Coca-Cola Company.
18. Worst Soda
Sunkist (12 oz can)
# 190 calories
# 52 g sugar
Sweetened soft drinks account for about 10 percent of the average American's calorie consumption—about 200 completely unnecessary calories a day. For someone looking to lose 10 pounds fast, there is no simpler, quicker way to do it than by canning the soda.
17. Worst Beer
Sierra Nevada Stout (12 oz bottle)
# 210 calories
# 20 g carbohydrates
A full-flavored beer, no doubt, but one that packs a hefty caloric wallop. Switching out a sixer a week for a lighter beer would save you 9 pounds of extra flab this year. Cheers to that!
16. Worst Lemonade
Minute Maid Lemonade (20 oz bottle)
# 250 calories
# 68 g sugar
This is little more than glorified sugar water, with only a trace amount of real juice. Lemonade in general is a dubious drink, but if you can't stand the thought of going without it, try Santa Cruz brand lemonade. When you bring the bottle home, dump it into a pitcher and add 4 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of lemonade. Otherwise, you may as well drink a Coke with a squeeze of lemon.
15. Worst Tea-Like Substance
SoBe Zen Tea (20 oz bottle)
# 275 calories
# 70 g sugar
Though the name might scream "healthy" to the unsuspecting drinker, there is little to celebrate about this beverage. SoBe can cram their drinks full of healthy-sounding extracts and vitamin supplements, but they can't escape the fact that high-fructose corn syrup outranks tea on the ingredients list.
14. Worst Energy Drink
Rockstar Original (16 oz can)
# 280 calories
# 62 g sugar
Energy drink makers might feign a level of health by fortifying their products with a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, but don't be fooled: Any minimal benefit they might provide is snuffed out by the blanket of sugar and calories each can contains. Want energy? Try a cup of homebrewed black tea. It nearly zero calories and contains a deluge of disease-fighting antioxidants.
13. Worst Iced Tea
Lipton Iced Brisk Lemon Iced Tea (20 oz bottle)
# 325 calories
# 81 g sugar
Iced tea is loaded with metabolism-boosting, cancer-fighting compounds called polyphenols, but Lipton does its best to undo any potential healthy benefit you might derive from the tea's antioxidants by drowning them in 20 teaspoons of sugar. Your tea of choice should carry no more than 15 grams of sugar per 20-oz serving.
12. Worst Juice Imposter
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry (23.5 oz can)
# 360 calories
# 84 grams of sugar
These hulking calorie cannons (5 percent juice, 95 percent sugar water) are sold at gas stations and convenience stores across America for the low, low price of 99 cents, making this quite possibly the cheapest source of empty calories in the country.
11. Worst Chocolate Milk
Nesquik (16 oz bottle)
# 400 calories
# 10 g fat (6 g saturated)
# 60 g sugar
Quik and other chocolate milk manufacturers try to sell parents on the bone-building calcium found in their product, but what they don't talk about is the fact that a single bottle of this stuff contains as much sugar as three Haagen Dazs Vanilla and Almond ice cream bars. Yikes. Make a healthier version yourself at home with 2 percent milk and a scoop of real powdered cocoa—you'll save about 150 calories, plus get the antioxidant benefits of cacao without the high-fructose corn syrup.
10. Worst Chai Tea Drink
Caribou Coffee Large Chai Tea Latte
# 420 calories
# 47 g sugar
This is exactly the kind of drink that health-conscious consumers knock down each morning while thinking they're doing themselves a favor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Flavored lattes—even ones flavored with seemingly healthy stuff like chai—are bad news. Stick to skinny lattes or unsweetened chai.
9. Worst Kid's Hot Beverage
Cosi Kid's Hot Chocolate (12 oz)
# 436 calories
# 60 g sugar
While most parents sip their lattes and cappuccinos, most kids sip on hot chocolate. Problem is, few things could be worse for a growing body. There are more calories in this small drink than in Cosi's Gooey Grilled Cheese sandwich, plus enough sugar to send your kids bouncing off the walls.
8. Worst Summer Cocktail
# 625 calories
# 75 g sugars
Made from a blend of sickly-sweet pineapple juice and fat-riddled coconut milk, pina coladas may be the biggest beach-body saboteurs. In fact, the only redeeming part of this drink is the garnish—that lonely chunk of pineapple hanging from the rim. Try a lime daiquiri or a mojito instead and save up to 400 calories.
7. Worst Coffee Alternative
Starbucks Venti White Hot Chocolate
# 640 calories
# 23 g fat (15 g saturated)
# 76 g sugar
Caffeine abstainers will find little nutritional refuge in Starbucks' hot chocolate concoctions. This one packs an entire day's worth of saturated fat, with more than enough sugar to set you up for a dramatic mid-afternoon energy crash. Stick with the Steamed Apple Juice instead.
6. Worst Hot Coffee
Starbucks Venti 2% Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
# 660 calories
# 22 g fat (14 g saturated)
# 95 g sugar
Important rule of thumb: Avoid holiday-themed items from coffee shops at all costs. From peppermint to egg nog to pumpkin, these are often the most sugar- and fat-packed drinks you'll find at places like Starbucks. Make your own flavored drinks instead, using skim milk, sugar-free syrups, and, of course, skipping the whip.
5. Worst Blended Fruit Drink
Baskin-Robbins Pomegranate Banana Fruit Blast Smoothie (32 oz)
# 1,020 calories
# 232 g sugar
With three of the five worst drinks in America, you have to wonder if Baskin-Robbins is in bed with the sugar cane industry. One thing is for sure: People ordering this "smoothie" expecting a healthy afternoon snack have something else coming to them. The second ingredient, after water, is sugar. If you must sip on something at Baskin-Robbins, make it a small low-fat Cappuccino Blast, which has just 220 calories and one-fifth of the sugar of this Fruit Blast.
4. Worst Frozen Coffee Drink
Cosi Gigante Double OH! Arctic (24 oz)
# 1,033 calories
# 35 g fat
# 177 g carbohydrates
Frozen coffee amalgamations pollute the antioxidant powers of a simple cup of joe with a huge hit of whole milk, sugary syrups, and whipped cream. What you end up with, in worst-case scenarios like this, is half a day's worth of calories, ready to be sipped down in a matter of minutes. Want a cold caffeine kick? Try iced coffee.
3. Worst Smoothie
Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd Power Smoothie (30 oz)
# 1,170 calories
# 169 g sugar
Jamba Juice calls it a smoothie; we call it a milkshake, with more sugar than an entire bag of chocolate chips. (Note: We're pretty sure this is the drink Hollywood actors rely on when looking to put on 20 pounds for the role as a heavy!)
2. Worst Milkshake
Baskin-Robbins Large York Peppermint Pattie Shake (32 oz)
# 2,210 calories
# 103 g fat (57 g saturated)
# 281 g sugar
The freakish brother of the Heath monster, the York shake earns its title as the most sugar-saturated product in America. To put it in perspective, you'd have to down 15 Twinkies to match the sugar content in this Baskin-Robbins blunder.
1. The Worst Drink in America
Baskin-Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake
# 2,310 calories
# 108 g fat (64 g saturated)
# 266 g sugar
Let's look at America's Worst Drinks in numbers:
73: The number of ingredients that go into this milkshake.
66: The number of teaspoons of sugar this drink contains.
11: The number of Heath Bars you would have to eat to equal the number of calories found in one Baskin Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake.
12: The average number of minutes it takes to consume this drink.
240: The number of minutes you'd need to spend on a treadmill, running at a moderate pace, to burn it off.
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And, check out the new comprehensive guide for choosing the right meal for kids at more than 40 restaurants nationwide: Eat This, Not That! for Kids.