America has a drinking problem, and we’re not talking about the hard stuff. We’re talking about our other addiction: liquefied fat and sugar, the biggest culprits behind our ever-expanding national waistlines. The average person in this country drinks more than 400 calories per day, which means 21 percent of our total calories can be traced back to cups, cans, and bottles. That’s a lot of gym time wasted on fluids.
Now, imagine if you could cut your beverage-calorie load by half. That’s a savings of 200 calories every day, a sacrifice that will help you eliminate fat at a rate of 20 pounds per year. And when your weight-loss plan includes beverage restriction, the pounds stay gone for good. A recent John Hopkins University Study discovered that when people cut liquid calories, they lose more weight and keep it off longer than people who cut food calories. And that’s exactly why we wrote "Drink This, Not That!," to help target those calories that have the biggest impact on your body. Struggling to lose those last few pounds? It could be because you’ve been getting too friendly with some of the drinks on this list.
Glaceau Vitamin Water Focus Kiwi-Strawberry (20 fl oz bottle)
125 calories; 0 g fat; 32.5 g sugars
Sugar equivalent: 1.5 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
This pretty well sums up America’s drinking problem — this “water” has more sugar than a candy bar. If you drink one of these every day in place of real, old-fashioned H20, you’ll gain 13 pounds in a year.
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The big sell on this water, of course, comes from the vitamins. But in reality, they’re going to have little impact on your health. The functional-beverage hype is mostly bogus. Some of the vitamins aren’t very well absorbed outside of the foods they occur in, and others are the sort of nourishment you should be getting through whole foods. But if you’re still convinced you need the vitamin boost, there’s a perfectly good low-calorie option.
Vitamin Water just came out with this new line of zero-calorie beverages. It’s not sweetened with aspartame or any of the artificial junk that goes into most diet sodas. Instead, it’s sweetened primarily with stevia, the only FDA-approved artificial sweetener that comes from a plant. Plus, you still get all the tidy package of vitamins.
Drink this instead: Glaceau Vitamin Water Zero Go-Go Mixed Berry (20 fl oz bottle)
0 calories; 0 g fat; < 1 g sugars
Worst juice drink
Tropicana Grape Juice Beverage (15.2 fl oz)
290 calories; 0 g fat; 72 g sugars
Sugar equivalent: 6 bowls of Froot Loops cereal
This is the sneak attack. It looks healthy. It even looks real, but it’s not. Tropicana has formulated this sticky concoction with only 30 percent real juice, which means that 70 percent of these calories come from high-fructose corn syrup. So basically it’s a non-carbonated soda, and it has more calories and more than twice as much sugar as a Snicker’s bar.
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Now while juice can be okay from time to time, it’s far from a calorie-free food. And grape juice — even when it’s legit — is the single sweetest juice at the supermarket. Grapes just give up more sugars than other fruits. What you want is a low-calorie, 100 percent juice, and in terms of nutritional bang for your buck, no juice is as good as grapefruit. It’s loaded with antioxidants, it has 100 percent of your daily vitamin C in each 8-ounce serving, and it has about half as much sugar as grape juice.
Drink this instead: Tropicana 100 percent White Grapefruit Juice (15.2 fl oz)
170 calories; 0 g fat; 32 g sugars
Starbucks Tazo Green Tea Latte with 2 percent milk (venti, 20 fl oz)
450 calories; 10 g fat (6 g saturated); 70 g sugars
Sugar equivalent: 15.5 Kellogg’s Chocolate Chip Eggo Waffles
When most people think of “sweetened tea,” they imagine a couple of sugar packets, not an ice cream sundae’s worth of sugar. You’d actually get nearly 25 percent less sugar if you ordered a hot chocolate topped whipped cream and chocolate sauce instead. And that’s the problem—liquid sugars are everywhere. We try to kick them out of our lives, but they pull one sleazy trick after another to get back in.
Your best bet: Sweeten your tea yourself. Order an unsweetened tea and fix it up with milk and sugar at the coffee bar. It saves you money and calories. And the truth is, even if you go overboard with the sugar and cream, you still won’t do nearly as much damage as sugar pushers at the coffee bar.
Drink this instead: Starbucks Tazo Zen Brewed Tea (venti, 20 oz, with a splash of cream and 3 teaspoons of sugar)
75 calories; 2.5 g fat; 12.5 g sugars
Worst frozen coffee drink
Dunkin Donuts Large Vanilla Bean Coolatta (32 fl oz)
860 calories; 11 g fat (7 g saturated); 172 g sugars
Calorie equivalent: 6.5 McDonald’s Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfaits (no granola) OR 3 McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes
Here’s an important lesson that will save everybody a load of calories: Aside from a little caffeine, frozen coffee drinks have nothing in common with actual coffee. Nutritionally, they belong in the same category as milkshakes. If you’re starting your day with something like this, you’ve just burnt through more than 40 percent of your day’s caloric limit before your first meal. So unless you’re eating nothing but carrot sticks the rest of the day, you’ve just added a fresh hunk of flab to your frame.
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So if you’re set on a Coolatta, switch from vanilla to coffee flavoring and specify that you want milk instead of the usual cream. That still gives you a massively indulgent beverage — certainly not the sort of thing you should be drinking on a regular basis — but it will save you a load of calories over the go-to Vanilla Bean Coolatta. Your best strategy: Order it as a rare treat and sweet-talk a friend into splitting it with you.
Drink this instead: Large Coffee Coolatta with Milk (32 fl oz)
480 calories; 8 g fat (5 g saturated); 98 g sugars
Cold Stone PB & C Shake (Like It Size, 16 fl oz)
1280 calories; 82 g fat (45 g saturated, 2 g trans); 104 g sugars
Calorie equivalent: 12 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
The “PB & C” actually has two separate meanings. It represents the flavor: peanut butter and chocolate, and the bodily effect: pot-bellied and chubby. Really — this cup alone is enough to add a third-pound of flab to the human body. And believe it or not, this is a small! Order a large, which is just 8 extra ounces of milkshake, and you’re looking at more than 2,000 calories. That’s an entire day’s worth of energy packaged with three-and-a-half day’s worth of saturated fat and more than 600 calories of pure sugar. Short of accidentally meandering into a UFC cage match, it’s probably the most harm you can inflict on your body in 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, no ice cream shop has yet invented a really delicious, low-calorie shake, so Cold Stone’s Sinless line is about as good as you’ll get. The 16-ounce Oh Fudge is actually the only shake on the menu to weigh in with fewer than 500 calories.
Drink this instead: Cold Stone Creamery Sinless Oh Fudge Shake (Like it Size, 16 fl oz)
490 calories; 2 g fat (2 g saturated); 44 g sugars
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