With its high calorie and sugar count—and totally vacant vitamin and nutrient content—soda is considered by many to be public health enemy No. 1. But even if you pitch all your soda pop in the trash, other drinks—some of which are marketed as “healthy”—can lead you to consume still more sugar. Using the typical can of soda as a baseline—40 grams of sugar and 150 calories—here are five drinks you’d never expect to be worse for you—but are.
A small cup of coffee is low in calories and healthy. Add in a dash of cream and a spoonful of sugar and it’s still not nutritionally terrible. But some of those flavored coffee creations you find at coffee shop chains are downright dreadful.
Flavored lattes—especially the seasonal offerings—are some of the biggest offenders. A 12-ounce Pumpkin Spice Latte packs in 300 calories, 11 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates and 38 grams of sugar. A Caramel Brûlée Latte of the same size has even more calories (340), 11 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbohydrates and 40 grams of sugar.
To put those numbers in perspective, both of those drinks contain more calories than a six-piece Chicken McNugget, more fat than you’d get from five Rice Krispy Treats, and roughly the same amount of sugar as you’d find in a can of soda.
Many frappuccinos and mochas are equally atrocious. A good rule: if the name sounds like something you’d eat for dessert (white chocolate, double chocolatey chip, salted caramel, cinnamon dolce, eggnog, etc.), you shouldn’t drink it.
Instead of flavored coffee, try bulletproof coffee.
Kids love juice. Why? Because kids like sugar. Many juices are absolutely no better than soda, but they aren’t as closely scrutinized (perhaps because some associate juice with fruit). A 12-ounce serving of apple juice, a lunch box staple, contains 180 calories, 43.5 grams of carbohydrates and 42 grams of sugar—nearly as much sugar as you’d get from five Fudgsicles. A 12-ounce serving of fruit punch (marketed as containing “100% natural flavors”) packs 135 calories, 37.5 grams of carbohydrates and 37.5 grams of sugar.
Starting your day with orange juice does deliver a lot of vitamin C, but a 12-ounce serving will set you back 165 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrates and 33 grams of sugar. Lemonade is also stuffed with sugar and has calories similar to soda. You’re far better off drinking a glass of water and eating an actual piece of fruit.
The lactose in plain milk gives it a higher sugar content than you might expect—about 20 grams in a 12-ounce serving. But the flavored varieties really rack up the sugar count. Banana strawberry flavored milk has 255 calories, 43 grams of carbohydrates and 42 grams of sugar. Vanilla milk has similar nutrition facts, as does strawberry.
No kidding, there is even Girl Scout cookie flavored milk, perhaps for people who lack the time to eat milk and cookies separately but are in a rush to get cavities.
Flavored milks do contain solid amounts of protein, but they’re probably more suitable for post-workout recovery drink than a staple drink with every meal.
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Energy drinks can shock your system with a colossal amount of caffeine and sugar to wake you up or keep you alert, but you’ll likely end up crashing hard and find yourself feeling worse than you did before.
Most energy drinks are nutritionally equivalent to soda—with more caffeine. A 12-ounce serving of one popular energy drink contains 160 calories, 42 grams of carbohydrates and 41 grams of sugar. Another has 210 calories, 46 grams of carbohydrates and 46 grams of sugar (more sugar than five Fruit by the Foot rolls.)
Sweetened Iced Tea
Unsweetened iced tea and many herbal, black and green teas have numerous health benefits (most are rich in antioxidants). Those are great. But the canned or bottled versions and the sweetened teas you find at most restaurants are ones you have to watch out for.
One fast food giant serves up a sweet tea that contains 110 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates and 27 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving. That’s bad to begin with, but even worse when you consider that the large size, which is often sold for $1, delivers two of those servings, so anyone who gets to the bottom of their cup will take in 220 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrates and 54 grams of sugar.
A popular canned lemon iced tea delivers 135 calories, 37 grams of carbohydrates and 36 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving, while a bottled green tea provides 192 calories and 48.8 grams of sugar per dozen ounces. That’s more sugar than five cinnamon rolls.
Not all teas are created equal, so be sure to check the label (and the serving size) to know if the tea you’re choosing is smart. Better yet, go for bagged tea or loose leaf tea and make your own healthier tea at home.
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