Most high school boys can easily put away an entire pizza at dinner and still be hungry for a snack before heading to bed. Eventually, this sky-high metabolism starts to slow down. The same sort of carefree eating that used to be no big deal as a teenager now leads to major weight gain, so smarter choices are the clear answer. Unfortunately, even the most saintly diet won’t necessarily help you slim down. Portion control is part of the problem because too much of any food, even healthy ones, will lead to weight gain.
Some may still be scratching their heads, knowing they do a good job of keeping their meal sizes appropriate. The culprit could be what’s in the glass next to your plate. A diet of nothing but lean protein and veggies won’t do you any good if you’re washing it down with tons of calorie-laden beverages. While you might think you can adequately balance your drinks with the foods you eat, the science doesn’t support it. One 2011 review of multiple studies found that liquid calories don’t provide the same satiety as solid food, leading to an overall increase in caloric intake.
While some drinks are perfectly healthy to sip often, the list of ones to watch out for is far longer. These eight beverages are among the worst offenders. Keep these drinks out of your fridge, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier tomorrow.
1. Juice and juice drinks
The juicing crowd likes the drinks for their great taste, but also for the health factor. There’s no denying fruit and vegetable juices offer plenty of nutrients, especially when freshly made. The problem comes with calories and portions. If you drink one cup of grape juice, you’ll get a whopping 100% of your daily vitamin C needs, but it’ll cost you 170 calories. Eating a cup of the whole fruits will give you only a fraction of the vitamin C, but you’ll also only consume 62 calories and end up with close to a gram of fiber. You could eat almost three cups of grapes for the same number of calories as that one, small glass of juice.
Katherine Tallmadge, RD and author of Diet Simple, appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss the role juice plays in nutrition. She admitted she starts her day with a glass of OJ every morning, but was quick to defend whole produce. “A lot of the nutrients are concentrated in the seeds and skin of the fruits and vegetables, and that’s often what people don’t eat, ” she said. You can still enjoy some juice, but it’s wise to keep it to eight ounces per day.
Even sneakier than regular juices are the drinks with additional sugar. Stay away from labels that say “juice drink” or “juice cocktail.” These terms are just a clever way for marketers to trick you into buying something with a lot of calories. Some contain as much as 30 grams of sugar in a single serving.
2. Sports drinks
Head to any gym and you’re bound to see folks toting around bottles of neon beverages. The problem with this picture is that most of these people aren’t the types of athletes who sports drinks were designed for.
Many are at least somewhat familiar with the story of Gatorade. It was invented in 1965 by the Florida Gators’ assistant coach to help replenish the electrolytes and carbohydrates players were losing from their hard efforts. Hitting the treadmill for 30 minutes then lifting a few weights doesn’t require nearly the same number of calories or electrolytes. Furthermore, many of us get plenty of these nutrients from the foods we normally eat.
It can’t be any surprise that this fizzy beverage makes the list. Made from little more than artificial flavoring and sugar, soda isn’t doing your body any favors. Let’s actually take a look at the damage. If you were to down 20 ounces of cola, a pretty standard bottle size, you’d be consuming 240 calories, 75 grams of sodium, and 65 grams of sugar. No vitamins, no minerals, zip.
While it doesn’t have the same fizz, sweetened tea falls into this same category. Many packaged versions come with nutrition labels nearly identical to soda. Tea can absolutely be a healthy beverage, but make it yourself. If you must have a little sweetness, try adding a small drizzle of honey.
4. Zero-Calorie Beverages
Diet soda is anything but diet-friendly. Many people look to fizzy drinks and other calorie-free beverages to satisfy a craving for sweets while avoiding the calories they’re hoping to cut. It’s not that simple, though.
Research, including this study from 2008, indicates that artificial sweeteners cause us to crave more food because we aren’t getting the calories we associate with the sweet taste. The bad news doesn’t end there. One large study of more than 66,000 women found those who drank artificially sweetened beverages experienced a greater risk of developing diabetes than those who consumed beverages sweetened with sugar. The best zero-calorie beverage has always been, and always will be, water.
5. Energy Drinks
Some people don’t care for the bitter taste of coffee, so they opt for an energy drink to get a caffeine boost. The similarities between a basic cup of Joe and these fizzy drinks pretty much ends there. An eight-ounce portion of one of these high-octane beverages delivers 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar.
The ingredient label is even more concerning. Barbara Lewin, RD and sports nutritionist, told Outside that many energy drinks contain other stimulants that could be harmful. We can’t think of any situation where one of these beverages would be a good choice.
6. Purchased Smoothies
Making smoothies at home can be a healthy way to get in your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. The ones you buy from juice shops and delis are a different story. Life by Daily Burn featured a list of some of the most shocking beverages out there, and Smoothie King’s The Hulk Strawberry took the top spot.
This 40-ounce monster is almost enough sustenance for an entire day, with 1,928 calories, 64 grams of fat, and 250 grams of sugar. It also provides 50 grams of protein, but who cares. Even the slimmest option, a 20-ounce light version, is 864 calories.
7. Flavored Coffee Drinks
Most people wouldn’t dream of starting their day with anything other than coffee. The morning brew even boasts a number of health benefits. But adding a bunch of syrup, chocolate, and whipped cream to the drink pretty much undoes all of those advantages.
A 20-ounce white chocolate mocha made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream comes in at 620 calories and 27 grams of fat. Creamy, cold drinks are even worse. It’s enough to make up two breakfasts, but doesn’t offer any of the filling fiber or protein that you need to power you through your day.
A daily glass of wine has gotten the green light from plenty of health professionals. Even the occasional mixed drink isn’t a problem, unless you’re going for the wrong ones. Alcohol itself is pretty high in calories, with many falling around 100 calories for 1½ ounces. So adding loads of sugar or high-fat ingredients can quickly turn your beverage into the caloric equivalent of a meal.
Livestrong pointed out some of the worst offenders, including piña coladas and amaretto sours.