Nutrition Articles

Danger Drinks and Healthy Alternatives

Healthy Eating Goes Beyond the Food You Eat

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Danger Drink #4: Milkshakes
Milkshakes are marketed as drinks, but those fast-food restaurants and ice cream parlors aren't fooling anyone. They're drinkable desserts, not healthy beverages. Sure, they contain calcium because of all that milk, but they also have plenty of fat and sugar. But don't be fooled by milkshakes made with seemingly healthy ingredients like yogurt. They're still milkshakes. A large milkshake from a fast-food restaurant can contain more than 700 calories. If you want to treat yourself, get the smallest size and skip extras like sprinkles and whipped cream.
Rescue Drink: Smoothies
Smoothies are a healthy and tasty alternative to milkshakes—as long as you know what's going in to your smoothie. If you are blending a smoothie at home, mix together low-fat yogurt with ice, skim milk or soymilk, and whatever fruit you like. If you are at an ice cream parlor or restaurant, don’t hesitate to ask what is in a smoothie and modify as needed. Smoothie joints tend to add high-calorie protein powders and unnecessary ingredients that pile on extra calories. A second option is to choose freshly squeezed vegetable or fruit juice, which is often sold alongside smoothies.
Danger Drink #5: Whole milk
Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage, but the full-fat versions are high in calories and fat. Whole milk, which is often labeled "Vitamin A & D milk," measures in at 147 calories per cup compared with 91 calories for skim milk. While whole milk is creamy and delicious, you can get the same health benefits with far fewer calories. Before you down your three cups a day, consider lighter versions.
Rescue Drink: Skim milk or low-fat milk
Skim and low-fat milks are lower in calories than whole milk and still offer the same amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. If you don't like the taste of cow's milk (or can't tolerate it), choose low-calorie chocolate milk or a calcium-fortified non-dairy milk, such as soy, rice or almond milk.
Danger Drink #6: Sweet tea
Until recently, you couldn’t find sweet tea above the Mason-Dixon Line. Now this sweet Southern drink is ubiquitous—even national fast-food restaurants offer it. While it might be tasty, all that sugar cancels out the antioxidant properties of tea. A bottle or cup of sweet tea can contain up to four tablespoons of sugar! To save your teeth and to watch your weight, be sure to swap the sugar-loaded options for something far less sugary.
Rescue drink: Unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea
All that sugar in sweet tea can spike your blood sugar and make you feel drained. If you are accustomed to sweet tea, slowly reduce the amount of sugar you're using. Your taste buds will adapt. Instead of plain black tea, try flavored or green teas. Mango-ginger green tea, mint tea, or chai tea are all tasty options that require little to no sweeteners. We often rely on sugar for flavor, but in its absence, you'll be able to taste the subtleties in your drinks.
Danger Drink #7: "Juice" drinks
You've given up soda and switched to healthier drinks. When you stop at a convenience store or fill up your cup at a soda fountain, you feel proud of yourself for choosing juice—after all, it's made from fruit and must be healthy. Nope. Most juices contain little more than artificial flavorings, corn syrup and water (aka empty calories). All those health benefits touted on the fancy label? They come from added ingredients and added vitamins, not from healthy fruit or the juice cocktail itself.
Rescue Drink: 100% fruit juice
When you reach for juice, make sure it is 100% real juice. Vegetable juice is your best bet, as it is packed with vitamins and minerals and contains far less sugar and fewer calories than fruit juice. As far as fruit juices go, 100% pomegranate juice and blueberry juice are both good choices for a healthy dose of antioxidants. Try diluting these juices with sparkling water to cut calories and sugar. With fizz and sweetness, they're like healthy sodas! For a vitamin C punch to ward off pesky colds, try grapefruit juice, which is one of the lowest-calorie juices per ounce you will find, or cranberry juice (just make sure it's not a juice "cocktail"). Whenever you can, choose whole fruit over juice to get fiber and satiety.
AND THE WINNER EVERY TIME: Water!
This is the drink of healthy eaters. It helps our bodies survive by controlling body temperature and flushing out toxins. The more hydrated your body is, the more effectively your metabolism will be able to function. If you’re looking to lose weight and get into shape, fill up your glass with some good old H20. Filling up with water before a meal may also help you lose weight. In a study published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that people who drank water before meals ate an average of 75 fewer calories at that meal! Hunger can be mistaken for thirst and the best resolution is water.

About the Author: As a registered dietitian with type 1 diabetes, Kelly O'Connell has a passion to share her knowledge on health and disease prevention. Kelly enjoys yoga, training for races and hosting healthy dinner parties for friends.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Tanya Jolliffe, a SparkPeople  healthy eating expert.
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