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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Member Comments

  • JUDYERAE
    I would advocate lowfat over skim milk. - 2/23/2014 2:22:55 PM
  • HELPTHEAGED
    A nice drink for summer is a jug of plain water with a sliced lemon and a handful of mint leaves added and kept in the fridge. The flavour is pleasant , refreshing, and not to strong. - 11/19/2013 5:43:12 AM
  • HELPTHEAGED
    Presumably when you talk of soda you mean something like lemonade or orangeade, fizzy sickly drinks. Soda to us Aussies is carbonated water with no sugar whatsoever. I hope this is reasonably healthy though I know that some people think that the fizziness is not healthy. I wonder why? - 11/19/2013 5:36:50 AM
  • Very interesting. A study in my newspaper this morning (3/20/13) said that skim milk contributed more to obesity in children than whole milk. The rationale was that skim milk did not make them feel "full" so they ate high fat snacks to satisfy their hunger. A Very interesting study... Made me think, "God knew what He was doing when He created milk." :) - 3/20/2013 2:59:08 PM
  • Replace milkshakes with smoothies? No thanks. While smoothies made at home may be better for you, so are milkshakes made at home...and a smoothie from some place like Jamba Juice might be absolutely DEVASTATING when it comes to calories. - 3/20/2013 12:28:53 PM
  • Besides alcohol, I think I do pretty good. I drink beer rather regularly, but not excessively. Usually one or two a day a couple times a week. Beer is just one of those things I could never give up entirely. Other than that I mostly drink water, plain tea, and black coffee, and sometimes I'll make a fruit smoothie or have fruit juice, and rarely will I have a low sugar soda. - 3/20/2013 10:57:39 AM
  • Any thoughts on Simply Lemonade or Raspberry flavor? I drink water and a lot of fresh fruit green smoothies but since we stopped by coke I use SL to fill that void. - 3/16/2013 1:05:18 PM
  • BB19861
    I just tried a great all natural clear liquid water infusion product called Water Sensation, it really tastes great and their is nothing artifical in the product. Go to infuseyourwater.c
    om for free samples!!! - 2/11/2013 12:58:59 PM
  • ROBYN878
    I agree juice contain to many artificial flavorings


    - 10/21/2012 5:46:07 PM
  • Thank you DANASEILHAN for pointing out that low-fat and skim milk are NOT the better alternatives to whole milk. I have said for years that the only time that low fat and skim milks are better than whole milk is in a beaker. Vitamins A and D, which are added to almost all milks here in the US, are fat-soluble, which means that you HAVE to have the higher fat content in whole milk just to absorb them into your body. Granted, you get get vitamin D from the sun, but when coupled with all the high SPF sunscreens, you're back to needing it in your food.

    Here's the funny, people. Humans are the only creatures (as a whole) on the planet that: 1) drink milk after weaning, and 2) drink the milk/eat the milk product of other animals (Feeding cats milk is not good for them). Cow's milk is NOT essential to healthy diet, but it is an easy way to get calcium. For an interesting article, please see http://www.mtcapr
    a.com/benefit
    s-of-goat-mil
    k-vs-cow-milk/ - 10/10/2012 12:03:23 PM
  • We make our own smoothies at home every morning for breakfast (just with coffee for me), with a bagel for my boys. 1 Banana, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup frozen mixed berries and/or 1/2 cup semi thawed strawberries, 1 whole apple (minus seeds), 1/2 cup of real fruit juice (flavour varies with our whim), whirl it up in the food processor and I'm off to suck and chew my smoothie. It's how I get fruit into my boys - 5 a day minimum fruit goes into theirs...they love it too. - 8/1/2012 12:51:22 AM
  • I love water but I need flavor at times also. What are people's opinions on mio or crystal light? I dont drink alcohol or soda. I dont drink protein shakes or milkshakes or juice. - 7/4/2012 6:33:16 PM
  • Yay - generally I drink the right stuff. Mostly water, sometimes juice, sometimes wine, and every so-often a green tea or a fruit infusion.

    One thing to note - Grapefruit can affect contraceptive pills, so if you're drinking that, make sure it doesn't have any unintended effects! - 2/20/2012 3:48:46 AM
  • Helpful article but "danger drinks" sounds a bit sensational for "hidden calories". Antifreeze might be a danger drink. Drain cleaner.
    High-calorie ones may not be healthful but do we really need the hyperbole? - 4/10/2011 10:23:47 PM
  • If only we good all get safe, clean drinking water like in the good old days. Now we have to buy good drinking water. What a travesty! - 4/10/2011 10:36:09 AM

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