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.
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

    I still love a soda every now and then - but really watch my intake and use a SodaStream at home (less sugar than commercial sodas). And I make sure to track those calories! - 5/5/2016 10:14:09 AM
  • love my water and anti inflammatory smoothies - 3/11/2016 11:29:21 AM
  • My liquid downfall is Cappuccino and we bought 14 oz. cups to enjoy just enough. It is instant and I use water; not milk. I drink 2 of these a day and have cut back to 12 oz. servings. - 2/16/2016 10:57:47 PM
  • I used to drink a lot of soda, never been a big drinker of coffee or beer. I limit juice to my protein shakes/smoothies, and I have had a Soda Stream for several years now and only drink that instead of store bought. I like that they use Splenda, which is the only artificial sweetener that my body tolerates. I drink quite a bit of water and hot tea. I've been looking at the fruit infused water thing to switch it up a bit so have to see how that goes. - 12/27/2015 10:36:23 PM
  • All of the yummy coffee drinks are enormous sugar and calorie bueno! I am a girl who looOooOves coffee, and I typically drink it black. However, having a son once employed as a barista, I know that almost ALL drinks can be made in a skinnier version and can be made with sugar free syrups...sans whipped topping as well. Some would balk at the sugar free syrups, yet I have so little of it (we are talking rare treat) that I am okay with it. On a daily basis I have switched to unsweetened almond milk as a way to cut carbs, sugar and calories. Otherwise, I don't drink my calories...I am a girl who loves to eat tooOoO much. - 9/26/2015 7:31:22 AM
    My guilty pleasure are the cheap, sweet cappuccinos at gas stations. I finally decided to take a look at the nutritional facts, and holy cow. That drink accounts for almost half my daily calories if I get a large. As you said in your post, I'll be more conscious of what I put in my coffee. I'll save those cappuccinos as a rare treat, but for now I'll use healthy creamers and calorie free sweeteners. Thanks for sharing!
    .com - 5/28/2015 10:37:46 AM
    When my family wants to eat at McD's or anywhere else that offers tea, I fill 1/4 of the cup with the Sweet Tea and fill the rest of the cup with Unsweetened Tea. Still tastes sweet and takes the bitter out of the unsweet tea. - 2/11/2015 3:36:48 PM
  • Didn't they find that lower fat versions of milk and milk products contain other questionable ingredients to make up for the fat/flavor loss? I do not drink Milk, but I have found that when I use cream, I use real half and half and I use less than if I used a "low fat" version of it. It is all a gimmick to get us hooked on whatever they can. They lie to us and tell us things are healthy all the time. We are rats in a big unorthodox experiment and until we open our eyes and realize anything packaged is likely not good for us! - 1/21/2015 11:28:19 AM
    I would advocate lowfat over skim milk. - 2/23/2014 2:22:55 PM
    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
    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

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