7 Surprisingly Unhealthy Drinks You Should Avoid

a beverage with a colorful straw next to a cup of overflowing sugar


Think what you’re eating is what matters most in your diet?  Maybe it’s what you’re washing it all down with that’s really the problem.   It can be confusing to know which drinks are truly healthy thanks to clever marketing.  Unfortunately, your favorite splurge beverage may be a real diet killer, filled with calories and unwanted sugars.  Below are 7 surprisingly unhealthy drinks you should avoid.

a beverage with a colorful straw next to a cup of overflowing sugar


According to statistics compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health, the rising consumption of sugary drinks is a major contributor to obesity.  In fact, for 25% of Americans, these drinks contribute 200 or more calories to their diet each day.

Unfortunately, many of our beloved drinks carry those hidden calories or sugars that people miss.  For example, a tall pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks has 300 calories and 39 grams of sugar.  300 calories!  To put that into perspective: that’s the calorie amount of a small lunch, and you just drank it in one sitting.

I’ve rounded up a list of some unhealthy culprits that may trick you into sipping more calories than you should.  Knowing where the hidden sugar or calories lurk will make it easier to avoid them.  Take a peek and see if any of your favorites made the list.


Almond Milk

You’re better off drinking a glass of water and snacking on a handful of raw almonds.

As it turns out, the majority of almond milk you would find at a grocery store is only made up of about 2% real almonds and lacking in most of the healthy fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals you get from eating the nuts in their solid form.  In addition, many almond milk products contain sweeteners and added sugars.  Silk Vanilla Almondmilk, for example, contains 16 grams of sugar per cup that burdens you with unnecessary and empty calories.


Sweetened Ice Tea

Tea has tons of health benefits, but when it’s brewed and bottled and sold as iced tea, its health benefits get a little murky.

The bottom line:  If it’s pre-sweetened, it’s not for you.  Period.   You’re better off ordering an unsweetened version and adding a teaspoon (or two) of sugar on your own for sweetness.  That way, you can control how much you add and cut the total sugar content by more than half.


Diet Drinks/Zero Calorie Drinks


image of soda in plastic clear cup with ice

Diet soda and zero-calorie drinks are 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.

A study from Purdue University found that when your body senses something sweet is being consumed, it anticipates calories.  Since these super sweet drink mixes don’t have any calories, your body gets confused, and then ramps up your hunger hormones so you start to crave high-calorie foods like chips, crackers, cookies, and anything else you can quickly shove into your mouth.

Worse:  According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study, just one diet soda a day is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.  A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that downing two or more cans of diet soda per day increased people’s waistlines by 500%.  Diet soda consumption has even been linked to kidney problems and acid reflux.  Who knew that many diet and sugar-free beverages were just as bad for your health as soda?


Vitamin Water

With a name like “Vitamin Water”, should it really be on the list of unhealthy drinks?  Think again.  One well-known brand, Vitaminwater, contains about 120 calories and 31 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving.  You might as well drink a 12-ounce Coca-Cola, which contains 39 grams of sugar and 140 calories.  Is it any wonder Vitaminwater is also sold by Coca-Cola?


Flavored Coffee Drinks

As I’ve outlined before, coffee is not bad for you.  However, adding syrup, chocolate, and whipped cream to your coffee drink is a diet crasher.   Starbucks is one of the worst offenders.  A 20-ounce white chocolate mocha made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream is 580 calories and 26 grams of fat.  Are you a fan of the Starbucks Eggnog Latte?  Keep in mind that a short eight-ounce eggnog latte has 230 calories and 24 grams of sugar.  A Starbucks Chai Tea Latte can be relaxing for you on a cold day, but the latte has more sugar than a Snickers bar.  Next time, just skip the flavored coffee drinks.


Energy Drinks


image of blue can with "energy" printed on it

I know many people who can’t get through their day without a Red Bull, Rockstar, or Monster Energy Drink.  While you might get a nice short-term burst of energy from one of these drinks, you’ll probably crash later on – if not from the caffeine, then certainly from all the sugar.  Rock Star Energy Drink, for example, will set you back 140 calories and a whopping 31 grams of sugar.  You’ll need all the energy you get from the caffeine just to work it off.

In addition, the ingredient label is even more concerning.  According to Barbara Lewin, a nutritionist featured on the blog Outside Online, many energy drinks contain other stimulants that could be harmful.  As Lewin puts it:  “If you’re relying on these drinks to give you energy, it means you’re doing something wrong.”


Chik-Fil-A Lemonade

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how often I order a lemonade for my child at Chik-Fil-A.  What could be the harm?  Unfortunately, even a nine-ounce serving of Chik-Fil-lemonade has 170 calories and 43 grams of sugar!  And that’s just for a size small.


I hope this blog post has been as eye-opening for you as it was for me to research.  As you can see, unhealthy ingredients are often lurking in the most innocuous of products.

Is there anything you think I should have added to this list?  I’d love to hear from you at hello@heartandsoulblog.com.  And please feel free to subscribe to the Heart & Soul Blog newsletter to get more great posts like this straight to your inbox.

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