What’s the first thing you reach for when you’re thirsty? A glass of water? Chocolate milk? A cool glass of lemonade? You probably don’t realize how much sugar and how many calories are actually in some of your favorite drinks. But it’s time to face the facts. Sugary drinks are everywhere — and they could be ruining any chance you have of losing those last 10 pounds.
Read on to learn which drinks you should avoid if you’re trying to lose weight. We’ve also included alternative suggestions, so you can still enjoy a little bit of sweetness without too many consequences.
1. Flavored coconut water
Coconut water is a flavored water favorite because it’s refreshing and, supposedly, healthy. Refreshing? Sure. Healthy? Not so much. There are 19 grams of sugar in every bottle of ZICO coconut water, for example. It may taste good, but generally, nothing with coconut in it is good for people to eat. Not coconut water, and definitely not coconut oil. All that sugar and fat just isn’t necessary.
If you’re looking for flavored water that isn’t loaded with sugar, consider infusing your own water with a variety of different fruits. All you have to do is fill a pitcher with water, add fruit or herbs, and enjoy. Try a number of different flavors until you find one you like. Then you can fill up your own container and take it with you wherever you go.
2. EnergySports drinks
Need something cool and rejuvenating after a tough workout? A sports drink isn’t always the best option. One 12-ounce bottle of Thirst Quencher Original Gatorade has 21 total grams of sugar. Do you need to replenish some minerals lost when you sweat? Of course. However, fueling your body with pure sugar isn’t going to give you the energy you need — at least not for very long.
Hydrating is extremely important after endurance workouts, especially if you’re doing something active outdoors. However, eat something salty, full of fiber, and high in calories after a workout. That’s going to provide you much more worthwhile nutrition — and help toward your weight loss goals — than sugar water that tastes like berries.
3. Sweet tea
Tea isn’t naturally sweet. Without any additions, it’s just tea leaves and hot water. However, restaurants and manufacturers alike know we humans love our sweet things. Even adding sugar to your own tea at home can turn a low-calorie drink into a sugar-loaded disaster. However, tea that comes pre-sweetened — especially bottled teas — are at the top of the “nope” list when it comes to sweetened tea.
You have a few alternative options here. You could simply drink your tea unsweetened, and maybe even learn to love the taste of natural tea. Or you could find healthier ways to sweeten your tea, like honey. You can even infuse tea with your own herbs and spices, if you want. Tea is a great way to curb junk food cravings — unless it’s full of the very thing you’re trying to consume less of.
What’s your go-to cocktail? Margarita? Irish coffee? Something slushy and fruity you’ve already forgotten the name of? Here’s what most cocktails have in common: sugar — and lots of it. Cocktails also tend to be more calorie-dense than other alcoholic drinks, since they’re a mix of countless ingredients all stuffed into a single glass.
Your best bet, if you’re heading to the bar, is to only order one cocktail — no more. Otherwise, opt for something simpler, though you can still go wrong with even the best beers and wines. Alcohol is more calorie-dense than other substances, so it’s going to add up quickly regardless of what you order. You don’t have to completely give up alcohol to lose weight. Just be mindful of what you’re drinking.
5. Blended coffee drinks
Did you know a Starbucks grande Java Chip Frappuccino has 66 grams of sugar in it? That’s not even the worst it gets. These drinks are a mix of ice, coffee, syrup, milk, cream, and more sugar than anyone needs in a single sitting.as tempting as they may be, think before you order. Ask yourself if the goodness is really wroth the sacrifice. If you only have one of these drinks every once in awhile, that’s better — but you’d be even better off without them.
Stay away from the Frappuccinos, the iced lattes with five fancy names rolled into one — it’s all just sugar, in various forms, blended into a cup. If you can’t help yourself, at least opt for the smallest size possible. You can go bigger, but, well, so will your waistline.
6. Diet soda
Soda is one of those versatile drinks that goes with just about anything. Which would be great, if there weren’t so many empty calories in one can. Many people don’t realize how many of their calories come from drinks — and since sugary drinks don’t fill you up, it’s just piling on more calories than you need. Even going diet or “sugar free” doesn’t solve the problem. Many diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, a type of food additive that probably doesn’t belong in your body.
Do you drink soda simply for its fizz? Try carbonated (sparkling) water — or, even better, try infusing fruit into a glass of sparkling water for added flavor.
Have you ever made lemonade from scratch? Do you know its main ingredients? Lemons, water … and sugar. Sure, it’s not the added sugars that are so prominent in so many processed foods and bottled drinks. But one of sugar’s biggest problems is that it isn’t filling, it doesn’t provide much value, and it’s addicting. Is it possible to have just one glass of lemonade without pouring another? Not usually. But you should try to limit yourself as much as you can.
Even worse: bottled lemonade, or the powdered kind you pour into your own water bottle and shake up. If you’re going to do the lemonade thing, make your own — it tastes better! But stick to just one glass, because you’re only adding unnecessary calories to your day. Water, even fizzy water, is better than this.
8. Fruit juice
Okay, now you’re mad. First we said no coconut water, then no cocktails — and now, no fruit juice? The one serving of fruit you actually make sure to get every morning? See, here’s the deal: fruit juice isn’t actually fruit. Not really. Sure, a lot of fruit juice is made with real, fresh fruit. But do you know how they turn fruit into juice? They don’t blend it up, preserving all its nutritional value in the process. They squeeze the life out of that fruit, save the liquid, and leave the nutritious part behind.
(A moment of silence for the fruits of vines and bushes past.)
The bottom line: fruit juice is pretty much just sugar water. You’re not getting much fiber from it, so you’re really just pouring empty calories into your system without filling you up. Say no to fruit juice. You’re much better off blending fruit into a smoothie — just be mindful of how you sweeten it.
9. Sweetened almond milk
This one might surprise and even disappoint you. It’s true: sweetened nut milks don’t necessarily deserve as much praise as they get. Aren’t nut milks supposed to be better for you than cow’s milk, you might ask? They do have benefits over a more traditional milk source — unless you buy them sweetened. Silk Vanilla Almondmilk has 16 grams of sugar per cup — 128 grams in the entire container. Imagine adding that to your sugar sweetened breakfast cereal. That’s a sugar high you’d never forget.
By contrast, their unsweetened almond milk has zero grams of sugar per serving, and no fake sugars, either. Technically, you really don’t need nut milks sweetened — they come that way naturally. They’re not as sweet as you’re expecting, but it’s OK to let your taste buds adjust.
10. Hot chocolate
This one’s not quite so surprising, but you’re still not going to want to hear it. Your beloved winter companion has betrayed you. Sixteen ounces of Starbucks hot cocoa, syrup, and whipped cream comes out to a total of 43 grams of sugar. Unfortunately, even the kind you buy in packets and mix with boiling milk is loaded with sugar to make it sweet. It’s like drinking a brownie. A warm, irresistible, liquified dessert.
Obviously, the best way to avoid this sugar trap is to skip the hot chocolate altogether. What’s the holiday season without hot cocoa, though? First: make your own — with water, not milk, and real chocolate, not bottled syrup. The less chocolate, the better. And the temptation to say no to whipped cream isn’t as hard to resist as you might think.
Smoothies have fruit in them, so they must be good for you, right? Most of the time, commercially made smoothies do have fresh ingredients in them. But they also have a lot of sugar in them — way more than necessary, in fact. A small Caribbean Passion Smoothie from Jamba Juice has a total of 58 grams of sugar. Sure, there aren’t any artificial flavors, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup. But only 2 of the 61 carbs in that smoothie come from fiber. That’s not a good ratio. Are strawberries and peaches good for you? Absolutely. There’s just a lot more added to these blended fruit baskets than you need in one sitting.
Is making a smoothie at home any better? It depends on the ingredients you’re using. Obviously, fresh fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy smoothie drink. However, make sure you’re not tossing in any yogurt, fruit juice, chocolate, or milk that’s high in sugar. If you need to sweeten your smoothie, use honey, vanilla extract, or cinnamon.
12. Bottled drinks
When it comes to convenience, bottled drinks don’t fall short. Coffees, teas, even flavored waters are so easy to grab and take with you when they come in a bottle. There’s a ‘but’ coming, so hold onto your Frappuccinos. These drinks pack the same types of sugar as the rest of the examples you’ve seen here already. Let’s look at Tazo bottled tea, for example. Their berryblossom white tea blend contains cane sugar and natural blueberry flavor (not actual blueberries?). Can you guess what one of added sugar’s aliases might be? That’s right: cane sugar.
You can easily avoid this trick. Start by brewing your own tea (any flavor you want). If you need to sweeten it, add a little honey or vanilla. Then grab yourself a thermos or tumbler and take your tea with you on the go. It’s not your favorite bottled tea, but it’s much better for you in the long-term.
Other tips for cutting sugar out of your diet
Besides reducing the amount of sugary drinks in your diet, you can do a lot of things to cut back on unnecessary sugar. Start hitting those weight loss milestones in no time — just follow these simple rules.
- Limit your consumption of processed foods.
- Never, ever eat added sugar for breakfast.
- Purchase “unsweetened” products, or those with no added sugar.
- Learn to recognize sugar on food labels.
- Eat more natural sources of sugar, like fruits and vegetables.
- Use fresh ingredients when cooking as often as you can.
- Substitute applesauce for sugar when you’re baking at home.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
Sugar can be extremely damaging to our health goals, especially when it comes to drinks. Since most drinks aren’t very filling, it’s easy to go overboard without realizing it. And the more you overdo it, the less likely you are to be as healthy as you want to be. Say no more often to the things standing in your way — no matter how delicious they may be.
Don’t let yourself drink all your calories away. If you have to put cream in your coffee, don’t be too generous with your portions. Drink water with your meals and snacks, so you can quench your thirst without destroying your diet. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite drinks … just not quite so often. These are all very small things, but together, they could add up to just the amount of weight loss you’ve been hoping for all along.