The Five Worst Drinks in America

By Kimberlee Davies

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), between 1988 and 2008 the proportion of obese American adults increased from 23 percent to 35 percent. The CDC considers an adult with a “body mass index” (BMI) greater than 30 to be obese (for reference, a 5 foot 6 inch person would have to weigh at least 186 pounds to exceed a BMI of 30). Despite consuming all those calories, most Americans still do not eat enough fruits and veggies. In 2009, only 14 percent of American adults ate at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day. How can consumers fix this problem—and control their waistlines?

One simple step is to alter our liquid consumption. Many drinks are effectively liquid candy; the worst offender contains the caloric equivalent of three Big Macs. By reducing, replacing, or entirely cutting these beverages out of their diets, consumers can significantly decrease their sugar intake. Eat This, Not That! recently produced a list of the “20 Worst Drinks in America.” Here’s a list of the top five offenders and some suggestions for replacing them.

Photo credit: Men’s Health

1) The top culprit is Cold Stone’s 24 oz Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shake. That 24 oz cup packs in 1,750 calories, 140 grams (g) of sugar, and 64g of saturated fat. So what? That level of sugar is equivalent to 30 Chips Ahoy cookies, and the saturated fat rivals 68 strips of bacon. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic recommends a maximum of 16g to 22g of saturated fat per day (a third of that in this shake). They also recommended consuming only 30g to 45g of sugar daily for women and men respectively.

Try this instead: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Smoothie! Freezing the bananas and yogurt beforehand gives the drink the texture of a milkshake. The tasty treat only has 350 calories and 31g of sugar. Cut out the honey and the sugar goes down to 22g.

Photo credit: Starbucks

2) Starbuck’s venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream provides a whopping 13g of saturated fat and 94g of sugar.

Replacement: The ideal coffee substitution is black coffee. With 5 calories, no sugar, and no fats, pure coffee is the healthier way to get your caffeine fix. If you can’t stand the bitterness, you can always add sugar and milk yourself (so you know exactly how much goes in the mug).


Photo credit: Mountain Dew

3) Mountain Dew is the top soda to avoid. In addition to its 77g of sugar, the sweet treat includes brominated vegetable oil (BVO) among its ingredients. BVO is used as a flame retardant in plastics and can build up in body fat. With stats like that, maybe the 48 percent of Americans that drink soda daily will consider a diet change.

A delicious and healthy replacement is homemade soda. While this may sound unbearably complicated, the beverage just requires mixing seltzer water and your favorite 100 percent fruit juice. The CDC recommends 2oz of orange juice with seltzer water for a refreshing 30 calorie drink. If daily soda drinkers switched to this concoction, they would knock out nearly 95,000 calories annually from their diet.

Photo credit: Rockstar

4) Rockstar Energy Drink takes the medal for the least healthy energy drink. Who needs caffeine for an energy charge when consuming the 62g of sugar in this caffeinated beverage? No wonder this drink is “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women,” as stated on the label.

Replacement: Why not just stick with coffee and tea?




Photo credit: Wegmans

5) Possibly the least expected offender is SoBe Energize Green Tea. This bottle of tea has been saturated with 51g of sugar. Sugar lists far above green tea on the ingredients list.

As usual, the best alternative is to make tea at home. When you make something, you know exactly what has gone into it.

Over the last 50 years, Americans stopped viewing these beverages as irregular treats and started considering them as a way to meet their weekly, and sometimes daily, hydration needs. The Mayo Clinic recommends that a healthy adult consume between 8 and 13 cups of fluid per day. To decrease sugar and fat intake, Americans could exchange these sugary drinks for water. Consuming more water would lead to better hydration, less fatigue, and improved overall health.

Kimberlee Davies is an intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. 

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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