Americans have a drinking problem, and not the type you might think. As the authors of the best-selling book Eat This, Not That!, David Zinczenko and co-author Matt Goulding get e-mails all the time from readers who claim they eat carefully, they work out consistently, but they still can't get the needle on the scale to budge. "What gives?" goes the collective, exasperated refrain from the stagnant dieter.
What most people don't know is that the biggest roadblock between you and the body you want isn't found at the end of a fork, but at the bottom of a glass. As a country we take in 21 percent of our daily calories from beverages and, according to the FDA, the average American takes in 82 grams of added sugars every day. That's 20 teaspoons, which contribute an empty 317 calories to our already calorie-saturated diets.
Sure, some of that comes from soda, but even if you've traded regular Coke for diet, whole milk coffee drinks for low-fat lattes, and you barely touch the booze, you could still be taking in 20 percent or more of your calories from beverages. Add in a few of those other indulgences-or consume one of the liquid disasters listed here- and you can suddenly be sucking in a few days' worth of calories through a straw! (You read that last sentence right.)
To give you a better idea of the drinks most responsible for sabotaging your health, fitness, and weight-loss goals, we created a list of America's Unhealthiest Drinks.
20. Worst Light Beer
Samuel Adams Light (12 oz bottle)
10 g carbohydrates
Not a bad beer, but don't think you can sit around sipping these for four quarters without eventually paying the price in belly fat. With tasty beers like Beck's 64-calorie Premier Light readily available, why throw away 60 calories every time you twist the top?
19. Worst "Healthy" Drink
Glaceau VitaminWater (20 oz bottle)
33 g sugar
Vitamins and water might sound like the ultimate nutritional tag team, but what the label doesn't say is that a bottle of this stuff carries nearly as much sugar and calories as a can of Coke. Makes sense, though, since this so-called functional beverage is produced by our often-sugar-crazy friends at The Coca-Cola Company.
18. Worst Soda
Sunkist (12 oz can)
52 g sugar
Sweetened soft drinks account for about 10 percent of the average American's calorie consumption-about 200 completely unnecessary calories a day. For someone looking to lose 10 pounds fast, there is no simpler, quicker way to do it than by canning the soda.
17. Worst Beer
Sierra Nevada Stout (12 oz bottle)
20 g carbohydrates
A full-flavored beer, no doubt, but one that packs a hefty caloric wallop. Switching out a sixer a week for a lighter beer would save you 9 pounds of extra flab this year. Cheers to that!
16. Worst Lemonade
Minute Maid Lemonade (20 oz bottle)
68 g sugar
This is little more than glorified sugar water, with only a trace amount of real juice. Lemonade in general is a dubious drink, but if you can't stand the thought of summer without it, try Santa Cruz-brand lemonade. When you bring the bottle home, dump it into a pitcher and add 4 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of lemonade. Otherwise, you may as well drink a Coke with a squeeze of lemon.
15. Worst Tea-Like Substance
SoBe Zen Tea (20 oz bottle)
70 g sugar
Though the name might scream "healthy" to the unsuspecting drinker, there is little to celebrate about this beverage. SoBe can cram their drinks full of healthy-sounding extracts and vitamin supplements, but they can't escape the fact that high-fructose corn syrup outranks tea on the ingredients list.
14. Worst Energy Drink
Rockstar Original (16 oz can)
62 g sugar
Energy drink makers might feign a level of health by fortifying their products with a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, but don't be fooled: Any minimal benefit they might provide is snuffed out by the blanket of sugar and calories each can contains. Want energy? Try a cup of homebrewed black tea. It nearly zero calories and contains a deluge of disease-fighting antioxidants.
13. Worst Iced Tea
Lipton Iced Brisk Lemon Iced Tea (20 oz bottle)
81 g sugar
Iced tea is loaded with metabolism-boosting, cancer-fighting compounds called polyphenols, but Lipton does its best to undo any potential healthy benefit you might derive from the tea's antioxidants by drowning them in 20 teaspoons of sugar. Your tea of choice should carry no more than 15 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving.
12. Worst Juice Imposter
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry (23.5 oz can)
84 grams of sugar
These hulking calorie cannons (5 percent juice, 95 percent sugar water) are sold at gas stations and convenience stores across America for the low, low price of 99 cents, making this quite possibly the cheapest source of empty calories in the country.
11. Worst Chocolate Milk
Nesquik (16 oz bottle)
10 g fat (6 g saturated)
60 g sugar
Quik and other chocolate milk manufacturers try to sell parents on the bone-building calcium found in their product, but what they don't talk about is the fact that a single bottle of this stuff contains as much sugar as three Haagen Dazs Vanilla and Almond ice cream bars. Yikes. Make it yourself at home with 2 percent milk and a scoop of real powdered cocoa-you'll save about 150 calories, plus get the antioxidant benefits of cacao without the high-fructose corn syrup.
10. Worst Chai Tea Drink
Caribou Coffee Large Chai Tea Latte
47 g sugar
This is exactly the kind of drink that health-conscious consumers knock down each morning thinking they're doing themselves a favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Flavored lattes-even ones flavored with seemingly healthy stuff like chai-are bad news. Stick to skinny lattes or unsweetened chai.
9. Worst Kid's Hot Beverage
Cosi Kid's Hot Chocolate (12 oz)
60 g sugar
While most parents sip their lattes and cappuccinos, most kids sip on hot chocolate. Problem is, few things could be worse for a growing body. There are more calories in this small drink than in Cosi's Gooey Grilled Cheese sandwich, plus enough sugar to send your kids bouncing off the walls.
8. Worst Summer Cocktail
75 g sugars
Made from a blend of sickly-sweet pineapple juice and fat-riddled coconut milk, pina coladas may be this summer's biggest beach-body saboteurs. In fact, the only redeeming part of this drink is the garnish - that lonely chunk of pineapple hanging from the rim. Try a lime daiquiri or a mojito instead and save up to 400 calories.
7. Worst Coffee Alternative
Starbucks Venti White Hot Chocolate
23 g fat (15 g saturated)
76 g sugar
Caffeine abstainers will find little nutritional refuge in Starbucks' hot chocolate concoctions. This one packs an entire day's worth of saturated fat, with more than enough sugar to set you up for a dramatic mid-afternoon energy crash. Stick with the Steamed Apple Juice instead.
6. Worst Hot Coffee
Starbucks Venti 2% Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
22 g fat (14 g saturated)
95 g sugar
Important Rule of Thumb: Avoid holiday-themed items from coffee shops at all costs. From peppermint to egg nog to pumpkin, these are often the most sugar- and fat-packed drinks you'll find at places like Starbucks. Make your own flavored drinks instead, using skim milk, sugar-free syrups, and, of course, skipping the whip.
5. Worst Blended Fruit Drink
Baskin-Robbins Pomegranate Banana Fruit Blast Smoothie (32 oz)
232 g sugar
With three of the five worst drinks in America, you have to wonder if Baskin-Robbins is in bed with the sugar cane industry. One thing is for sure: People ordering this "smoothie" expecting a healthy afternoon snack have something else coming to them. The second ingredient, after water, is sugar. If you must sip on something at Baskin- Robbins, make it a small low-fat Cappuccino Blast, which has just 220 calories and one-fifth of the sugar of this Fruit Blast.
4. Worst Frozen Coffee Drink
Cosi Gigante Double OH! Arctic (24 oz)
35 g fat
177 g carbohydrates
Frozen coffee amalgamations pollute the antioxidant powers of a simple cup of joe with a huge hit of whole milk, sugary syrups, and whipped cream. What you end up with, in worst-case scenarios like this, is half a day's worth of calories, ready to be sipped down in a matter of minutes. Want a cold caffeine kick? Try iced coffee.
3. Worst Smoothie
Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd Power Smoothie (30 oz)
169 g sugars
Jamba Juice calls it a smoothie; we call it a milkshake, with more sugar than an entire bag of chocolate chips. (Note: We're pretty sure this is the drink Hollywood actors rely on when looking to put on 20 pounds for the role as a heavy!)
2. Worst Milkshake
Baskin-Robbins Large York Peppermint Pattie Shake (32 oz)
103 g fat (57 g saturated)
281 g sugar
The freakish brother of the Heath monster, the York shake earns its title as the most sugar-saturated product in America. To put it in perspective, you'd have to down 15 Twinkies to match the sugar content in this Baskin-Robbins blunder.
1. The Worst Drink in America
Baskin-Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake
108 g fat (64 g saturated)
Let's look at America's Worst Drink in numbers:
73: The number of ingredients that go into this milkshake.
66: The number of teaspoons of sugar this drink contains.
11: The number of Heath Bars you would have to eat to equal the number of calories found in one Baskin Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake.
12: The average number of minutes it takes to consume this drink.
240: The number of minutes you'd need to spend on a treadmill, running at a moderate pace, to burn it off.