Summer Coolers: Drink This, Not That

Over the past 50 years or so, we Americans have developed a severe drinking problem.

We stopped making our own iced teas and lemonades (recipe: water, lemon, sugar) and started buying them in bottles or mixes, with ingredients like "high-fructose corn syrup" and "ascorbic acid" on the labels.

We stopped thinking of a soda as a treat - akin to an ice cream or a candy bar - and started seeing it as the equivalent of a glass of water, drinking two, three, four, or more a day.

CLICK HERE to see the healthiest juice drinks for your kids in the "GMA" Takeaway web extra.

VIDEO: Matt Bean offers health tips from his book "Drink This, Not That."Play
Healthy Summer Drink Alternatives

Then we stopped drinking water out of the tap and started demanding that it be artificially flavored and put into bottled with the words "vitamin" or "energy" stamped on their labels.

And, in just the last decade or so, many of us stopped brewing our own coffee and started buying things with vaguely European names, like "mocha latte." And the result of all this beverage evolution is that, today, walking into a convenience store or a beverage distributorship has become dangerous to our health.

America's supermarket aisles and drive-thru menus are awash in empty liquid calories. We've updated our list of worst offenders. Survive the rising tide by eliminating these, the country's most damaging drinkables, from your beverage regiment.

Need more convincing? A study last year from Johns Hopkins University found that cutting liquid calories has a bigger impact on weight-loss than cutting calories from food! Turns out that losing weight might be as easy as watching what you drink. For more information about diet-destroying drinks, get the latest book in the series: Drink This, Not That!

Worst Smoothie in America

Not That: Smoothie King Peanut Power Plus Grape (Medium, 32 fl oz)

1,124 calories 33 g fat (6 g saturated) 161 g sugar 22.5 g protein

Sugar Equivalent of 15 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Drink This Instead: Smoothie King High Protein Banana (Medium, 32 fl oz)

483 calories 13.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated) 34.5 g sugars 40.5 g protein

Peanut butter works as a spread on toast, but when you try to use it in place of fruit in your smoothie, this is what happens. Essentially this smoothie is a jar of peanut butter with grape juice poured overtop. There's some other stuff in there*, including two forms of sugar, but the only real fruit is banana. And with Smoothie King's oversized cups, even a medium has more than half your day's calories. Drink a 40-ounce large and you've just filled your belly with 1,500 calories and more than 200 grams of sugar.

Thankfully Smoothie King makes some reasonable smoothies too, and this High Protein Banana is one of the best. It's also remarkably similar to the Peanut Power. Basically it swaps out peanut butter for healthier almond butter and relegates it to a supporting role. It's a painless swap that saves you 57% of the calories and earns you an additional 18 grams of protein.

* Full ingredient list: Peanut Butter, Grape Juice, Bananas, Soy Protein, Non-Fat Milk, Turbinado, Honey

For more health tips, check out the latest issue of Men's Health, on shelves now!


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Worst Frozen Coffee Drink

Not That: Dunkin Donuts Large Vanilla Bean Coolatta (32 fl oz)

860 calories 11 g fat (7 g saturated) 172 g sugars

Calorie Equivalent: 6.5 McDonald's Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfaits (no granola) OR 3 McDonald's Strawberry Sundaes

Drink This Instead: Large Coffee Coolatta with Milk (32 fl oz)

480 calories 8 g fat (5 g saturated) 98 g sugars

Here's an important lesson that will save everybody a load of calories: Aside from a little caffeine, frozen coffee drinks have nothing in common with actual coffee. Nutritionally they belong in the same category as milkshakes. If you're starting your day with something like this, you've just burnt through more than 40% of your day's caloric limit before your first meal. So unless you're eating nothing but carrot sticks the rest of the day, you've just added a fresh hunk of flab to your frame.

So if you're set on a Coolatta, switch from vanilla to coffee flavoring and specify that you want milk instead of the usual cream. That still gives you a massively indulgent beverage—certainly not the sort of thing you should be drinking on a regular basis—but it will save you a load of calories over the go-to Vanilla Bean Coolatta. Order it as a rare treat, sweet-talk a friend into splitting it with you, and you'll do just fine.

Worst Flavored Water

Not That: Glaceau Vitamin Water Focus Kiwi-Strawberry (20 fl oz bottle)

125 calories 0 g fat 32.5 g sugars

Sugar Equivalent: 1.5 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars

Drink This Instead: Glaceau Vitamin Water Zero Go-Go Mixed Berry (20 fl oz bottle)

0 calories 0 g fat <1 g sugars

This pretty well sums up America's drinking problem—even the water has more sugar than a candy bar. If you drink one of these every day in place of real, old-fashioned H20, you'll gain 13 pounds in a year. Instead, opt for the new Vitamin Water Zero that just came out. It's got zero calories and its not sweetened with aspartame or any of that junk that goes into most diet sodas. Instead it's sweetened primarily with stevia, the only FDA-approved artificial sweetener that comes from a plant*. Plus you still get all the B vitamins and vitamin C.

Worst Shake

Not That: Cold Stone PB&C Shake (Like It Size, 16 fl oz)

1280 calories 82 g fat (45 g saturated, 2 g trans) 104 g sugars

Calorie Equivalent: 12 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Drink This Instead: Cold Stone Creamery Sinless Oh Fudge Shake (Like it Size, 16 fl oz)

490 calories 2 g fat (2 g saturated) 44 g sugars

The "PB&C" actually has two separate meanings. It represents the flavor: Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and the bodily effect: Pot Bellied and Chubby. Really—this cup alone is enough to add a third-pound of flab to the human body. And believe it or not, this is a small! Order a large, which is just 8 extra ounces of milkshake, and you're looking at more than 2000 calories. That's an entire day's worth of energy packaged with three-and-a-half day's worth of saturated fat and more than 600 calories of pure sugar. It's probably the most harm you can inflict on your body in 10 minutes.

Unfortunately no ice cream shop has yet invented a really delicious, low-calorie shake, so Cold Stone's Sinless line is about as good as you'll get. The 16-ounce Oh Fudge is actually the only shake on the menu to weigh in with fewer than 500 calories.


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Worst Juice

Not That: Hi-C Torrential Tropical Punch (6.75 fl oz)

100 calories 0 g fat 25 g sugars

Sugar Equivalent: 4 Kiddie Cones from McDonald's

Drink This, Instead: Minute Maid Fruit Falls Tropical Water Beverage (6.75 fl oz)

5 calories 0 g fat <1 g sugars

Although Hi-C claims its "Made With Real Fruit Juice," what that really translates into is 10% juice mixed with 90% water and high-fructose corn syrup. Cap the sugar rush while still feeding your child real juice with Minute Maid's Fruit Falls Tropical Water Beverage. It packs the same amount of Vitamin-C but with 95% less calories and less than 1 gram of sugar.

Worst Coffee Drink

Not That: Starbucks Caramel Latte (Venti, 20 fl oz)

320 calories 8 g fat (5 g saturated) 43 g sugars

Sugar Equivalent: 5 Fudgesicles

Drink This, Instead: Starbucks Caramel Cappuccino

180 calories 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated) 18 g sugars

Caramel, vanilla, and hazelnut syrups are all essentially the same thing: liquid sugar. So expect a similar calorie load no matter which flavors are in your latte. The best part about Starbucks is how much control you have over your order, so rather than let an overworked staffer compromise your drink with mindless pumping, just tell them you want a venti 1-pump caramel cappuccino.

Worst Tea Drink

Not That: Cosi Raspberry Mojito Lemonade (20 fl oz)

399 calories 0 g fat 80 g carbs

Calorie Equivalent: 2 Crunchy Taco Supremes from Taco Bell

Drink This Instead: Cosi Raspberry Iced Tea (20 oz)

125 calories 0 g fat 30 g carbs

When you go to Cosi, chances are you're getting a drink in addition to your meal – don't make the mistake of ordering the Raspberry Mojito Lemonade or you might be eating two meals as this beverage contains the calorie equivalent of 2 Crunchy Taco Supremes from Taco Bell! Flavored iced teas are hit and miss-sometimes they're absolutely great and sometimes they're as bad as soda. Order it unsweetened and add the sugar yourself.


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Web Extra: Kids, Drink This

When it comes to summer and kids, juice drinks are always a popular choice. But which one should you pick? Check some of the healthiest ones, courtesy of "Drink This, Not That."

Apple & Eve Fruitables Fruit and Vegetable Strawberry Kiwi (6.75 fl oz box)

70 calories
0 g fat
15 g sugars

Capri Sun Roarin' Waters Wild Cherry (6 fl oz pouch)

30 calories
0 g fat
8 g sugars

Kool-Aid Brursts Grape (6.75 fl oz bottle)

35 calories
0 g fat
9 g sugars

Apple and Eve Cookie Monster's Orange Tangerine (4.23 fl oz box)

60 calories
0 g fat
14 g sugars

Honest Kids Tropical Tango Punch (8.75 fl oz pouch)

40 calories
0 g fat
10 g sugars

Motts for Tots Fruit Punch (8 fl oz)

60 calories
0 g fat
15 g sugar

Minute Maid Fruit Falls Tropical Water Beverage (6.75 fl oz pouch)

5 calories
0 g fat
< 1 g sugars

Minute Maid Kids+ Orange Juice (8 fl oz)

110 calories 0 g fat 24 g sugars

Now go outside and play!


More from Men's Health:

20 NEW Worst Foods in America

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Get your copy of Drink This, Not That!

The 20 Worst Drinks in America 2010