20 “Healthy” Beverages That Are Terrible For You

5 minute read

By Christopher Brown

Grocery stores, fast food joints, health food stores — these are all places where unhealthy drinks masquerade as health-conscious options. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about healthy foods and drinks with a search online.

If you don’t do your homework and check the label, then they may even trick you into consuming a boatload of sugar, sodium, and unnecessary calories. But you know better. Let’s cut through the clever marketing together.

Sweetened Nut Milk

Most people look to almond or cashew milk when seeking out a healthier alternative to dairy. In a lot of cases, nut milks are a fantastic substitute for the standard 2%. As with anything that you consume, you need to be very careful and check the label. Some nut milks are loaded with sugar, especially their chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry counterparts. Not all nut milks are created equally.

Flavored Coconut Water

Coconut water has become more and more popular over the years. It’s great for the skin, helps facilitate digestion, and can even reduce blood pressure. But it’s important to remember that not all coconut waters are the same. For example, some brands of coconut water have around 11 grams of sugar per serving, which will certainly have your dentist shaking her head.


Let’s say you’re at a BBQ. You’re eating a burger (no bun) with a salad (lightly dressed) and you’re on the hunt for a cool refreshing drink. So you pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade. Lemons are fruit, so lemonade must be healthy. Spoiler alert, it isn’t. Pre-packaged lemonade is loaded with sugar, fructose, and sometimes even high-fructose corn syrup. Back away from the lemonade. Slowly.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes can be a great alternative protein source for athletes and body builders on the go, but most of us aren’t athletes or body builders. Not only are most protein shakes loaded with excess calories and sugar, but their benefits can be mitigated by a proper diet. Eat your protein. Your body will thank you for it if you can work it off.

Iced Tea

Tea is full of anti-oxidants and really, really good for you. So, what’s wrong with reaching for a glass of the sweet tea on a warm afternoon? That’s right, the sugar. Some brands have about 43 grams of sugar per 500 ML serving. It’s safe to say that adding 43 grams of sugar mitigates the positive benefits of drinking tea.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks like Gatorade and the like are packed full of electrolytes, sodium, and sugar. Again, great for professional athletes and those of us that work extra hard at cross-fit, but not for us regular folk. If your goal is as simple as staying hydrated, you can skip the red stuff and quench your thirst with a glass of water instead.

Energy Drinks

They may carry you through an extra mile or two on the treadmill, but most energy drinks are loaded with so much sugar that the extra mile still keeps you in the negative. Red Bull, for example, contains about 11 grams of sugar and 11 grams of carbohydrates. Not to mention that such large quantities of caffeine can cause insomnia, headache, and anxiety.

Pre-Bottled Smoothies

Not only are pre-bottled smoothies unreasonably expensive but many of them are loaded with excess sugar. Yes, even the green ones with pictures of kale on the packaging. When it comes to store-bought smoothies, it’s important to read the label carefully. Savvy shoppers can buy the ingredients and make their own at home — the cheaper and healthier option.

Cranberry Cocktail

Cranberry cocktail is a bartending staple. It’s a way to enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverage whilst still maintaining that slim waistline, right? Not so fast. Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Cocktail is packed full of sugar. 28 grams of it per an 8-ounce serving. That’s slightly more sugar than a standard 8 oz. serving of soda (roughly 25 grams). Is nobody sacred?!


V8 is commonly marketed as a substitute for eating a serving of vegetables. That’s simply untrue. For starters, juicing vegetables eliminates the ever-important vegetable fiber. V8 is also sweetened with sugar (as much as 11 grams per serving), and loaded with sodium. My advice? Chew your vegetables or make your own smoothie at home.

Vitamin Water

What can be so bad about water with added vitamins? I’m sure you can guess by now. That’s right, sugar! Dietary supplements like vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E are liberally combined with upwards of 32 grams of sugar per serving. No, sugar is not a vitamin.

Probiotic Yogurt Drinks

An influx of new info regarding the importance of gut health has driven health-conscious shoppers to the grocery store in droves. The market for probiotics is larger than ever. Enter the probiotic yogurt drink, a great way to get a healthy dose of probiotics on the go! In theory, yes. In practice? Not so much. For example, along with probiotics, Danactive has 11 grams of sugar, too.

Sweetened Soy Milk

Soy milk is another, plant-based alternative to dairy for those with dietary restrictions, but that much is obvious. What isn’t always obvious is the sugar content. If you opt for the sweetened version of the popular milk substitute, you may be in for a surprise. Some brands have as much sugar as a candy bar. Repeat after me: I will always read the label. There. Better.

Tonic Water

Don’t let the “water” part fool you. In some cases, tonic water can be as bad as soda. For example, Schweppes has 32 grams of sugar and 55 mg of sodium. Unfortunately, this brand isn’t an outlier either. Tonic water is a notoriously sneaky soda alternative. Looking for a carbonated alternative? Try seltzer. All the bubbly goodness with none of the extra calories.

Diet Soda

While, in most cases, diet soda is infinitely healthier than a standard can of soda, it’s still not in the free and clear. For starters, diet soda doesn’t do anything to help you lose weight. It’s been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s bad for your teeth and it has absolutely no nutritional value.

Motts Clamato

It’s the main component of the classic Canadian cocktail, the Caesar. It’s pretty darn delicious, too. But don’t be fooled by its packaging. Every serving of Clamato comes with 15 grams of sugar and (drum roll) a whopping 1,300 mg of sodium. So next time you’re lounging on a patio, ask for the low-sodium Clamato. Your heart will thank you.

Orange Juice

Every wonder why orange juice is a morning staple? I guess people like starting their day with a gigantic sugar rush. No, orange juice is definitely not healthy. Sure, Tropicana OJ has a whole lot of vitamin C, but it also has 26 grams of carbohydrates including 22 grams of sugar. I’ll have an egg white omelet with a black coffee, please.

Prune Juice

Prune juice is notoriously good for digestion, bladder, and bones. But what about for your waistline? No mas. Prune juice is bad for you because, repeat after me, it’s loaded with sugar! This particular brand boasts 25 grams of sugar for every 8 fluid ounces that you consume. Sorry grandpa, but you’ll have to stick to water this time.


SlimFast is a super popular meal replacement for men and women looking to get slim … fast. It’s a great source of protein and fiber. Sadly, depending on the variety, it’s also a fantastic source of sugar as well. Some versions of SlimFast include up to 18 grams of sugar per 11 ounce serving!

Rice Milk

You’re looking to cut the fat out of your diet, but still enjoy the occasional bowl of cereal so you reach for a container of rice milk. I hate to ruin your Rice Dream, but rice milk can contain upwards of 7 grams of sugar per 100 ml serving. Moral of the story? If you enjoy it, and it’s pre-packaged, it’s probably loaded with sugar. Read those labels!

Christopher Brown