A 12-ounce can of soda has between about 125 and 180 calories. All of those come from sugar -- between 8 and 11 teaspoons in your glass. Those numbers give this drink a reputation as a nutritional bad guy. Still, there are lots of other beverages that have as many or more calories as a soda.
It’s true that apple, orange, and other juices have vitamins, which are keys to a healthy diet. But just 8 ounces have between about 100 and 150 calories. And you get more if you pour the same amount as a regular soda (12 ounces). Even if you’re drinking 100% juice, most of those calories come from sugar. For a healthier choice, eat a piece of fruit to get the nutrients of juice, plus fiber and less sugar.
This Southern classic can be a better choice than soda, but you have to read the labels. Bottled brands can have up to 150 calories in a 12-ounce serving, all from sugar. Fast-food places also have a wide range of calories in their sweet tea. And if you sip it at a sit-down restaurant, you may have no idea how many you’re drinking. Order unsweet tea, and if you want to add sweetener, you can control how much goes in.
You can get a bit of vitamin C from this summertime sipper if it’s made with real juice. But you’re mainly getting sugar -- about 7 teaspoons in a typical glass. Bottled brands have about 150 to 180 calories in 12 ounces -- just as much as soda. Look for low-calorie brands, or make your own with lemons, water, and sugar or artificial sweetener.
An 8-ounce serving of plain, skim milk has 80 to 90 calories. But a tablespoon or two of chocolate syrup brings it to the same range as soda. Prepackaged chocolate milk can give you from about 140 to more than 250 calories, depending on whether it’s low-fat or whole milk. By itself, milk has plenty of calcium, protein, and some natural sugar. Flavorings -- whether chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry -- just add sugar.
A cup of black coffee has almost no calories. But many of the sweet, creamy treats from your favorite barista have a lot more than soda. A typical unsweetened 12-ounce latte with low-fat milk has 150 calories. Add flavored syrups, whole milk, and whipped cream, and your drink can top 400 calories, all from extra fat and sugar. Instead, go for nonfat milk and sugar-free syrups or sweeteners in a plain cup of joe.
Smoothie servings are usually large -- 16 to 20 ounces at a restaurant, or 15 ounces in a bottle. They often have 200 to 400 calories but can go well above that. In general, calories go up the more you add full-fat dairy and sweet extras, like honey or agave. If you buy one, choose a flavor without added sugar. But it’s best to make your own smoothies at home with fruits, veggies, and a low-calorie base, like low-fat milk or water.
An 8-ounce serving of an energy drink gives you as much as 150 calories -- the same as a 12-ounce soda. And some bottles and cans have much more than one serving. Most of those calories come from sugar -- up to 8 teaspoons’ worth. You also get a huge dose of caffeine. Some brands have the same amount as 4 or 5 cups of coffee in a bottle or can.
Do you sometimes reach for a protein shake after a workout or instead of a meal? It’s best to read the label first to know what you’re drinking. A bottle may give you between 110 and 200 calories from protein, fat, and sugar. Milk-based protein shakes also have calcium. Some brands offer fat-free or sugar-free choices, which make them lower in calories.
A 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer has about 150 calories. Light beers run closer to 100. Be aware that the higher the alcohol content, the higher that number goes. Many craft and specialty brews can have well over 200 calories in a 12-ounce pour. Drinking at a bar or restaurant? Keep in mind that a serving is more likely to be 16 ounces.
You get about 120 calories in a 5-ounce glass of white wine, and 125 in a glass of red. But if you go beyond the basics, you’ll add calories. Dessert wines are in the same calorie range as soda. So is sangria. Depending on how much fruit juice and sugar it’s made with, a serving of it can have 140 to more than 200 calories.
You can guess that if regular soda has a lot of calories, adding alcohol gives it even more. A 12-ounce bottle of hard soda has 175 to 260 calories; half from alcohol, half from sugar. Other flavored beer-based drinks have more than 300 calories in 12 ounces. Hard ciders range from about 170 to 230. Look for the light versions that some brands offer.
There are about 97 calories in 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof alcohol. Liqueurs have about 165 calories. And mixers can add way more. Margarita mix alone has 60 to 140 per serving. When you stir in tequila, the drink clocks in at 150 to 235 calories. A piña colada can have around 500. Even a dry martini is close to 140 calories. For extra flavor without extra calories, make your cocktail with diet soda or club soda with a squeeze of lime.
Some classic seasonal drinks have far more calories than soda. Eggnog can have more than 200 in just a half-cup. Even light versions have 120 or more. And that’s before you add alcohol. Most of that total comes from sugar, though milk and egg ingredients also give you protein and fat. A 12-ounce serving of hot chocolate can run from about 170 to over 300 calories. And spiced cider has around 110 calories in 8 ounces.
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CDC: “Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture: “USDA Food Composition Databases.”
The Coca-Cola Company: “Product Facts,” “Minute Maid Lemonade.”