“Observational research rather consistently shows that consumers of fat-free or 1 percent milk tend to gain more weight over time than those who consume whole, unsweetened milk,” says Ludwig.
In addition to avoiding skim milks, he also recommends avoiding milk substitutes with added sugars, like almond milk or rice milk, especially if you prefer the flavored kinds.
If you can’t handle dairy, an unflavored, unsweetened nut milk is your best bet. One cup of plain almond milk, for example, only has 40 calories, two carbs and less than a gram of sugar, and it has half of the calcium you need in a day.
When you’re trying to drop pounds, stick with 2 percent or whole milk. These are a great source of calcium, which helps you burn fat more efficiently, says Ansel. “And it’s a top source of muscle-building protein, so it’s a double win,” she says.
Almost every kind of pre-sweetened iced tea—from a restaurant or from the bottle—is usually a bad idea.
“It seems so light, but it contains so much added sugar that you might as well drink a soda,” says Ansel. Another bummer: When you buy iced tea at the store, it’s often packaged in 20-oz, single-serve bottles, making it easy to knock back 175 calories and 11 teaspoons of sugar, she says.
If you’re going to pick up a tea drink while you’re away from home, read the labels carefully. Gans says teas that are good-to-go are made with artificial sweeteners (or no sweeteners at all), and have little to no calories, she says. Better yet, brew your own at home and add in some fresh squeezed lemon to cut the bitterness, says Gans.
Whether you’re addicted to your local juice bar or pick up a bottle or two at the grocery store, you should know that even the most natural juices are loaded with sugar. A glass of 100 percent grape juice has nine teaspoons of sugar, a glass of 100 percent orange juice has six teaspoons, and a glass of 100 percent apple juice has seven teaspoons. (Actually, sugar can crop up in a lot of unexpected places. Check out the 10 kid’s meals that have more sugar than a can of Pepsi.)
David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Always Hungry?, says that the sugar in juice is digested super fast because there are no other nutrients (like fat or protein) to slow it down. That leads to a giant blood-sugar spike and subsequent crash that leaves you craving sugar and carbs, says Ludwig. And since we drink juice even when we’re not hungry, all those calories go straight to storage, he says.
While juice is definitely a better choice than a soda, since 100 percent juice should only contain naturally-occurring sugars and a little fiber, you still have to limit yourself to a one-cup serving per day, she says. To limit the blood sugar spike, chase it with a handful of protein-rich nuts. Also worth noting: You need to avoid any kind of juice cocktail that contains added sugar (or sweeteners) in the ingredients, she says.
You would think that a smoothie made of fruits, vegetables, and little else would be a smart move on a diet, but that’s not always the case, says Ansel.
If your go-to smoothie joint serves fruit-packed blends or you make yours at home, it’s easy to go overboard, she says. “You wouldn’t sit down and eat five servings of fruit at one time,” Ansel says, “so why should you drink it?”
While smoothies can be a healthy meal or snack, it all comes down to portion control. A recipe that calls for a banana, a cup or more of berries, a cup of yogurt, and a splash of milk and/or juice is going to rack up the calories and sugar, says Ansel. (But smoothies don’t always have to be calorie bombs. Try these 20 healthy, protein-packed smoothie recipes.)
Instead, Gans recommends blending one cup of protein-packed plain Greek yogurt or milk to keep you full with one serving of fruit for energy, and a healthy, satisfying fat, like two tablespoons of peanut butter or one-quarter of an avocado. That’s a mix that can fuel your weight loss goals. You can also check out these eight smoothies that will help you lose weight.
When all you want to do is crash and burn instead of hitting the gym, you might turn to an energy shot or a low-cal, sugar-free energy drink to get amped. But that’s a mistake, says Gans.
If you’re on track with your healthy eating, workouts, and sleep schedule, you shouldn’t need a jolt of energy from caffeine or whatever other crazy ingredients are in your can, she says. Your healthier lifestyle alone should leave you feeling energized.
Instead of guzzling a drink, assess whether you’re getting enough sleep or eating enough calories to get you through your workouts, she says. Adjusting these habits so that you’re naturally energized will automatically put you on track to lose weight, she says.