10 Fast-Food Drinks With Exorbitant Amounts of Sugar
Fast-food drinks can be some of the biggest offenders when it comes to the calorie count. And when it comes to sugar content, some beverages you happily pick up at the drive-thru have double the amount found in, say, your morning muffin.
In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), beverages are the leading source of added sugars, well above snacks and sweets. "You may not even consider drinks as anything that 'counts' in your diet because many of them are not thought of as food and don't provide any nutritious ingredients, but no matter where the calories are coming from, they still contribute to your overall daily consumption," says nutritionist Laura Burak.
AHA recommends a maximum consumption of 36 grams of sugar per day for men and 25 grams for women. But fast-food drinks will often triple or quadruple this intake. According to Harvard Health, consuming too much added sugar can lead to weight gain, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease.
We consulted Burak to identify fast-food drinks with insane amounts of sugar that you should avoid at all costs. And it turns out sugar isn't the only thing to consider when ordering one of these drinks.
And don't miss 5 Fast-Food Items With Exorbitant Amounts of Sodium.
Panera's Large Strawberry Lemon Mint Lemonade
Although Panera offers some craft beverages with zero added sugars, the chain also sells some on the other end of the sugary spectrum. The Strawberry Lemon Mint Lemonade is one of the worst drink options on Panera's menu.
"This drink is certainly not ideal and I would not recommend drinking it due to nearly 100 grams of added sugar it contains, as well as enough calories for an entire meal," says Burak. "The guarana and caffeine in this drink can also negatively affect how some people feel, causing jitters and more, so be careful when choosing even healthier-sounding beverages like this one."
Taco Bell's Large Mountain Dew Baja Blast
As the sugariest fountain drink on Taco Bell's menu, the Mountain Dew Baja Blast is one of the worst beverages to order at the chain. "This soda is just a cup of empty (aka not nutritious whatsoever) calories and added sugar with caffeine," says Burak.
Surprisingly, a large Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze has less than half the amount of sugar at 51 grams, which makes it a better choice.
KFC's Large Code Red Mountain Dew
It's Mountain Dew for the win when it comes to sugary drinks you'll want to avoid. Just like Taco Bell, KFC has a Mountain Dew beverage that is overwhelmingly sweet. "This serving of soda not only provides an excessive amount of calories and sugar but also caffeine, which people may not even be aware of and could be sensitive to," adds Burak, noting the drink may be especially harmful to kids.
Sonic's Large Cherry Slush
Slushies and milkshakes are certainly known for having a lot of sugar, but the Cherry Slush at Sonic takes the cake (quite literally). "This frozen drink is a sugar bomb providing almost eight servings of simple carbs all coming from sugar," says Burak.
Wendy's Large Coca-Cola
"Wendy's soda sizes must be much larger than other fast-food restaurants because the sugar content in this Coke provides close to nine 'servings' of straight-up simple carbs, all coming from added sugar," says Burak. And she's right! Wendy's confirmed in a Tweet that its medium drink is 30 ounces—the size of a large drink at McDonald's—which means that drinks do run larger at the chain.
"Most average women only need about 6-8 servings of simple carbs in an entire day. This one cup of soda provides more than that, all coming from sugar," she adds.
For context, a Wendy's large Coca-Cola has more sugar than a size large at McDonald's (77g), In-N-Out (96g), Shake Shack (58g), and Arby's (80g). You'll definitely want to avoid large drinks at Wendy's!
Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappuccino
It was inevitable that a Starbucks Frappuccino would make this list. The Java Chip Frapp is packed with sugar, but compared to some of the other drinks, it at least offers some nutritional value. "Although this frapp has more calories than some of the lower-rated drinks on this list, it does provide some protein and even a few grams of fiber, which may actually help fill you up compared to the sodas which have zero of those nutrients," says Burak. But at 560 calories, it's still a pretty terrible choice.
Wendy's Large Fanta Orange
As the sugariest soda on Wendy's menu, Fanta Orange is a must-avoid drink if you're trying to limit your sugar intake.
"Wow, what a sugar rush this soda provides," says Burak. "At 139 grams of sugar, it has almost double the amount as the same large orange soda at McDonald's," says Burak. Although drink sizes differ at the two fast-food chains, the most sugar you'll consume in a McDonald's Fanta Orange is 76 grams. Yes, that's still a lot—but not nearly as much as at Wendy's.
Dunkin's Large Vanilla Bean Coolatta
Dunkin' Coolattas may taste delicious, but there's a crazy amount of sugar lurking in these drinks.
"Clocking in at 790 calories and the highest amount of sugar we could find in a single drink (167 grams!!), this innocent-sounding drink provides more sugar than you should consume over the course of several days," explains Burak.
For context, Dunkin's large Vanilla Bean Coolatta has more sugar than any Venti Frappuccino at Starbucks.
Shake Shack's Salted Caramel Shake
Although Shake Shack's Salted Caramel Shake doesn't have as much sugar as some of the other drinks on the list, it is enormously high in calories and sodium and is therefore really bad for you.
"This shake packs close to 900 calories, 96 grams of sugar, and even 950 mg of sodium in just one serving, easily contributing to health issues and weight gain if consumed more than once in blue moon," says Burak.
Maybe skip the shake and stick to the burger at this chain.
McDonald's Large Strawberry Shake
Ranking as the absolute worst fast-food drink with an exorbitant amount of sugar, McDonald's Strawberry Shake also has a ton of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
"This shake is a massive calorie and sugar bomb that most people can take down in a matter of minutes, in addition to their food which is most likely super caloric as well," says Burak.
Indeed, this shake is the definition of drinking your calories.