Skip to content

The 12 Unhealthiest Milkshakes in America

Some of these shakes have five times the amount of sugar that you should have in a whole day!
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Nothing beats a milkshake on a hot day, but with every creamy sip of dairy goodness, you get more sugar than you bargained for in a day. The American Heart Association recommends getting a maximum of 36 grams of added sugar per day, yet many of the  unhealthiest restaurant milkshakes contain more than two full days' worth of the sweet stuff.

"Consuming large amounts of added sugars at one time can lead to a rapid release of the hormone insulin, which shuttles the sugar from the bloodstream to the cells," explains Annette Snyder, RD, CSOWM, a dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching. "In people who don't have diabetes or insulin resistance, they may notice a 'crash' as the insulin quickly brings down the sugar level. That, in turn, can lead to further cravings or a need to replace that quick-to-burn fuel source." Over time, eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and feeling sleepy and sluggish (hello, sugar crash).

Instead of slurping an entire milkshake, try getting a smaller size or sharing one with a friend. Or, opt for a sundae instead, suggests Courtney Pelitera, RD, CNSC, a dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching. Drinking your foods like this instead of eating them will tend to make you feel less full than if you were to eat the food instead, Pelitera says. "Eating something like a sundae [instead of drinking a milkshake] will help your body feel fullness, and you can stop when you are satisfied," she says.

But if you do go for a milkshake, try steering clear of the worst restaurant shakes we've listed below. And for healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth, check out The #1 Healthiest Dessert at 14 Popular Restaurant Chains.

Culver's Peanut Butter Shake

Culver's Peanut Butter Shake
Culver's
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,410
Fat: 103 g (Saturated fat: 36 g)
Sodium: 750 mg
Carbs: 102 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 85 g)
Protein: 37 g

Culver's crafts its milkshakes with its signature frozen custard that's made in-house. The Wisconsin-born restaurant chain lets you choose from various flavors and toppings, but the peanut butter shake is the most caloric. One large shake packs more than 1,400 calories and 85 grams of sugar—and that's before you throw in some Reese's Cups. "Additional toppings such as peanut butter, chocolate, and Reese's Cup mix-ins make this milkshake double in sugar and calories," says Pelitera.

 The Best & Worst Menu Items at Culver's

Denny's Oreo Milkshake

Denny's Oreo Milk Shake
Denny's
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,050
Fat: 56 g (Saturated fat: 32 g)
Sodium: 610 mg
Carbs: 125 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 90 g)
Protein: 15 g

Denny's famous Grand Slam breakfast may go well with a milkshake, but you're way better off skipping the sugary dairy drink at the diner-style chain. One Oreo Milkshake supplies a staggering 1,050 calories and 90 grams of sugar—that's the equivalent of 22.5 teaspoons of the sweet stuff—making it one of the unhealthiest milkshakes available.

 8 Fast-Food Milkshakes That Are Made With Real Ice Cream

Dairy Queen Hot Fudge Shake

Dairy Queen Hot Fudge Shake
Dairy Queen
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 990
Fat: 38 g (Saturated fat: 29 g)
Sodium: 440 mg
Carbs: 140 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 112 g)
Protein: 23 g

Known for its famous Blizzards, Dairy Queen is basically restaurant royalty when it comes to ice cream treats. DQ's Hot Fudge Shake is blended with hot fudge, milk, and soft-serve for an especially delicious but also majorly caloric milkshake. "With 112 grams of sugar and 38 grams of fat, this milkshake provides four times the recommended amount of added sugar intake per day," Pelitera points out.

 The Best & Worst Foods at Dairy Queen

Sonic Oreo Cheesecake Shake

Sonic Oreo Cheesecake Shake
Sonic
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,320
Fat: 48 g (Saturated fat: 30 g)
Sodium: 1,510 mg
Carbs: 209 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 162 g)
Protein: 22 g

If you're visiting the drive-in chain, skip Sonic's Oreo Cheesecake Shake, which is blended with vanilla soft serve, cheesecake, graham cracker crumbs, and Oreo pieces. "It contains 1,320 calories, which is about two meals' worth, or at least  50% of total daily calories required by the average adult," Snyder says, adding, "It's like you're taking on two extra meals on top of what you normally would eat in a day." On top of that, you'll also get 30 grams of saturated fat (two days' worth for many adults), 1,510 milligrams of sodium (65% of the recommended daily amount), and 162 grams of sugar (equivalent to 40 teaspoons of sugar).

 The 20 Best & Worst Menu Items at Sonic

Shake Shack Cookies and Cream Shake

Shake Shack Cookies and Cream Milkshake
Shake Shack
Nutrition (Per milkshake):
Calories: 850
Fat: 44 g (Saturated fat: 24 g)
Sodium: 580 mg
Carbs: 98g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 86 g)
Protein: 19 g

You'd be hard-pressed not to get a milkshake at Shake Shack. But if you do decide to pair your ShackBurger with a shake, steer clear of the Cookies and Cream. One shake has about two days' worth of saturated fat for the average adult, Pelitera says. But it's not like the other flavors are any better: A Salted Caramel shake will run you 840 calories and 96 grams of sugar, while a Vanilla Shake gives you 680 calories and 71 grams of sugar.

 10 Best & Worst Menu Items at Shake Shack

IHOP Oreo Cookie Milkshake

IHOP Oreo Cookie Milkshake
IHOP
Nutrition (Per milkshake):
Calories: 750
Fat: 39 g (Saturated fat: 22 g)
Sodium: 330 mg
Carbs: 90 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 66 g)
Protein: 13 g

The International House of Pancakes is known for its carb-filled fare, but the restaurant chain's milkshakes are on another level. One Oreo Cookie Milkshake packs in 90 grams of carbs and 66 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 16.5 teaspoons of sugar! Sip on IHOP's sugary milkshake, and you'll also take in 110% of your daily value of saturated fat in one sitting.

 The 10 Best & Worst Orders at IHOP

Cold Stone Creamery Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Shake

Coldstone peanut butter shake
Cold Stone Creamery
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,780
Fat: 121 g (Saturated fat: 58 g)
Sodium: 750 mg
Carbs: 145 g (Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 129 g)
Protein: 33 g

Cold Stone's Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Shake tops the list at 1,780 calories—almost a full day's worth of calories for many adults. "Think of it as doubling the portions of everything you ate for your meals on a given day," Snyder says. Of course, we're also going to find large amounts of saturated fat (58 grams, or close to four days' worth!), sodium (750 milligrams, or about 33% of the amount for the entire day), and 101 grams of added sugar (out of 129 grams total sugar). "The amount of saturated fat in this is comparable to one full stick of butter," Snyder tells us.

BurgerFi Peanut Butter Shake

burgerfi shake
BurgerFi/ Twitter
Nutrition (Per milkshake):
Calories: 1,060
Fat: 73 g (Saturated fat: 30 g)
Sodium: 500 mg
Carbs: 87 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 65 g)
Protein: 24 g

It may be tempting to pair a Breakfast All Day Burger with a Peanut Butter Shake, but you're better off skipping this sweet treat. One peanut butter shake will cost you 1,060 calories, 65 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of saturated fat. Add malt to your shake, and you'll drop in an extra 90 calories and 11 grams of sugar.

RELATED: 6 Fast-Food Milkshakes That Aren't Made With Real Ice Cream

Sonic Peanut Butter Classic Shake

sonic peanut butter shake
Sonic
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,200
Fat: 57 g (Saturated fat: 29 g)
Sodium: 1,160 mg
Carbs: 156 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 129 g)
Protein: 28 g

Sonic's Peanut Butter Shake gives you none of the benefits of nutrient-dense peanut butter. Instead, one large shake is packed with 1,200 calories, 29 grams of saturated fat, and about 33 teaspoons' worth of sugar. "While the listed nutrition information does not specify how much of that sugar is added versus naturally occurring, it would be a safe assumption that added sugars make up the majority," Snyder says.

Denny's Vanilla Shake

Denny's Vanilla Shake
Denny's
Nutrition (Per milkshake):
Calories: 800
Fat: 43 g (Saturated fat: 28 g)
Sodium: 290 mg
Carbs: 97 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 84 g)
Protein: 12 g

A vanilla shake seems innocuous enough—after all, how caloric can blended vanilla ice cream be? But Denny's version proves otherwise. One standard 16-ounce vanilla shake comes packed with 800 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat, which is more than many meals on the diner's menu. To put things into perspective, Denny's Bourbon Bacon Burger has 880 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat.

 The Best & Worst Menu Items at Denny's

Culver's Shake with Butterfinger Pieces & Pecans

culvers milkshakes
Culver's / Facebook
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,650
Fat: 107 g (Saturated fat: 48 g)
Sodium: 620 mg
Carbs: 149 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 122 g)
Protein: 30 g

Culver's is known for its made-daily frozen custard, a rich, egg- and dairy-based dessert that's the star of its milkshakes. The restaurant chain lets you mix and match different custards and mix-ins for a custom shake, and the Butterfinger Pieces & Pecans is one of the worst combos. "While this isn't a specific set combo, these are two of the highest-calorie mix-ins you could add to the standard large Culver's shake," Snyder says.

Friendly's Fribble Milkshake

friendlys fribble
Friendlys/ Twitter
Nutrition (Per large milkshake):
Calories: 1,270

At many restaurants, plain shakes and those without any mix-ins — such as candies and chocolate — are often a good go-to because they usually contain fewer calories and sugar. However, with Friendly's milkshakes (called Fribbles), the calories range between 1,080 to 1,270 for just the plain chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors. "This is more than half of the total calories for the day for most people," Pelitera says.

April Benshosan, MS
April is a born-and-raised Brooklynite who has a passion for all things health, wellness, and tastebud-related. Read more about April
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source: