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The Restaurant Drinks You Should Never Order, According to RDs

Avoid sipping on a high-calorie sugar bomb with this expert advice.
FACT CHECKED BY Jennifer Maldonado

When dining out, you may consider the calories, fat, and sugar that come from the food that you're about to order but not the drinks. However, you should definitely think twice if your go-to drink is a soda or a sugary cocktail. Why? If you're not drinking water or an unsweetened beverage (like plain coffee or tea), the total number of calories, carbs, sugar, and sodium can easily pile up.

Not all beverages are created equally, and some drinks are worse for you than others. To help you navigate the options on restaurant menus, here are the top common drinks you'll find at restaurants and fast-food joints that you should skip, according to experts. While highly popular, these beverages are unfortunately not the best for weight management—or your overall health. And if you're really looking to keep up with those healthy eating goals, be sure you're stocked up on The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

Soft Drinks

colorful soft drinks being poured into four glasses
Shutterstock

One to avoid: Mountain Dew

290 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 105 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (0 g fiber, 77 g sugar), 0 grams protein

By now, it should be clear that soda is simply a no-go. Especially if you have plenty of other better-for-you options to choose from—a glass of water never hurts!

"Regular, full-calorie, soft drinks are among the worst beverages to consume, as they are packed with synthetic ingredients, high in calories, and are loaded with sugar," Trista Best, RD says.

Mountain Dew is a doozy, as one serving is nearly 300 calories. Plus, it has 77 grams of carbs from added sugars, which is trouble for both your gut and heart health.

2

Diet Soda

soda
Shutterstock

One to avoid: Diet Coke

0 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 40 mg sodium, 0 grams carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 grams protein

Nope, diet sodas aren't good for you, either!

"Diet drinks may entice people since they're calorie-free, but there are reported side effects to aspartame in some individuals, including headaches and migraines," says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, dietitian, and founder of Student Athlete Nutrition.

While more research is needed, it's suggested that artificial sweeteners in diet soda may increase appetite and unfavorable bacteria in the gut, she explains.

No matter how you spin it, soda isn't ever the best drink choice . . .

3

Milkshakes

milkshakes
Shutterstock

One to avoid: Red Robin Oreo Cookie Magic Milkshake

1,090 calories, 44 g fat (26 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 530 mg sodium, 154 g carbs (2 g fiber, 154 g sugar), 22 grams protein

Milkshakes aren't only high in calories and sugar but also saturated fats, which can lead to a bellyache. Not fun!

"In my athlete clients especially, I recommend avoiding beverages like this while dining out in their competitive season, as the associated GI discomfort can ultimately ruin a workout or even an important competition," Jones says.

Go with a healthier, fruit-based smoothie instead when the craving hits, which is just as creamy and delicious. And healthy smoothies super easy to make yourself, too!

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4

Piña Colada

pina coladas
Shutterstock

One to avoid: The Cheesecake Factory Piña Colada

530 calories, 13 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 40 mg sodium, 73 g carbs (2 g fiber, 71 g sugar), 1 g protein

One of these drinks is actually made with rum, coconut cream, coconut milk, and pineapple juice. It's packed with sugar, as well as artery-clogging fat (thanks to the coconut cream).

"The typical 16-ounce pina colada contains about 880 calories, which is approximately half of the calories many people should get in their entire day, and that's before you even add food," says one of our ETNT Medical Board experts, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT.

5

Frozen Sweet-Flavored Coffee

starbucks iced pumpkin spice latte
Courtesy of Starbucks

One to avoid: Starbucks Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

Per grande size, 16 oz: 420 calories, 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 280 mg sodium, 67g carbs (0 g fiber, 66 g sugar), 6 grams protein

"Seasonal and sweetened coffee beverages are popular among coffee enthusiasts, and the Starbucks Iced Pumpkin Spice takes to the top [as one] of the list of worst beverages, where the pumpkin purée is likely the only healthy ingredient in this drink," Best says.

And there are flavored coffee options at most restaurants, regardless of being at a Starbucks or coffee shop. So watch out for flavoring, syrups, and other sweet-sounding coffee drinks when dining out.

6

Mudslide

ultimate mudslide cocktail from TGI Friday's
Courtesy of TGI Friday's Trinidad

One to avoid: TGI Fridays Ultimate Mudslide

740 calories, 26 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 150 mg sodium, 88 g carbs (2 g fiber, 86 g sugar), 9 g protein

If you're looking to spare both your waistline and arteries, you should avoid a mudslide.

"It's made with a combination of fat and sugar bombs, including Kahlua liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, and heavy cream," Lakatos says. "And some restaurants even add vanilla ice cream and a side of chocolate syrup to add even more fat, calories, and sugar."

7

Slushies

slushies
Shutterstock

One to avoid: Icee's ICEE Brand Cherry Icee

95 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 5 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (0 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 0 grams protein

Though more often found at convenience stores or food courts, Icees and slushies may seem like a fun drink option when dining out. But once you take a closer look, you'll see what you're actually sipping on—and it's not really doing your health any favors.

"They attract consumers from all ages because of their bold flavors and fun texture, but unfortunately, all they offer are empty calories and sugar," Best says. "The most famous brand and flavor, Cherry by ICEE, contains 95 calories and 24 grams of sugar along with artificial and synthetic ingredients to sweeten and preserve the drink."

If you're really looking to sip on something that will help you reach your goals, try any of the best drinks that drive the most weight loss of all, according to experts.

Isadora Baum
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. Read more