Unhealthiest Juices in America

We've scoured restaurant menus and supermarket aisles to uncover the best and worst drinks in America. Below, we reveal the six worst juices at the supermarket, and for each one we’ve provide a healthier alternative.

Think of your all-time favorite rock song: Hey Jude, London Calling, Smells Like Teen Spirit, whatever. Now imagine that the next time you crank it up, all the guitar riffs will be replaced by violins. Kinda weak, right?

Well that’s akin to what happens when you turn a fruit into fruit juice: You still have the flavor, but you don’t have the grit, the substance, the power. Even the very best fruit juice isn’t as nutritious as the fruit it originally came from, because the fiber that makes a piece of fruit so filling has been stripped away: Instead of filling your belly like an apple or an orange, juice just passes through your gastrointestinal tract like a little stream of sugar. It’s like listening to “Hey Jude” without the “Na-na-na na” part at the end. The sweet melody is intact, but the soul is lost. So as a rule, always choose the original version (that would be the fruit) over the Muzak version (that would be the juice).

That doesn’t mean juice is a terrible choice—after all, it’s still a great way to get your daily quota of vitamins and minerals. Problem is, a lot of what food marketers try to sell us as “juice” is about as healthy for you as, well, being chased down a highway in a white Ford Bronco. Manufacturers have found that mixing a lot of water and sugar with a tiny bit of fruit flavoring and calling it “juice” is a great way to get health-conscious consumers to pony up the bucks for the liquid equivalent of Skittles.

To put together our new book, Drink This, Not That!, we scoured restaurant menus and supermarket aisles to uncover the best and worst drinks in America. Below, we reveal the six worst juices at the supermarket, and for each one we’ve provide a healthier alternative. Or, as the Beatles might say, we took a bad juice, and made it better. Just call it “Hey Juice!”

#6: WORST CRANBERRY COCKTAIL
Ocean Spray Cran-Apple (8 fl oz)
130 calories
0 g fat
32 g sugars

Ocean Spray makes a whole line of cranberry juice blends, but there’s only one thing you need to know: They’re all polluted with unruly loads of added sugar. The first two ingredients here are water and sugar, the hallmark of an inferior bottle. In fact, the best juices in this line have only 27 percent juice. This one? A paltry 15 percent. Go with Ocean Spray’s Cranenergy line instead. Compared to Cran-Apple it delivers slightly more real juice, a far weightier package of vitamins, and just over a fourth as many calories. (You're far better off eating your vitamins than drinking them. Here are 40 foods with scientifically proven superpowers.)

Drink This, Instead!
Ocean Spray Cranergy Raspberry Cranberry (8 fl oz)
35 calories
0 g fat
9 g sugars

#5: WORST MIXED-BERRY BLEND
Welch’s Mountain Berry (8 fl oz)
140 calories
0 g fat
33 g sugars

The flowering bouquet of fruit on the outside of this carton makes it appear to be just one step down from a smoothie, but in truth, it’s just one step up from Sunny Delight. Regardless of what Welch’s wants you to think, this juice is made with only 25 percent real fruit, and with this many calories in each cup, you should expect nothing less than 100 percent. Go with Bolthouse Farms 50/50 Berry blend and you’ll trade out the sucrose for an antioxidant- and flavor-rich blend of purple carrots, blackberries, pomegranates, and blueberries.

Drink This, Instead!
Bolthouse Farms 50/50 Berry (8 fl oz)
120 calories
0 g fat
28 g sugars

#4: WORST LEMONADE
Minute Maid Lemonade (20 fl oz bottle)
250 calories
0 g fat
67.5 g sugars

In 99 percent cases, lemonade contains between 10 and 15 percent lemon juice, meaning that 85 to 90 percent of the calories are added as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The reason we pinned Minute Maid as the worst lemonade is that with this bottle, they’ve dropped the lemon juice concentration down to 3 percent, and at the same time, jacked the sugar level up to soda-like proportions. In fact, this bottle has more sugar than a same-sized bottle of Coca-Cola, not to mention a bevy of preservatives, fillers, and artificial colors. The only lemonade we’ve found that can legitimately call itself “juice” is the one below by R.W. Knudson. It replaces the added sugars with a blend of apple and grape juices. (Of course, if you're looking to lose weight, diet is only half the equation. For the other half, check out our list of the 100 best fitness tips ever written.)

Drink This, Instead!
R.W. Knudsen Lemonade (8 fl oz box)
130 calories
0 g fat
30 g sugars

#3: WORST JUICE IMPOSTER
SoBe Elixir Cranberry Grapefruit (20 fl oz bottle)
250 calories
0 g fat
63 g sugars

With a name that references two fruits, you might expect this bottle to provide a respectable dose of real juice. Unfortunately that’s not the case. The only juice this bottle carries is used as a coloring agent, which means every gram of sugar here is added during processing. That puts it right alongside soda as one of the worst beverages at the supermarket. Cut calories by looking for water-based beverages that use juice as a sweetener and flavoring, like the one from Olade below. The few calories it has come from a blend of lemon, pinapple, mango, and passion fruit. (Speaking of overblown packaging claims, check our roundup of “health” foods that aren’t.)

Drink This Instead!
Olade Tropical Juice Beverage (16 fl oz)
20 calories
0 g fat
4 g sugars

#2: WORST GRAPE JUICE
Tropicana Grape Juice Beverage (15.2 fl oz)
290 calories
0 g fat
72 g sugars

It’s hard to say which is worse, the fact that this bottle has as much sugar as six scoops of Edy’s Slow Churned Rocky Road Ice Cream, or the fact that it looks legit but contains only 30 percent real juice. The thing is, even if this bottle weren’t teeming with high fructose corn syrup, it would still be loaded with sugar. Grapes produce the most sugar-loaded juice at the supermarket—even a 10-ounce bottle of 100 percent grape juice carries more than 200 calories. If you like rich, dark juices, try the one below from Bossa Nova. The acai fruit from which it’s made is one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits on the planet. 

Drink This, Instead!
Bossa Nova Acai (10 fl oz bottle)
114 calories
0 g fat
22.5 g sugars

#1: WORST CANNED JUICE
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry (23.5 oz can)
360 calories
0 g fat
84 g sugars

These hulking calorie cannons—5 percent juice, 95 percent sugar water—have the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of sugar! (That makes the 1,800-calorie salad look downright nutritious.) They're sold at gas stations and convenience stores across America for the low, low price of 99 cents, making this quite possibly the cheapest source of empty calories in the country. Earn more flavor in fewer calories by switching to V8-Fusion instead. The company makes a reasonable line of regular blends and an even better line of light juices.

Drink This, Instead!
V8-Fusion Strawberry Banana (12 fl oz bottle)
170 calories
0 g fat
42 g sugars

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