Sugary drinks and their equivalent in junk food

World of Mysteries' Men's Health's "Harmful Drinks in America" is a series of photos of sugary beverages next to their caloric equivalent in junk food. Here's a 280 calorie Rockstar Energy Drink alongside a mountain of 6 Krispy Kreme donuts. Of course, that's nothing compared to the 345 calorie Arizona Kiwi Strawberry drink (equivalent to 7 bowls of Froot Loops) and the 870 calorie Dairy Queen Caramel MooLatte, (equivalent to 12 Dunkin' Donuts Bavarian Kreme Doughnuts).

20 Worst Drinks in America (via Super Punch)

Update: Thanks to Tim Howland for correct attribution.


    1. This isn’t pointing to a ‘rip off’ of a Mens Health article, this is pointing TO the Mens Health article.

      No plagiarism at all.

  1. As someone who watches calories, I could not possibly believe that that 1 donut = 46 calories, heck even Krispy Kreme lists a basic glazed at 100 calories. Browsing the rest of the article seems just as out of sorts.

    The whole article seems a travesty against basic basic math. I’m not saying that being calorie conscious isn’t important but that spreading numbers that just aren’t true helps no one.

  2. Anon 3 is right, namely because the webpage only takes into account the sugar in the junk food and not e.g. fat. Heck you could say that a coke is equal to the sugar in 15 KFC Doubledowns. That doesn’t mean it’s as bad for you…

  3. #3: That was my first thought, as well, so I also clicked on the article, which doesn’t have to do with overall caloric counts, but comparing grams of sugar. So they’re saying that a Monster has as much *sugar* as 6 Krispy Kreme donuts, but of course the implication, by putting them next to each other, is that that the Monster is just as bad for you, overall, as 6 donuts. Obviously, Krispy Kremes have a lot going on other than their sugar content — 12g of fat per donut, for example, let alone all the sugar.

    But it all just seems to be like the same thing that happened to fat in foods about 10-15 years ago, when suddenly everyone was touting fat-free products — compensating for lack of taste with increased sugar counts, thus swinging the pendulum back the other way and ending up with situations (and articles) like these.

    1. Perhaps there was a direct attempt to imply that the drinks are as bad for you as what they’re next to – but if anyone thinks a picture of two things side by side means anything without taking the time to read the supplied contextual information. then they’re just daft.

      But that really seems to describe way too many media consumers, these days.

      1. J France, “perhaps”? In can find little room for doubt in Cory’s post. If you can, could you point it out to me?

        1. Cory didn’t actually write the article or take the photos linked – RTFA. He could well have made that assumption, and does talk about calories vs sugar.

          But again, RTFA. If you come this far then I assume you’re discussing all the content, with the full context, as laid out at the link for people to read.

  4. It depends on which one they’re comparing.

    They’re also looking at total calorie count and grams of fat, though not necessarily equating them to that in the food. By the time you get up to #10 or so, you’re looking at drinks that have half of a typical recommended daily calorie intake, and with their #1 offender (a particular Cold Stone shake) you’re dealing with a drink that has more than a day’s recommended calories, and some incredible number of grams of fat. I can’t see that being a good thing to drink unless you’ve just spent 8 hours digging a trench with pick and shovel, and maybe not then.

  5. This Men’s Health story is somewhat deceptive:
    they take the total calories in a drink, calculate the sugar equivalent, and compare that to a given junk food’s sugar content alone. But the junk food isn’t just sugar, and often has way more total calories than the drink.

    Example: Rock Star energy drink has 280 calories, which is equivalent to 62 grams of sugar. They then equate that to 6 Krispy Kreme donuts, since each Krispy Kreme donut has 10 grams of sugar. BUT, thanks to the fat in the donuts, there are a total of 1200 calories in 6 Krispys. Not really equivalent, after all!

  6. Brain-dead article. It’s silly to ignore other refined carbs such as refined flour when comparing the sugar content of foods, as they have similar glycemic indexes. And why single out ascorbic acid as a questionable ingredient? Guess it just sounded scary to the author.

  7. They recommend some sugar substitutes which may turn out to be unhealthy. This is not in the nutrasweet toxicity conspiracy theory vein, it’s legit nutrition research. There is a body of research on artificial sweeteners to suggest they may be no better than sugary drinks, and may lead to weight gain, as the sweet taste may be messing with the insulin regulation. More research is needed, but interesting.

    Trivia: Rockstar was formulated by the son of Michael Savage, the right wing talk radio “person”.

  8. If you want a better idea of the sugar in your foods, check out this site:

    Keep in mind that at any average non-post meal moment your blood glucose level is about ONE sugar cube, just think about how taxing these items are on your insulin response system.

    Also keep in mine that the hearthealthywholegrains you eat are just longer chains of sugars that end up in your blood as glucose anyways (albeit over a slower time period).

  9. Still, it makes you reconsider just what you are drinking, the worst thing is, in my opinion, is that drinking a sugared beverage won’t necessarily stop the hunger pangs and so you’ll probably still have a donut or two as well.
    Also #5 please don’t try and imply the Coke is even remotely ok for anyone.

  10. What nobody seems to have noted so far is that the beverages higher up the ranking are all 16oz and up. Most are deserts or coffees, and there are smaller more sensible sizes available – I know, I’ve been to America! So you can have your cake and eat it too! Do you really need a 24oz margarita?

  11. I wholeheartedly agree that they are doctoring the numbers. All of these are being sampled based on the largest available serving size for maximum shock value, even though most sane people would go for a smaller option. The world would be a much better place if more people understood how statistics can be doctored to say almost anything.

  12. To all of you who feel good nitpicking about the calorie comparisons, let me ask you something.

    Can you subsist on drinks alone?

    No, of course not. That crispy creme might technically have more calories but at least it’s solid food. It sates your appetite. A soft drink doesn’t do that. It’s no more fulfilling than an equivalent amount of water. In other words aaaaall those calories you guzzle are pure extras. To stop feeling hungry you still need to eat. So you get a double whammy of calories.

    That’s why soft drinks are one of the major causes of obesity world wide. People just don’t get that their body processes all the calories you throw at it, but only solids will leave you sated.

    1. Can you subsist on drinks alone?

      No, of course not.

      Strange. I’m pretty certain that my daughter subsisted for the first 12 months of her life on drinks alone, as did my catatonic mother for the last 8 years of hers.

      Is it your contention that they snuck out to Dunkin Donuts every so often when no-one was looking?

  13. Can those numbers be correct? I’m under the impression that even plain doughnuts are a couple of hundred calories each. The glazed doughnuts at my local chain doughnut shop that look just like the Krispy Cremes in the above picture have 320 calories.

    That said, if you want to stay lean I recommend avoiding both doughnuts and energy drinks. How you can read the labels on these products and conclude that they can benefit you in any way is beyond my ken. Try a glass of orange juice, instead.

    1. AuntBarb, the scam is that they’re only comparing the calories from the sugar content. I’ve seen a similar trick done to highlight the perils of eating fresh fruit by excluding the water content before doing a comparison with other foodstuffs.

  14. They almost had me until the beer one. You can’t tell me that drinking a single craft beer — no matter how caloric it may be — is somehow “worse” for you than drinking 12 lab-engineered low-carb diet beers!

    1. They lost me with the Bigfoot Ale as well, first off it’s technically a barleywine, not a beer. But that nitpick aside, they go on to compare its calories to Budweiser, Blue Moon and Guinness; three very different types of beer! Then they suggest a Nut Brown Ale as an alternative. Now, I understand that not everyone is as interested in beer as I am, but if you’re drinking any barleywine with any sort of frequency, you probably have a specific flavor in mind when you crack open a beer (or barleywine) and a Nut Brown is NOT equivalent to a barleywine. That’s like saying “That Sunkist orange soda is bad for you, have this Izze sparkling blackberry soda instead.”

      And while I’m ranting, there’s no way that the Bigfoot, which is fairly light for a barley wine, has the most calories (or carbs) of any beer (or barleywine) that is made (or sold, since they included Guinness) in the US. Sam Adams Utopias, for one, most likely has about three times the calories of Bigfoot. Ok, they can leave that one off since it costs about $600 per bottle. But Avery’s demon series, “Samael”, “The Beast”, and “Mephistopheles” all will come in at about double the calories of Bigfoot. Then we look at the tripels and quadrupels, which historically were brewed to have a very high calorie content so that the monks brewing them could subsist on the beer when they were fasting and not allowed to have solid food.

      I still can’t believe they suggested a nut brown ale to replace a barleywine, that’s just stupid, they might as well have suggested a MGD 64.

  15. Wow, I didn’t know donuts had so few calories. I’ll be eating more of them in the future.

  16. 20 replies

    10 apologists for high calorie drinks

    1 suggesting we don’t drink them at all

    wow. just wow

    1. millrick, you’re confusing apologists for high calorie drinks with people who prefer facts neat, rather than slathered in demagogic bullshit.

      1. no i’m not confused. i’m just amazed that so many people justify their continued consumption of liquid junk-food…

        i made no suggestion of, or allusion to, any demagoguery at all.

        1. millrick, you are confused, you just don’t know what you’re confused about :)

          I know perfectly well you didn’t suggest or allude to demagoguery: I did. If there’s one thing I hate more than diabetes in a can, it’s this kind of barrel-scraping pseudo-journalism.

  17. I’m with the why drink this stuff at all crowd.

    I was bought up to consider these a treat – not something you drank with dinner. Unsweetened fruit drink was the non-water drink, which was full of enough sugar as it was.

    I know far too many people that don’t like the taste of water, and subsist on Coke-a-Cola or soft drink… and it shows. They’re my age, non-smokers (I smoke) and have a similar lifestyle our entire lives… teeth, skin, general health are all shot.

    WHy drink this crap at all? Why encourage our children to start throwing garbage down their throats as habit? These drinks should not be a daily thing, really, for anyone.

    I don’t think we need to be nannied, they don’t need to be outlawed, there is enough of that idiocy. We just need to return to a time when common sense couldn’t be marketed away. Simple, right?

  18. sugar equiv not calorie equiv. wouldn’t look all that impressive if this was done in calorie equivalents

  19. J France, of course Cory didn’t write the article or take the pictures. A strong case could also be made for claiming that Cory didn’t read it either, as no reference to comparing calories from sugar alone survived into his post.

    The article does its best to hide the meaningless terms of reference it has concocted to justify coming up with what is presumably intended to be shocking imagery. They might just as well have shot a can of this Rockstar goop next to 8 Big Macs or an infinite quantity of French fries, and the comparison would have been just as true and just as useless.

    This is an example of piss-poor journalism, pure and simple, and Boing Boing would have been better served if Cory had written about it in that light, rather than regurgitating the erroneous conclusions the hacks at Men’s Health were so keen to lead their readers to make.

    1. Now come on. Piss-poor journalism is perfectly respectable when it confirms your bias.

      But to my mind these pictures make donuts etc. look like healthy low calorie foods (only 1/6th of a can of soda in an entire donut? I can have at least three extra every day if I switch to drinking water and still lose weight!)

  20. I have to call bullshit. According to , the lowest calorie donut is 200. Now while the sugar involved may turn out to be equivalent in refined sugar used in both products (somehow I doubt it), the Krispy Kreme still has at a MINIMUM of 189 calories of carbs, so trying to compare a Rockstar to 6 donuts is complete nonsense. There are only 5 grams of sugar in a donut, leaving 14 grams of other carbs per donut?

  21. The only error is in Cory’s summary of the article’s comparison. The article clearly states that it is comparing the sugar content, not “caloric equivalents” in these food and beverage pairings. Classic case of RTFA.

    That said, the number one gross-out drink, the Cold Stone PB&C (Gotta Have It size, 24 fl oz), clocks in at over 2,000 calories! If you wanted a caloric equivalent, you could stack up 10 Krispy Kreme original glazed. source:

    1. emdubya, so can you come up with a reason why someone would choose to compare sugar content rather than total calories for these different types of product? For purpose other than padding out a publication or justifying a photo shoot, I mean.

  22. Stooge, I wasn’t commenting on anything but the facts, but since you ask, I would guess that they picked sugar to make the comparison simpler. The article didn’t hide the total calories of the beverages, so I don’t see how you can allege some kind of conspiracy. I don’t see much wrong with this story: it informs readers of how unhealthy some beverages are and does it in an entertaining way.

    1. When I read the article I thought it was comparing total calories. I didn’t work it out till I read these comments. I’m not stupid (I’m completing a PhD), and a lot of people are stupider than me and could very easily make the same mistake.

      I agree with Stooge – they should have used total calories. They didn’t in order to make the story far more sensationalist. This is one reason why people are so confused about what they should be eating, and this from a magazine that’s supposed to inform people about health matters? Pretty crap.

    2. emdubya, I’m alleging the other kind of conspiracy: that they went out of their way to make these drinks look even more unhealthy than they are. The stack of donuts does indeed contain around 280 calories of sugar, which is the same as that contained in a can of Rockstar, but those are the only calories in the can, whereas the donuts contain over 1,000 additional calories of starch and fat. That you should be in any doubt as to what kind of conspiracy I was alleging suggests to me that you were in fact greatly misled by the article, because no nutritionist would ever suggest that the two are equally unhealthy.

  23. What astounds me the most is the serving sizes. I’ve lived outside of the USA for 12 years now, and I’ve gotten used to the “super size” drink being 16 ounces (small is 12, regular is about 14). When did drinks get to be 32 ounces?!

  24. Just came here to comment about how misleading the article is… but I see you already have that covered!

    Just a little quick calorie checking tells me:

    A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (regular size) is 130 calories, so 20 of them = 2600 calories, not 1498

    A Chip’s Ahoy Chewy seems to be 120 (or is that for multiple cookies?) so 30 of that is 3600, not 2010

    A McDonald’s Apple Pie is 250 calories, so 13 of them make up 3250 calories, not 1160

    They can disclaim that this is all about sugar calories, but that’s pointless; it’s quite misleading. The actual calorie counts are by far bad enough; no need to over-dramatize them.

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