That phrase was originally used in bars in reference to selecting a cocktail. But, it has expanded to cover any equally bad choices. (By the way, the straws in the photos are an environmental problem.)
First the sugar side of the story. Humans have zero nutritional need for added sugar. And, as you have heard, sugar is bad for our health. The evidence continues to grow. One recent study showed that those who consumed 25% of their calories from added sugars were TWICE as likely to die of heart disease within 15 years as those who “only” got 10% from added sugar. (That is still a lot!) Those most likely to hit that scary 25% level are people who look for “low fat” foods and consume soft drinks or sweet coffee drinks (which can be worse). There are several reasons that low fat foods are a problem. First, sugar is added to them to make up for the loss of flavor. Also, the foods are not as satisfying and so more is eaten. And, the now sugary foods tend to be addictive. Although it is possible to overdo natural sugar (fruit juices are especially problematic), the added sugars are worse. In January 2020, the FDA will require food labels to list the two types of sugar separately.
Artificial sweetener alternatives. For some time, research has shown that artificial sweeteners have a negative association with heart health, type 2 diabetes and changes to our good intestinal bacteria. A recent study showed that women who drank the equivalent of two 12-ounce cans or more a day of diet sodas were 23% more likely to have a stroke. Earlier studies showed that men are also at stroke risk. One study showed that high intake of diet drinks by pregnant women was linked to a 78% increased risk of delivering babies too early.
Neither type of soft drink is good for brain health according to the science.
Read more about various artificial sweeteners in my article on the subject. (You will see the first paragraph of this blog as an introduction.)
What is a better choice? WATER! (Listen in May for a powerful interview on Fluoridation.)