Now I could make this into a "how to stay healthy during the summer holidays" type of post, but I won't. Today I want to talk about something that affects us all year round that I think a lot of people dismiss when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. You exercise, you eat healthy, you're watching your portions, but still can't seem to get the weight off... sound familiar? So what's the deal? Why isn't the scale moving? Why can't you lose those last couple of inches off your waistline? LIQUID CALORIES. That's right, liquid calories, as in soda/pop, juice... etc. People tend to guzzle their calories and it can really add up! I don't care how much you exercise, if you're drinking soda/pop, juice, lattes, smoothies, alcohol... etc., and not counting those calories, don't expect to lose that much weight, if any at all. For example, that can of soda you drink each morning is about 150 calories. A smoothie can run up to an extra 500 to 1,000 calories, despite all the good stuff added in. A 16-ounce latte with whole milk packs 260 calories. And the average margarita has more than 500 calories! You're killing your progress and don't even know it! Let's get into it...
More Calories, Less Satisfaction
Beverages are probably the biggest hidden source of empty calories in our diets. Even those that are supposedly "super-healthy", like grapefruit juice and orange juice, can pack 100 calories in 8 ounces. What's worse is that the average person never drinks only 8 ounces. A typical serving is usually 16 ounces. That's 200 calories for one drink!
And then there's soda, which contributes few useful nutrients but plenty of calories in the form of sweeteners. A 20-ounce soda, for example, has the equivalent of 18 teaspoons of sugar. Soda is without a question among the many sources of excess calories contributing to the obesity epidemic in America. A standard 12-ounce (non-diet) soda has roughly 150 calories. Drink two or three of those a day and that's enough calories to gain a pound a week! And just think what a supersized (44-ounce) drink can do -- just one a day can lead to an extra pound per week.
Now I already know what some of you may be thinking, "If I count my calories, soda included, no problem, right?" Well, I wouldn't be so sure... The fact of the matter is, sodas provide no nutrient value at all, while the foods you eliminate may. Furthermore, the calories we drink are likely to be added to, rather than replaced by the calories we eat.A study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2000 supports this. Fifteen healthy men and women consumed an extra 450 calories, in the form of either jellybeans or soda, every day for four weeks. After four weeks, the soda drinkers switched to jelly beans and vice versa. When eating the jellybeans, all 15 people in the study reduced the number of calories they took in from other sources to compensate; at the end of the study, they had gained only a small amount of weight. Those drinking the soda, however, made no such changes in the calories they consumed. No surprise here: The soda drinkers gained a lot of weight!
The take-away message? Liquid calories don't tend to fill you up and satisfy your hunger as well as those from solid foods. Soft drinks quench your thirst -- and add calories -- but do little to fill your belly.
(An occasional cappucino, latte, or coffee is fine if you need that Starbucks fix, but ask for skim milk. The blended coffee drinks are a big no-no, especially the ones with whipped cream toppings!)
And what about alcoholic drinks? Personally, I don't drink alcohol so this isn't a problem for me, but if you do, it's best to proceed with caution. The average calorie count of a glass of wine or bottle of beer is 100-150 calories, and how often do most people stop at one? Even worse, alcoholic beverages can lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to overeat -- especially those salty snacks that are often served with drinks.
Diet sodas are virtually calorie free, yet they contain a list of non-nutritious ingredients including artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are approved by the FDA, but moderation is the best approach. It's best to limit your intake of diet sodas to a few servings a day.
Skim and low-fat milk and no-sugar-added juices certainly have their place in a healthy diet. These beverages contain a wealth of nutrients needed for health and should be incorporated into your eating plan. But if you're trying to lose weight, don't fall into the trap of sipping them throughout the day. To quench your thirst, stick to water (perhaps dressed up with a bit of juice or citrus) and other no-calorie or very low-calorie beverages.
So now you're probably thinking to yourself, "No soda, no alcohol, no juice... what can I drink?" Personally my liquids consist of 98% water. Most people don't drink enough water and the benefits you receive from water are many! If plain water doesn't do it for you, add slices of lemon, lime, or orange for flavor without calories. Or try adding a low drink mix, such as Crystal Light, to your water. Like I said before, I'm not an alcohol drinker, I don't like coffee so lattes aren't a problem, I gave up soda 5 years ago, and I try to limit my juice intake, so it's water all day, everyday for me. But everybody isn't like me and giving up the drinks you love isn't always the best solution for everyone. Moderation and taking the calories into account is definitely key! And how about taking advantage of low-calorie refreshers?
Here are some suggestions:
- Green tea
- Seltzer water with just a splash of juice. Orange, grapefruit, cranberry are good choices, but mango, guava, and other tropical juices all add color and just enough sweetness to keep you from reaching for a can of soda.
- Herbal teas.
- Flavored (lemon, grapefruit, raspberry, mandarin orange, etc.) seltzers and soda waters.
- Homemade lemonade -- try lemon, water, and a few drops of stevia, a natural artificial sweetener.
So in conclusion, watch your liquid calories! It's as simple as that. Don't think that the soda, juice or beer you drank with last night's healthy didn't count. Liquids count too! And they make a bigger difference than you would ever imagine!