A coffee with all the fixings on your way to work (100 calories), a 20-ounce soda at lunch (240 calories), a glass of sweet tea with dinner (100 calories) and maybe a few beers in the evening (about 140 calories each)? If you drink to that routine, you could be drowning your weight management or weight loss goals.
Recent studies show that liquids account for more than 20 percent- some 450 daily calories- of the American diet. That’s an extra Big Mac a day.
“What you drink each day can really add up, while providing your body with little to no nutritional value,” says Dr. Johnny Weeks, a board certified family medicine doctor with Roper St. Francis Healthcare. For example, the average full-calorie soda has 40-plus carbohydrates (all in the form of sugar), with no protein, vitamins or fiber. Energy drinks load up the sugar, too, to the tune of 33 grams per 20-ounce bottle of Vitamin Water or Gatorade. And while juices offer nutritional pluses like vitamin C, it’s best to opt for a glass of water and snack on whole fruits for your nutrients.
“With alcohol consumption, it’s a double whammy,” says Dr. Weeks. “The body has to metabolize alcohol before anything else, so it’s not burning the food calories it typically would.”
With all these other drinks crowding the menu where does water fit in? “Often it doesn’t,” says Dr. Weeks, adding that straight-up H2O is needed to keep our blood and muscles healthy, transport nutrients, protect our organs and regulate body temperature. You won’t get this from coffee, tea and alcohol especially, since these actually dehydrate the body.
“How much your choice of beverages affects your diet is really a math problem,” explains Dr. Weeks. “You have to take in fewer calories than your body expends, and you have to burn-off the extra carbohydrates you’re consuming. If you can’t cut the liquid extras, you should cut your food intake.”
Tips for Breaking Down Beverages
- Aim to drink six eight-ounce glasses of water each day.
- Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day – these are packed with nutrients and water.
- Get plenty of sleep. This will curb your cravings for caffeinated, dehydrating drinks.
- Include all beverages in your daily calorie and carbohydrate counts.
- Use non-caloric sweetener to sweeten tea and coffee.
- Indulge in coffee drinks with mocha (aka chocolate), syrups (sugar) or full-fat milk.
- Replace full-calorie sodas with unlimited servings of diet colas. Diet sodas contain unhealthy chemicals and should be enjoyed in moderation.
- Forget that mixers have calories and carbohydrates too – cranberry juice, for example, comes in at 140 calories and 34 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
By Jessica Earl