By Charles Platkin, PhD
High calorie drinks — meaning any drink with more than 75 calories per cup — should be treated as a snack or dessert, NOT simply a beverage to go along with your meal. I know plenty of people who down 2 or 3 specialty coffee drinks a day, as if they’re drinking water — that can add up to an extra 1400 calories! Since the average person needs only about 2000 to 2200 calories for the entire day, having many of these drinks leaves little room for actual foods without leading to weight gain. And while the beverage of your choice may be low in fat, chances are the sugar content is off the charts.
So the next time you stop to pick up a cold one, keep these few pointers in mind to avoid drinking a “liquid Big Mac:”
LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING
There are plenty of new drinks on the market that contain all kinds of nutritional supplements, but they are not necessarily healthy for your diet.
- SoBe Energy (20 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 80g carbs (This contains 78g sugar, the equivalent of almost 20 teaspoons of sugar!)
- SoBe Green Tea (20 oz): 225 calories, 0g fat, 60g carbs
- Arizona RX Health (20 oz): 175 calories, 0g fat, 47.5g carbs
- Snapple Vitamin Supreme (16 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 88g carbs (This contains 82g sugar, the equivalent of almost 21 teaspoons of sugar!)
- Gatorade (16 oz): 100 calories, 0g fat, 28g carbs
And what about stuff that’s from a health food store? “Soymilk offers more in the way of nutrients than some of these other drinks, which are really just sugar water,” says Shira Isenberg, R.D., a New York City nutritionist. But like all good things, you need to keep your portions down to keep the calories and fat in check.
- Edensoy Light Vanilla Soymilk (8.45 oz): 120 calories, 2g fat, 22g carbs
NOT SO SMOOTH SMOOTHIES
With added fruit, smoothies give the appearance of being good for you. They’ve even been marketed as a healthy alternative — yeah, maybe to an ice cream shake. Even when a smoothie is fat free because it’s made with nonfat yogurt, it can still be high in calories and sugar (e.g., TCBY Banana Berry Blast-off).
- Subway Fruizle Express, Berry Lishus (small): 110 calories, 0g fat, 28g carbs
- Samantha Smoothies Banana Strawberry Fruit Drink (16 oz): 240 calories, 0g fat, 58g carbs
- Smoothie King Coconut Surprise (20 oz): 457 calories, 6g fat, 99g carbs
- Juice It Up Big Berry Combo (24 oz): 379 calories, 1g fat, 93g carbs
- Jamba Juice Strawberry Dream’n (32 oz): 610 calories, 1g fat, 129g carbs (This contains 108g sugar, the equivalent of about 27 teaspoons.)
- TCBY Smoothie Non-fat Yogurt Banana Berry Blast-off (one serving): 400 calories, 0g fat, 98g carbs (This contains 88g sugar, the equivalent of 22 teaspoons.)
Keep your smoothies simple — try whole fruit blended with ice, some water, and a drop of juice or skim milk to keep the blender moving, and maybe a very small amount of nonfat yogurt — don’t add sugar.
CAFFEINE IS THE LEAST OF IT
Coffee by itself doesn’t have any calories, but when it’s mixed with milk, sugar, and other assorted goodies — sure, it tastes great, but it can be a calorie disaster. Oh, and if you’ve heard rumors that caffeine helps you burn calories — let’s just say that if that were true, Americans would be in pretty good shape since we’re the largest consumers of caffeine in the world. Not only that, but caffeine is a diuretic so it causes your body to lose water, so you may not come out ahead.
- Starbucks Ice Blended Coffee Frappuccino — Venti (20 oz): 337 calories, 4g fat, 69g carbs
- Au Bon Pain Frozen Mocha Blast (12 oz): 270 calories, 6g fat, 45g carbs
- Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Bean Coolatta (16 oz): 440 calories, 17g fat, 70g carbs
Always choose skim milk or, at the very least, low-fat milk for coffee and tea drinks — while trying to avoid those packets of sugar or bottles of honey. Just look at the calories you’ll save.
- Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, Whole Milk — Venti (20 oz.): 312 calories, 11g fat, 45g carbs
- Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, Nonfat Milk — Venti (20 oz.): 237 calories, 1g fat, 45g carbs
(FYI: Starbucks doesn’t post their nutrition information on their website, but they give it out over the phone (1-888-235-2883) and in stores.)
- Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta with Cream (16 oz): 350 calories, 22g fat, 40g carbs
- Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta with Skim Milk (16 oz): 170 calories, 0g fat, 41g carbs
Even tea can add unwanted calories to your diet:
- Starbucks Iced Tazo Tea Frappuccino Tazoberry Blended Cream — Venti (20 oz): 625 calories, 29g fat, 79g carbs
- Starbucks Iced Tazo Chai, Whole Milk — Venti (20 oz): 263 calories, 10g fat, 37g carbs
- Starbucks Tazo Chai Latte, Whole Milk — Venti (20 oz): 400 calories, 16g fat, 45g carbs
- Snapple Lemon Tea (16 oz): 200 calories, 0g fat, 50g carbs
And what about good old lemonade?
- SoBe Lemonade MacLIZARD’S Special Recipe Lemonade (20 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 75g carbs
WHEN WATER WON’T CUT IT
Water’s best to meet your fluid needs, but if water just doesn’t do it for you, here are some tips:
- Try flavored waters — they’re not bad. Most have no calories at all, but make sure to read the labels as some brands do have a few.
- Make some homemade herbal iced tea. I make a batch twice a week and just add a bit of lemon for flavor.
- If you’re at a convenience store, try unsweetened herbal teas — they have few if any calories.
- If possible, ask for your drinks to be made without adding sugar, or use a sugar substitute.
- Squeeze a lemon, lime, or even an orange into a glass of water. (Some people even use cucumbers.)
- If you don’t mind the artificial sweeteners, try a diet iced tea from Arizona or Snapple or enjoy a refreshing Diet Sunkist or Diet Sprite — they’re pretty tasty. Keep in mind that some of these have caffeine.
- Drink flavored seltzer water; it’s generally calorie-free or very low calorie, without any artificial sweetener.