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!)
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.
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).
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 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.)
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.
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