Beverages and Weight Gain: You Are What You Drink

If you need an afternoon Caramel Macchiato fix, or start each morning with a strawberry-banana smoothie, you may be getting more than you bargained for on your waistline.
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If you need an afternoon Caramel Macchiato fix, or start each morning with a strawberry-banana smoothie, you may be getting more than you bargained for on your waistline.

Even if you're diligent about your calories from food, you may be overlooking those that are coming from the drinks you choose.

With the expansion of new drinks every day, many of us want our beverage choices to be as interesting as our food choices. I feel like a prude when clients ask me what to drink. My reply is, "Stick to regular water, sparkling water, tea and organic milk."

These may seem boring, but drinking water can save you calories, additional sugar intake and the increased sweet cravings that can come from artificial sugars.

In addition, sticking with water prevents you from ingesting large amounts of calories since the body does not register fluid calories in the same way that it does calories from solid foods.

The Science of Sipping

Research conducted by Rick Mattes, Ph.D., R.D., on the cause of obesity in America showed that obesity is highly correlated with the increased intake of beverages. His research also indicated that solid food has a much greater affect on satiation than beverages. In his findings, Dr. Mattes wrote, "Calories from solid foods are better registered by the body than calories from liquids."

Once they have the facts, the one beverage people are the most upset about is juice. For many people juice equals fruit, so drinking juice would seem like a healthy choice. They are surprised to find that drinking juice is similar to drinking a soda. Ounce per ounce they contain the same amount of sugar.

Count up the Carbs

When you add up the amount of sodas, coffee drinks, juices and smoothies, the additional calories and carbohydrates numbers are mind boggling. How does it really translate to our bodies? I like to compare carbohydrate choices to a slice of bread, which contains approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Here are a few examples to illustrate:

•A typical smoothie has 60-100 grams of carbohydrate, or four to eight slices of bread worth

•Many sweetened drinks (including specialty and energy drinks, teas and alcoholic beverages) contain 100-150 grams of carbohydrates, or seven to 10 slices of bread worth

•A sweetened coffee drink could contain 45 grams of carbohydrate, or three slices of bread worth

You might have an afternoon smoothie between lunch and dinner, but would you ever consider sitting down to eight slices worth of bread in the afternoon? Both the carbohydrates and calories can quickly add up and go well beyond your metabolic needs.

Most of us know soda is bad for us, but carrot juice or a smoothie could be providing the same or more grams of sugar per serving (though it should be noted that natural fruit beverages do contain nutrient-based calories, as opposed to the empty calories of a soda drink). Manufacturers are deceptive in making a typical juice contain two servings per container. And really, are you going to drink only half your carton of juice? Usually not, which means you could be getting the equivalent carbs of six slices of bread in your "healthy" beverage.

Offset your carbohydrate footprint

One of the problems of specialty drinks is that we are not compensating for them by lowering our food calories and carbohydrates.

If your beverage choices are important to you, consider lowering the amount of food you consume, unless you need to gain weight or you regularly run marathons.

In addition to the unfavorable effects on your weight, increasing your intake of carbohydrates can increase risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. The body only requires a certain amount of carbohydrate per meal, and exceeding this level is a setup for danger, especially if you are susceptible or have a family history of diabetes.

"I'll have the sparkling water with a touch of lemon or lime" might not be all that interesting but your body and jeans will thank you at the end of the day, leaving you with energy and room for eating calories from interesting cuisine. I think I'll drink to that.

Comparing Drink Choices

The following are examples of the calorie and carbohydrate content of some common beverages.

Mineral water/water
Approximate Calories: 0
Approximate Carbs:0

Hot tea with milk, 8 ounces
Approximate Calories: 30-50
Approximate Carbs: 3-5 grams

Specialty water, 12 ounces
Approximate Calories: 75
Approximate Carbs: 20 g

Milk, 1 percent, 8-ounce cup
Approximate Calories: 120
Approximate Carbs: 13 g

Sports drink, 12 ounces
Approximate Calories: 100-150
Approximate Carbs: 20-35 g

Orange juice, 8-ounce cup
Approximate Calories: 110
Approximate Carbs: 25-30 g

Cranberry juice, 8-ounce cup
Approximate Calories: 135
Approximate Carbs: 30-35 g

Fruit punch, 8-ounce cup
Approximate Calories: 120
Approximate Carbs: 32-35 g

Regular soda, 12-ounce can
Approximate Calories: 155
Approximate Carbs: 40 g

Caffeinated energy drink, 12-ounce can
Approximate Calories: 150-300
Approximate Carbs: 40-60 g

Coffee latte, med-large
Approximate Calories: 150-200
Approximate Carbs: 15-20 g

Chai latte, med-large
Approximate Calories: 200-300
Approximate Carbs: 40-50 g

Mocha, med-large
Approximate Calories: 250-550
Approximate Carbs: 40-50 g

Approximate Calories: 300-800
Approximate Carbs: 50-100 g

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