Liquid calories are those that come from the fluids you consume as part of your daily diet. Examples include soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, and alcohol. These calories can add up quickly and often go unnoticed and unaccounted for.
Consider the following:
- One 20-ounce soda is about 250 calories and 70 grams of sugar with no nutritional benefit. That’s the same as eating 15 teaspoons of sugar!
- A Starbucks “Venti” Pumpkin Spice Latte is 422 calories and 50 grams of sugar.
- A glass of orange juice is 120 calories and 22 grams of sugar versus a 45 calorie orange. The orange is also higher in fiber.
- A 5-ounce glass of wine is 125 to 150 calories. An 8-ounce margarita is 370 calories. A 12-ounce pina colada is a whopping 650 calories!
- These liquid calories tend to be “empty” and nutrient poor with little to no fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals and can also be high in fat.
- Drinking calories doesn’t give your body the same signals to stop eating as solid foods do. As a result, it’s easy to consume significantly more calories.
As an Obesity Medicine physician this is important.
- If you cut out just one 250 calorie drink every day, you will lose at least 2 pounds every month without any other changes in your diet!
Sugar-sweetened beverages are rapidly absorbed into the body. As a result, your insulin levels increase quickly to keep your blood sugar in control. This leads to insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and obesity.
What can you do?
- Increase your water intake. Dress up your water by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon. Try 0 calorie flavored waters or sparkling water.
- Experiment with new teas. There are many flavorful varieties.
- Make your coffee at home and avoid fancy coffee drinks.
- Skip your morning orange, apple, or cranberry juice.
- Find lower calorie alcoholic options and follow your alcoholic beverage with water or seltzer.
- Journal your daily intake of liquid calories. There are many apps that can help calculate and log this for you.
- As with any rule there are exceptions. In my Obesity Medicine practice I prescribe medical grade protein shakes for many patients. However, this must be done carefully as many over-the-counter protein drinks have added sugars and calories and are not nutritionally balanced.
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