Danger Drinks and Healthy AlternativesHealthy Eating Goes Beyond the Food You Eat-- By Kelly OConnell, Registered DietitianYouve been working hard at making healthy changes to your diet and exercising regularly tolose weight. But theres more toweight loss than watching what you eat; the beverages you drinkcan also affect your progress. Are you sabotaging your diet by drinking unhealthful things?A recent study from theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared beverage intake andweight changes in more than 800 men and women ages 25 to 79. The research found that whensubjects cut 100 calories of liquids from their diets, they lost more weight than when they had cut100 calories in the form of food. That said, do you know how many calories youre drinking?Below are some "danger" drinks, along with healthier alternatives that will help you get yourbeverage fix for fewer calories (and better nutrition).Danger Drink #1: SodaSometimes our bodies crave sugar, and all too often, we answer the call by guzzling sodainstead of choosing a healthier alternative. Sugar is one of the main reasons soda is unhealthy(and caloric), especially when you are trying to lose weight. It’s filled with empty calories. Onaverage, a 12-ounce serving contains more than 110 calories and 8-10 teaspoons of sugar!Another problem is caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, serving to dehydrate the body. Even dietsodas can adversely affect weight loss; the artificial sweeteners can leave you craving moresweets, which may sabotage your efforts to eat healthier.Rescue Drink: Seltzer or carbonated waterInstead of soda, try something that still has the refreshing carbonation you love but no addedsweeteners. Swap out soda for seltzer water or flavored carbonated water and a slice of lemonor lime. This drink will help rehydrate you and not leave your taste buds asking for more sugar.Danger Drink #2: Fancy coffeesBelieve it or not, your cup of Joe does offer some health benefits. When adults consume coffeein moderation—and dont load it with sugar and cream—they can help decrease their risk of highblood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and more. On the flip side, when your coffee of choice is acaramel cappuccino, more than just a few calories sneak into your daily calorie allowance. Evena seemingly innocent blended iced coffee can have almost 200 calories—and thats one of thelower-calorie coffee drinks. Fancy coffee drinks are a prime example of how liquid calories canstack up.If you start your day with a regular cup of Joe, be careful about how you dress it up. Sugar andcreamers are not calorie free, so use as little as possible. If you take your coffee with threesugars and two creamers, youre adding about 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.
Rescue Drink: Plain coffeeEnjoying coffee in moderation (no more than two cups a day) can be part of a healthy diet. Try alow fat or fat-free creamer to add a satisfying creaminess to your morning java. Slowly taper youruse of sugar and cream and go for flavored coffee beans to add taste without calories. Adjustingyour taste buds might take some time, but its worth it.Danger Drink #3: AlcoholYour social life shouldn’t run dry when you are trying to lose weight and get healthy. You caneven go out to happy hour with friends if youre smart about your choices. A good rule is to avoidfrozen drinks like margaritas, daiquiris and pina coladas. These drinks have enough calories tocount as a meal, and theyre rarely made with any real fruit; they usually contain corn syrup andartificial flavors. A 10-ounce pina colada has close to 550 calories—without cherries, pineappleor other garnishes. And the worst part is that it’s hard to stop at just one! When drinking alcohol,your willpower often slips, making it all that much harder to resist unhealthy foods.Rescue Drink: "Mocktails" or light cocktailsWhen choosing what to drink while mingling, choose a light beer, dry wine or liquor mixed withsoda water instead of sugar-loaded beverages. Even better, choose soda water with a splash ofjuice for a fizzy, festive and low-calorie drink. Youll save money and calories, and you wont haveto worry about not being able to drive. Always drink a cup of water in between alcoholicbeverages, and when youre hosting a party or get-together, offer low-calorie beverages for yourguests. To see a few of SparkPeople’s diet-friendly alcohol suggestions, click here.Danger Drink #4: MilkshakesMilkshakes are marketed as drinks, but those fast-food restaurants and ice cream parlors arentfooling anyone. Theyre drinkable desserts, not healthy beverages. Sure, they contain calciumbecause of all that milk, but they also have plenty of fat and sugar. But dont be fooled bymilkshakes made with seemingly healthy ingredients like yogurt. Theyre still milkshakes. A largemilkshake from a fast-food restaurant can contain more than 700 calories. If you want to treatyourself, get the smallest size and skip extras like sprinkles and whipped cream.Rescue Drink: SmoothiesSmoothies are a healthy and tasty alternative to milkshakes—as long as you know whats goingin to your smoothie. If you are blending a smoothie at home, mix together low-fat yogurt with ice,skim milk or soymilk, and whatever fruit you like. If you are at an ice cream parlor or restaurant,don’t hesitate to ask what is in a smoothie and modify as needed. Smoothie joints tend to addhigh-calorie protein powders and unnecessary ingredients that pile on extra calories. A secondoption is to choose freshly squeezed vegetable or fruit juice, which is often sold alongsidesmoothies.
Danger Drink #5: Whole milkMilk is a nutrient-rich beverage, but the full-fat versions are high in calories and fat. Whole milk,which is often labeled "Vitamin A & D milk," measures in at 147 calories per cup compared with 91calories for skim milk. While whole milk is creamy and delicious, you can get the same healthbenefits with far fewer calories. Before you down your three cups a day, consider lighterversions.Rescue Drink: Skim milk or low-fat milkSkim and low-fat milks are lower in calories than whole milk and still offer the same amounts ofessential vitamins and minerals. If you dont like the taste of cows milk (or cant tolerate it),choose low-calorie chocolate milk or a calcium-fortified non-dairy milk, such as soy, rice oralmond milk.Danger Drink #6: Sweet teaUntil recently, you couldn’t find sweet tea above the Mason-Dixon Line. Now this sweet Southerndrink is ubiquitous—even national fast-food restaurants offer it. While it might be tasty, all thatsugar cancels out the antioxidant properties of tea. A bottle or cup of sweet tea can contain up tofour tablespoons of sugar! To save your teeth and to watch your weight, be sure to swap thesugar-loaded options for something far less sugary.Rescue drink: Unsweetened or lightly sweetened teaAll that sugar in sweet tea can spike your blood sugar and make you feel drained. If you areaccustomed to sweet tea, slowly reduce the amount of sugar youre using. Your taste buds willadapt. Instead of plain black tea, try flavored or green teas. Mango-ginger green tea, mint tea, orchai tea are all tasty options that require little to no sweeteners. We often rely on sugar for flavor,but in its absence, youll be able to taste the subtleties in your drinks.Danger Drink #7: "Juice" drinksYouve given up soda and switched to healthier drinks. When you stop at a convenience store orfill up your cup at a soda fountain, you feel proud of yourself for choosing juice—after all, itsmade from fruit and must be healthy. Nope. Most juices contain little more than artificialflavorings, corn syrup and water (aka empty calories). All those health benefits touted on thefancy label? They come from added ingredients and added vitamins, not from healthy fruit or thejuice cocktail itself.Rescue Drink: 100% fruit juiceWhen you reach for juice, make sure it is 100% real juice. Vegetable juice is your best bet, as itis packed with vitamins and minerals and contains far less sugar and fewer calories than fruitjuice. As far as fruit juices go, 100% pomegranate juice and blueberry juice are both goodchoices for a healthy dose of antioxidants. Try diluting these juices with sparkling water to cutcalories and sugar. With fizz and sweetness, theyre like healthy sodas! For a vitamin C punch toward off pesky colds, try grapefruit juice, which is one of the lowest-calorie juices per ounce youwill find, or cranberry juice (just make sure its not a juice "cocktail"). Whenever you can, choosewhole fruit over juice to get fiber and satiety.
AND THE WINNER EVERY TIME: Water!This is the drink of healthy eaters. It helps our bodies survive by controlling body temperatureand flushing out toxins. The more hydrated your body is, the more effectively your metabolismwill be able to function. If you’re looking to lose weight and get into shape, fill up your glass withsome good old H20. Filling up with water before a meal may also help you lose weight. In a studypublished in 2008 in theJournal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found thatpeople who drank water before meals ate an average of 75 fewer calories at that meal! Hungercan be mistaken for thirst and the best resolution is water.About the Author: As a registered dietitian with type 1 diabetes, Kelly OConnell has a passion toshare her knowledge on health and disease prevention. Kelly enjoys yoga, training for races andhosting healthy dinner parties for friends.This article has been reviewed and approved by Tanya Jolliffe, a SparkPeople healthy eatingexpert.