Friday, October 10, 2008

Think Before You Drink

You may be spending a lot of time watching what you eat, but how much attention do you pay to what you are drinking? Beverages can be adding hundreds of calories a day to your intake and preventing you from losing the weight you would like to lose.

The average soft drink provides about 10 calories per ounce. This means 80 calories for eight ounces of soda, punch, juice (yes, even fruit juice that provides nutrition also provides calories!), milk (actually this is for skim milk--whole milk provides nearly double!), and even more for alcoholic beverages.
Keep in mind these number are for eight ounce servings, which people rarely consume nowadays: a can of soda contains 12 ounces (that's 120 calories), a bottle of beer 12 ounces (providing about 150 calories unless it is a light beer), and the plastic bottles of soda now contain 20 ounces--which bring the calorie content to a whopping 240! Yes, the label may tell you there are 80 calories per serving, but be sure to check what a serving size is equal to, and how many servings there are per container.

Other high-calorie beverages include sweet tea, which may have in excess of 200 calories per eight-ounce serving depending on how sweet it is; egg nog at 340 calories per eight-ounce serving, and a Starbucks Latte (16 oz) at 272 calories. If you order your latte with skim milk (and no whipped cream) that will bring it down to 220 calories.

Check out the measurement of the glasses you use in your home. Use an eight-ounce measuring cup and fill your favorite glass with water to see what eight ounces looks like. You may be pouring yourself a whole lot of extra calories by filling your glass with milk, juice, or a sweetened beverage. Many glasses hold 20 ounces and the calories add up quickly!

What are some lower calorie alternatives? Water, of course, has no calories and may be flavored with lemon or a flavored tea bag steeped for a few minutes. Diet soda has zero calories, but there can be draw backs to drinking excessive amounts. Tomato juice has only 41 calories per cup, and vegetable juice (like V-8) 46 calories per cup. Coffee and tea have less than two calories per cup and can be flavored with artificial sweeteners. However, if you add non-dairy creamers--even sugar free-take note of the serving size (in most cases one teaspoon) and see how fast the calories can again add up!

To prevent gaining weight (or to help with weight loss) keep a few rules of thumb in mind:
1. 100 extra calories per day may cause near a pound weight gain each month, so rethinking your beverage choices and take note of serving sizes.
2. Milk and juice are great sources of many vitamins and minerals but the "serving size" recommended is often 8 ounces or less. Even though they are 'good for you' the calories can turn into 'too much of a good thing' when you drink large servings.
3. Many containers of sodas, sweetened teas, and coffee drinks contain more than one serving. If the calories per serving seems reasonable, be sure to check how many servings are in the container before you drink the whole thing.
4. Even gatorade and other sports drinks are sweetened and contain nearly 10 calories per ounce. No free ride here!
5. Restaurants that serve 'sweetened tea' give you no control over the calorie content; ask for unsweetened and add your own sweetener (there are about 20 calories in a pack of sugar, so use accordingly!)

Bottom line: start paying attention to beverage labels the same way you do food labels. Check out the calorie content and what their serving size is equal to. You might just find this to be the secret to your own weight loss success!

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