Many people ask me about simple ways to shed a few pounds. While the act of weight loss often isn't simple, but requires work (hence, "working out"), there is one area that people often overlook.
Most people only count the calories they get from solid foods. But calories from beverages are often sneaky and pernicious. Many people are unaware of just how many calories they are drinking, and their beverages are responsible for unwanted weight gain.
Your diet is more than what you eat. One study shows that liquids make up 22 percent of daily calories.
Lose the high-calorie beverages and you'll likely watch the pounds start to melt away. By cutting out sugary drinks, sodas, and calorie-laden coffee concoctions (double mocha latte frappuccino anyone?), you can eliminate a lot of unwanted calories. An extra can of soda a day can pile on 15 pounds in a single year.
Soft drinks, sweetened teas, and the like, add unneeded calories to your diet without providing beneficial nutrients. They are filled with additives and lots of sugar.
The average amount of sugar in a 12 oz. can of soda is 10 teaspoons. And the average American drinks approximately 576 cans of soda per year. That's almost 2 cans of soda per day. What's more, the serving sizes of sodas have become absurd. In 1950 soft drinks were served in 6.5 oz. bottles. Today soft drinks are widely available in 20 oz. bottles.
A 12 oz. cola has 140 calories, a 20 oz. cola has 250 calories; a 32 oz. cola has 310 calories; and a 64 oz. soda (think Big Gulp or movie theater size) has 600+ calories.
By trimming 250 calories per day — a 20 oz. soda, 16 oz. of fruit juice, or one Starbucks 16 oz. whole milk latte — you could save at least 7000 calories and lose two pounds at the end of four weeks. And by eliminating soda over that period you would also prevent nine cups of sugar from entering your body.
If that's not enough, most sodas contain phosphorus (or phosphoric acid), which weakens bones by leaching valuable calcium. Less calcium means bones become more prone to fractures.
Also, watch out for whole dairy since it is highly caloric and very fattening. By choosing fat free instead of whole milk (even on your cereal), you could save a whopping 50 teaspoons of fat over four weeks.
Some of the worst culprits are the coffee drinks from chains like Starbucks, which are often loaded with calories from both sugar and fat.
For starters, Starbucks uses the esoteric terms "Tall", "Grande" and "Venti" for their drink sizes. What do those mean? In essence, this is their version of small, medium and large. But "Tall" equals 12 oz., "Grande" equals 16 oz., and "Venti" equals 20 oz. Consider that a cup — as in a cup of coffee — is 8 oz., and you quickly realize that a Starbucks "Grande" — their version of medium — is actually a pint of coffee. That hardly seems like a medium.
If you're drinking regular coffee with milk, or skim, or soy, no big deal. But if you buy one of those Starbucks drinks with the absurdly long, multi-syllabic names, you may be getting more than you bargained for. Let's consider just the medium size (16 oz. Grande) for a few Starbucks' coffee drinks:
Iced Cafe Mocha Whip – 330 calories
Iced White Chocolate Mocha – 470 calories
Iced Peppermint White Chocolate mocha – 520 calories
Cafe Vanilla Frappuccino – 430 calories
Java Chip Frappuccino – 460 calories
Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino – 470 calories
About one-third of all carbohydrate calories in the American diet come from added sweeteners, and beverages account for about half of this amount, according to a recent report. No one needs all that sugar, and you certainly shouldn't be drinking it. Save the sugar, and all those additional calories, for the occasional dessert.
Stick with water, unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea, fat free milk, and 100% fruit juices cut 50/50 with water. You'll be well-hydrated, getting vital nutrients, and reducing your caloric intake significantly.
To Your Health provides information on health, fitness, diet and nutrition. It is intended to help you improve your wellness and everyday living, specifically through the means of regular exercise and healthy eating.
Sean is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. He has been working in the health and fitness business for a decade; training, teaching, lecturing, and consulting.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.