Simple Steps to Avoid
Drowning in Liquid Calories
By Dr. Leslie Van Romer and Dr. Narinder Duggal
the counting, measuring, weighing, fussing and fretting most
Americans do to watch calories, we often allow liquid calories to
sneak in. Almost one-quarter of the calories Americans consume come
from beverages. Shockingly, sodas and other sweet drinks are the
single largest calorie contributors to the American diet and to
America’s ballooning waistline.
simply making better beverage choices, you can boost health and shed
layers! Here are simple steps to reduce empty liquid calories –
starting as soon as your next smart sip.
Ask yourself: “What am I drinking now?” For seven consecutive
days, write down every drink you consume, how many ounces
(approximately), and the calorie count. Look at the label or online
if you have to. At the end of the week, calculate your grand total
of liquid calories. Eye-opening, isn’t it?
example, a Starbucks Cafe Latte with skim milk, grande size (16 oz.)
has 160 calories. If you order that with whole milk, it adds up to
270 calories. One latte a day tallies to 1120 calories a week.
Yikes! That’s almost a whole extra day of calories you’re
getting in one week (eight days of calories in just seven days) –
just from that one drink! Now, look at what else you’re drinking:
Coffee, with one liquid creamer (8 oz.) – 30 calories
Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino, venti – 300 calories
Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha, whole milk, whipped cream, (20 oz.)
Beer, regular (12 oz.) – 150
Beer, light (12 oz.) – 100
Wine, red (8 oz.) – 170
Wine, white (8 oz.) – 160
Martini (2.5 oz.) – 106
Margarita (from mix) – 290
McDonald’s chocolate shake, large (32 oz.) – 1030
McDonald’s Coca-Cola, large (32 oz.) – 310
Burger King vanilla shake, medium (14 oz.) – 430
Ginger ale (20 oz.) – 200
7-Up, Coca-Cola, root beer (20 oz.) – 250
Milk, fat-free (8 oz.) – 90
Milk, 1 percent low fat (8 oz.) – 100
Milk, whole (8 oz.) – 180
Apple or orange juice (8 oz.) – 110
Ask yourself: “Is this drink feeding me or depleting me?” When
it comes to beverages, total calories is one consideration, total
nutrients is the other. If you are consuming liquid calories, are
you getting the most nutrition for your calories? Look at each
beverage and ask: Does this feed me with good nutrients or does it
deplete me with sugar, salt, artificial sweeteners, artificial
flavorings, preservatives, dyes, caffeine, or alcohol? Again, read
mind-boggling as it is, the only beverages that don’t deplete are
water, caffeine-free herbal teas, fresh homemade fruit and vegetable
juices, and raw, unpasteurized, store-bought juices (a rare breed).
other drinks deplete to some degree, even the 100 percent commercial
fruit and vegetable juices. Surprised? Let’s go through some of your
Coffee and Caffeinated Tea: Ouch – this may hurt! Coffee and
caffeinated tea may seem like the ideal beverage, especially when
trying to lose weight. It has zero calories, if you drink it black
and don’t add extra calories from sugar, sweeteners, cream, or milk.
However, those zero calories hardly compensate for the fact that
coffee and tea depletes you. Both contain caffeine, an addictive
stimulant. Even decaffeinated coffee contains small amounts of
is also associated with depression, diarrhea, atherosclerosis
(hardened arteries), rheumatoid arthritis, urinary incontinence,
reduced insulin sensitivity, and osteoporosis. As a natural
diuretic, it overworks your kidneys and bladder. If your organs work
harder, you wear down faster. That’s called aging!
may seem to give you that quick pick-me-up with its
artificially-stimulated highs, but those are always followed by
bottom-out lows. These spikes and dips drain your natural resources
for sustainable energy, ultimately wearing you down and causing
Soda: You might as well take some of your household
chemicals, add some sugar and drink up. After all, some sodas like
Coke, can remove rust from a car’s engine. Most 12-ounce cans (not
to mention super-size 42-ounce sodas) contain about ten teaspoons of
sugar, a significant portion of the thirty-three teaspoons of sugar
the average American eats a day, which amounts to over ten pounds a
month or about 20 percent of daily calories. We’re trying to get
weight off, not drink more on! Regular and diet soda are
statistically linked to obesity, tooth decay, caffeine dependence,
Type 2 diabetes, and weakened bones. Further, the aspartame in diet
sodas is believed to be toxic to the body.
that’s not bad enough, drinking soda tends to increase cravings for
other sweets, leading to uncontrollable bingeing. It’s depleting,
addictive, and laden with chemicals, sugar, and calories that hinder
weight loss. Why put something like that into your body at all, much
less multiple times a day? Switch to sparkling water if you need the
fizz – anything but soda.
Protein Drinks: Protein drinks are chemical concoctions with
added sugar, salt and calories. Plus, they overload you with protein
when, if you’re eating the standard American fare, you’re already
getting plenty. Make a fresh fruit smoothie instead. It tastes much
better, provides great nutrition with plenty of protein (oranges are
8 percent protein and we only need 4.5 percent protein), provides
energy and contains no added sugar, salt, or other chemical
Processed Commercial Juices/Drinks/Sports Drinks: Unless
store-bought fruit and vegetable juices and drinks are marketed as
raw and fresh, they are cooked and processed, wiping out all enzymes
and many vitamins. Basically, you’re getting cooked, concentrated
fruit sugar, usually with chemicals and preservatives.
Furthermore, many fruit juices and drinks contain additional refined
sugars, unless labeled “unsweetened.” Believe it or not, those that
say “no sugar added,” may have added some form of refined sugar.
Processed vegetable juices fare no better. They’re usually loaded
with salt, sugar, and questionable manmade chemicals for flavoring
Regardless of what has been added to processed juices and drinks,
they offer you too many calories for too few nutrients. Read the
label before you drink. If a juice or drink contains added sugars,
salt, preservatives, colorants, or if it’s pasteurized, it depletes
you, and adds calories to the calories, which adds fat to fat.
Milk: Milk and dairy products are associated with all kinds
of problems, like stuffiness, nasal drip, colds, sinus headaches,
constipation, stomach upsets, PMS, asthma, bronchitis, eczema,
psoriasis, hormone-fed cancers (breast, prostate, lung, colon),
atherosclerosis, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid
Sidestepping the emotionally-charged dairy debate, look objectively
at the calories you consume with milk. An 8-ounce glass of
“fat-free” milk has 90 calories and whole milk, 180 calories. Three
“fat-free” glasses in one day adds 270 calories to your daily
caloric intake. Just one daily glass of “fat-free” milk adds to 630
calories a week.
line question: Are those extra calories worth it to you? It’s your
body, your choice.
Alcohol: At this point in your life, you know that alcohol
is good for two things – getting tipsy and adding calories. Two
glasses of red wine (340 calories), for example, contain more
calories than a large, fill-you-up salad, chock full of nutrients.
Cutting out alcohol is an easy way to cut down calories. Simple.
Ask yourself: “What are the best beverage choices?” If coffee,
soda, protein drinks, sports drinks, and commercial juices and
drinks deplete you, what’s left to drink?
Water: Of all the dozens of different drinks now
commercially marketed, water is the best at its job: hydrating. It
comes with zero calories, zero chemicals, zero sugar, and zero salt,
all for the price of zero dollars. Drinking water restores fluids in
our bodies, which we lose constantly through elimination, breathing
Interestingly enough, water neither feeds nor depletes. It’s
neutral, but critical for a well-functioning body. The same goes for
herbal teas that say “naturally caffeine-free,” listing only plants
as ingredients and contain no manmade chemicals.
Somewhere along the way, drinking eight glasses a day became a
decree that we all believed. But the truth is, your water needs vary
according to your size, the types of foods you eat, the climate, and
your activity levels.
instance, if you load up on high-salt foods, like meat, cheese,
processed foods and chips, you will need to drink more water than if
you fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and
vegetables contain about 70 percent water and little sodium,
reducing your need for drinking water.
gifted with an amazing instinct that keeps you fully hydrated if
you listen to it. It’s known in our language as thirst. When you
are thirsty, drink water! When your thirst is quenched, stop. When
you’re thirsty again, drink. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Freshly-made Juices: Juices, freshly made from whole, raw
fruits and vegetables, are another great beverage. They not only
hydrate perfectly like water, but they feed as well, providing
essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes, and
macronutrients. These liquid foods quench your thirst and offer top
value for your calorie buck!
made juices come with calories, but each one of these calories is
power-packed with excellent nutrition that is absorbed into your
cells within fifteen minutes, providing a walloping charge of
don’t have the desire to embark on the adventure of creating your
own juices, then don’t. But do start paying attention to those
slippery calories that deplete you, not feed you, and add layers to
topic of beverages boils down to two little words: Drink water. Your
hips and your pocketbook will thank you. Now let’s all drink to
Read other articles and learn more about
Dr. Leslie Van
Narinder Duggal, M.D.
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