Simple Steps to Avoid
Drowning in Liquid Calories

By Dr. Leslie Van Romer and Dr. Narinder Duggal

For all 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.

By 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.

1. 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?

 For 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.) – 600

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

2. 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 your labels.

As 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).

All other drinks deplete to some degree, even the 100 percent commercial fruit and vegetable juices. Surprised? Let’s go through some of your favorites.

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 caffeine.

Coffee 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!

Caffeine 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 fatigue.

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.

If 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 additives.

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 and preserving.

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 arthritis.

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.

Bottom 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.

3. 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 and sweating.

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.

For 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.

You were 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!

Freshly 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 energy.

If you 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 your layers.

  The 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 that!

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Leslie Van Romer and Narinder Duggal, M.D.

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