Monday, November 28, 2011

You are what you eat, but what about what you drink?

     The fall/winter holidays are in full force, and it’s a wonderful time of year, with family and friends getting together and catching up. We know that most holiday parties involve food, and if you’re watching what you eat, you probably prepare for the onslaught of goodies by eating a small, healthy meal before the party so you feel full by the time you walk in. Have you thought about how what you drink affects your attempts at losing weight and staying healthy? The beverages you drink are just as important as the foods you put into your mouth. Melissa Tewes, RD, LDN, a clinical nutrition manager at Meritus Medical Center with more than 15 years of experience as a registered dietician, has these words of advice:

     When trying to lose weight, most people focus on initiating an exercise plan and making healthy changes in their diet like counting calories, cutting out the fat and sugar, eating less fast foods, or controlling portion sizes. While these changes are key to the weight loss process, studies show that Americans consume up to 21% of their caloric intake from beverages alone. Drinks can provide just as many, if not more, calories than a healthy meal.

     Below are some beverages to beware of and healthy alternatives that will help you cut calories and fat with minimal effort.

  • Regular Soda: A regular 12-ounce soda provides an average of 150 calories and 8 to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Replace regular sodas with seltzer or carbonated water with no added sugar. By eliminating three regular sodas a day, you could lose 26 pounds a year. 
  • Fancy Coffees: Avoid splurging on fancy coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and mochas, which can provide up to 600 calories each. Regular coffee in moderation can be part of a healthy eating plan as long as you skip the high-calorie, high-fat flavored creamers. Try drinking regular coffee with skim milk or fat-free half and half instead. 
  • Juice Drinks: A 16-ounce bottle of fruit juice provides 240 calories. Eat fresh fruit instead and stick to calorie-free beverages. If you must drink fruit juice, try mixing it with four ounces of water. Avoid juice drinks, which contain very little actual fruit juice and more artificial flavorings, corn syrup, and empty calories. 
  • Milkshakes: A large milkshake from an average fast food chain can provide 700 or more calories. Try drinking skim milk or smoothies instead. 
  • Whole Milk: While milk is a nutrient-rich beverage, it can provide a significant amount of fat and calories. Save yourself about 60 calories and 8 grams of fat per 8 ounce serving by choosing skim milk instead. 
  • Sweet Tea: Eliminate up to 200 calories by choosing unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea as an alternative to a large sweet tea. 
  • Alcohol: If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Choose light beer, wine, or liquor mixed with soda water instead of frozen drinks like margaritas, daiquiris, and pina coladas. Avoid mixing alcohol with high-calorie beverages such as regular soda, cream, or fruit juices. High-calorie alcoholic beverages can provide as many calories as an entire meal. 

     Making some of these simple changes will significantly improve the quality of your diet and speed up the weight loss process. By choosing water or other calorie-free beverages you can save the calories for food.

By Kayla Murphy

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