Body Sense: Rethink your drink

Contributed by C. Claire Armagnac, B.S.

Many people count calories when dieting to lose weight, but few remember to include beverages in their daily calorie count. Calories from beverages are processed by our bodies just like calories from food, and they can definitely derail a diet. Drinks that are most likely to derail a diet are often those that are falsely marketed as being healthy, such as fruit smoothies from large restaurant chains and all natural fruit juices that actually contain large amounts of added sugar. Diet damage can also come from ingrained habits, such as drinking coffee with cream every morning, or (if you’re 21) automatically reaching for a beer when your favorite sports game is on. You don’t have to be confined to a life of black coffee, but be aware of the calories in common beverages, and plan to make smarter drink choices for better health. Check out some different beverage options below.

Bottled waterWater is obviously the world’s best beverage choice in terms of health benefits because it helps our bodies fight fatigue and allows many of our vital organs, such as our kidneys and liver, to function properly. Frequent exercisers notice that they have to drink a higher-than-average amount of water during and after their workouts, and many turn to sports drinks as a flavorful alternative to water. Sports drinks claim to help athletes by providing electrolytes and the sodium that is lost through sweat, but they are not appropriate for everyone because of the calories they contain. Sports drinks are healthier than soda and can promote re-hydration after a workout, but it’s important to remember that the workout itself should have burned enough calories to compensate for the calories in the drink. For example, if your workout burned 500 calories, but you drank a sports drink that contained 700 calories, water would have been the smarter beverage choice. Some sports drinks and sodas are now made with a sugar substitute so that they contain fewer calories, but nutritionists have yet to agree about the benefits and health risks associated with these substitutes. Until further research is done, it is probably best to consume sugar substitutes sparingly.

Smoothie with strawberry and pineappleSmoothies can be a great way to get calcium and vitamins after a workout, but be aware that some smoothies from chains, such as McDonald’s and Jamba Juice are not as healthy as they appear to be. For example, an original size Jamba “Mango-a-go-go” smoothie contains vitamins C and A, but it also contains 85 grams of sugar while only providing 10% of your daily recommended amount of calcium. A smoothie made at home using real fruit, non-fat yogurt or skim milk, ice, and a natural sweetener such as honey would be a healthier option, in terms of sugar and calories. Making a smoothie at home could also be a more cost-effective option because bags of frozen fruit, which can be used to make multiple smoothies, usually cost about $5 per bag, whereas smoothies at chain restaurants usually cost between $3 and $7 per smoothie.

The calories in smoothies and sports drinks should be on every student’s radar, and those of us who are 21 and indulge in an alcoholic beverage from time-to-time should also be aware of the calories in alcohol. In general, dark beers, such as Amstel and stout beers, such as Guinness contain the most calories. Beers that are labeled “light,” such as Bud Light are lighter in color and lower in calories, but a 12-ounce serving will still contain an average of 100 calories. A shot of liquor usually contains between 115 and 200 calories, and prepared mixers, such as margarita mix and sour mix are often packed with sugar and artificial flavoring. Wine is often the lowest-calorie alcoholic beverage; a 4-ounce serving contains between 62 and 160 calories, and red wine (when consumed in moderation) can provide healthful antioxidants.

Reducing the amount of calories you consume through beverages is all about small steps that can make a big difference. The calories saved by choosing to make your smoothie at home a few days a week, choosing a glass of wine over a shot of liquor on weekends, choosing to cut your sports drink in half with water at the gym, and choosing to put skim milk instead of cream in your coffee can really add up over time and can help you to achieve your weight-loss goals.

What have your experiences been, readers? Have you ever taken the time to rethink your drink? Have you had more energy or weight-loss success because of it? I would love to hear about your experiences. Email me at!


5 thoughts on “Body Sense: Rethink your drink

  1. I heard a really staggering statistic recently, that the average American consumes 3400 calories everyday and nearly 500 of those calories were liquid calories through sodas. Every so often, I’ll indulge in a sweet drink, but water is my go-to drink most days!

    • That’s insane! Where did you find this statistic? Americans really do need to cut down on the amount of calories they consume through beverages like soda and sports drinks. Hopefully, this post will help those that are looking for some tips on how to do that.

  2. Wow. This was very interesting to read. Mainly becuase when people do talk about going on a diet or are in a diet, they only talk about the things that they eat. They don’t talk about the drinks that they drink. If you come to think of it, it makes sense why some people sometimes try to go on a diet, but fail, because they worry about what they eat and not what they drink. If I ever went on a diet, I would never have guessed that drinks make a difference, but after thinking about it and reading this post, it makes a big difference. This post can help those that are thinking of going on a diet or are on a diet. It’s a helpful tip and I don’t think many people know about how much of a difference drinks can make in a diet. This is a way to let people know because it is an important topic.

  3. I have a tip for drinking more water – fill up a large pitcher of water with lemon or orange slices. You get a healthy, natural flavor without having to use those flavoring packets!

    • That’s a great tip. I think people have gotten so used to all the sugar substitutes and sugary additives in beverages these days that they can’t go without it. This is a great way to get flavor and keep it healthy. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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