Choose calories carefully with beverages

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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When we think about how many calories we are consuming, we sometimes leave out the calories that we consume as beverages.

There is some evidence that the body does not respond to calories in beverages the same way it does to calories in food. Your body may not register the calories you drink, so you could end up consuming more calories than you need. Several research studies point to decreasing sugar-sweetened beverages as a good strategy to decrease calories and help manage body weight. Making some simple changes in the beverages you choose can make a big difference.

It is important to know the three “C’s” when it comes to beverages – Choosing Calories Carefully can help people cut out calories to achieve their health goals.

Staying hydrated is essential for life, but not all beverages are created equal. Some fluids contain calories while others do not. When someone follows a healthy eating plan, he or she does not need to rely on drinks for energy needs. Non-caloric drinks include water, tea, coffee and/or some diet drinks.

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is on the rise in the U.S. Any drink with added calorie-containing sweeteners is labeled sugar-sweetened. Sugar-sweetened drinks include soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened-coffee drinks, smoothies and flavored teas. If sugar is listed first through third or fourth on the ingredients label, then it means sugar is the most prominent ingredient in that drink.

Research shows that people who drink more sugar-sweetened beverages before a meal tend to eat more calories than those who drink much less sugar-sweetened beverages both before and during the meal.

So, what’s the big concern? People – unaware that they may need to eat less – can drink more calories during their meals, ultimately leading to weight gain.

Another good research example of the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages is that people who cut out calories from drinks lost more weight than those who cut out the same amount of calories from solid foods. When someone is trying to lose weight, cutting back on soft drinks and specialty drinks such as lattes and smoothies could be the best way to go.

Specialty coffee drinks are a favorite “pick-me-up,” but they often have high amounts of sugar and calories. Many food establishments offer to make lattes with different types of milk.

Although smoothies can be a good way to add fruit to an eating plan, sometimes they supply a lot of extra calories. Be sure to watch the size of the smoothie. Sixteen ounces, which may be the smallest available, could add as many as 270 calories.

Soft drinks provide calories, too. Choosing diet drinks can help cut calories.

Americans should get most of their daily fluids from water, then from tea, coffee and low-fat milk.

Water is essential for metabolism and other important body functions. Tea and coffee provide no calories and have been linked with several health benefits. Select low-fat milk products (which are a great source of calcium, vitamin D and high-quality protein) and whole fruits instead of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juices.

In summary, use the 3 “C’s” when it comes to beverages – Choosing Calories Carefully.

  • Go for low-fat or fat-free creams and milk products to add to coffee and tea.
  • Choose reduced-sugar and reduced-fat syrups and flavorings.
  • Buy smaller portions of the drinks you love or split a drink with a friend.
  • Make smoothies at home using low-fat milk.
  • Sweeten your favorite drinks with artificial (non-caloric) sweeteners.

For information on choosing calories carefully, call the Extension office at (940) 627-3341.

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