Many of us watch what we eat but not what we drink when on a diet. That’s a mistake because on average we drink one out of five of our daily calories.
Choosing the right drinks can tweak your metabolism, curb your appetite, and help cut calories but which ones can help and which can hinder?
Hinderer: Soft drinks
Every time you drink a can or a bottle of these, you get hundreds of empty calories.
Switching to diet soft drinks is an obvious way to cut calories, but the research is mixed on whether this switch leads to weight loss. Some studies show a short-term benefit but .others find diet drinkers gain weight.
The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks have their own drawbacks so check what your drink contains. I
Replacing carbonated soft drinks with water will cut hundreds of calories per day. Drinking two glasses of water before a meal may also help you feel full faster, so you don’t eat as much.
Drinking enough water may have a positive effect on your metabolism.
Jury’s out: Fruit juice
Juice can have as many calories as soft drinks, but it has more nutrients. This presents a dilemma: You want the vitamins and antioxidants without all the extra sugar.
Look for 100% fruit juice and steer clear of juice drinks that have added sweeteners. Check the nutrition label for the percentage of real juice. You can also slash calories by diluting the juice with water, rather than neat.
Helper: Vegetable juice
Vegetable juice is as nutritious as fruit juice, with about half the calories but a lot more salt. One cup of tomato juice has 41 calories, compared to 122 calories for orange juice.
Choosing juice with pulp provides some fibre, too, which may help control hunger.
Jury’s out: Smoothies
Blend a banana, strawberries, and blueberries into a frothy smoothie, and you’ve got a delicious drink.
Make your own, so you can control the ingredients: use skim milk (or an alternative, like almond milk) and fresh or frozen fruit are all you need.
If ordering a smoothie outside, check the ingredients as they may include ice cream, honey, or other sweeteners that boost the calorie count sky-high.
Jury’s out: Low-fat milk
Eating calcium-rich foods may do a body good, and it may help you lose weight. Some research shows that drinking higher amounts of milk or eating other dairy foods can help with weight loss.
For the best all-around benefits, stick to skim or low-fat.
Hinderer: Energy drinks
Most sports and energy drinks are calorie bombs. They may have more added nutrients, but you can find the same vitamins and minerals in low-calorie foods.
When you’re working on weight loss, stay hydrated with water rather than sports drinks, unless you need the extra nutrients because you’re exercising hard and sweating a lot.
Helper: Black coffee
When you need a shot of caffeine, coffee is a better choice than caffeinated or energy drinks. Black coffee is calorie-free and rich in antioxidants.
Studies have shown that drinking moderate amounts of coffee (about 3 to 4 cups a day) may improve mood and concentration, and may also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Hinderer: Speciality coffees
Once you add cream, flavoured syrups, or a topping of whipped cream, your mug of black coffee is full of fat and sugar.
Specialty coffees can have up to 570 calories per cup: possibly more than an entire meal! If you don’t like your coffee black, add a little skim milk to keep the calorie count low.
Helper: Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent choice when you’re looking for a little boost. Not only is it calorie-free — some research suggests green tea extract may stimulate weight loss.
It’s not clear exactly how that works, but caffeine and micronutrients called catechins may each play a role. The benefit appears to last only a few hours, so it may help to drink green tea at least twice a day.
Spoiler: Alcopops and coolers
These may sound light and airy, but they are heavy on calories. They are flavoured alcoholic beverages with relatively low alcohol content (e.g., 3–7% alcohol by volume).
However, a 12-ounce cooler containing wine can have 190-315 calories. Normal wine is not exactly a diet drink, with 100 calories in a 5-ounce glass.
A low-calorie alternative is a wine spritzer: Mix a dash of wine with some sparkling or soda water.
A shot of most spirits has fewer calories than wine or wine coolers, but once you mix in soda or cream, watch out.
An 8-ounce white Russian made with cream has 715 calories. A less fattening option is to mix rum or vodka with soda.
If your favourite is Pina Colada this recipe will cut the calories. Instead of the he sugary, coconut milk mix, measure one shot of coconut rum, add fresh strawberries, a splash of agave syrup, and blend with ice.
You get a tall, 12-ounce tropical cocktail for about the same calories as in a handful of pretzel twists.
Berry Daiquiri is a favourite drink but runs around 145 Calories. Cut that by using fresh or frozen strawberries and you get intense berry flavour for just 50 calories, compared with 255 calories in berries frozen with syrup.
Add rum, ice, and sweeten the deal with 1 teaspoon of stevia, a sugar substitute. Blend into a slim and delicious frozen concoction.
Gin and tonic is a favourite tipple but did you know that tonic water has nearly as many calories as carbonated soft drinks?
Switch to diet tonic water for a skinny version of this favorite cocktail or soda water with a squeeze of lime juice.
Helper: Skinny cocktail ingredients
- Choose fresh 100% juice rather than mixes
- Use zero-calorie bubblers instead of soft drinks. Try sparkling water, or soda water
- Fewer ingredients mean fewer calories.
- Pay attention. Moderation is key for your waistline and health
Hinderer: Skinny cocktail don’ts
- Don’t add creamed spirits or liqueurs. They double the calories in a cocktail
- Don’t use several shots in one drink. A Long Island iced tea has seven ingredients and 700 calories!
- Don’t order an after-dinner drink, which is often sweet
- Don’t sip a sweet dessert wine, which has about 40 calories more than table wine
Helper: Low calorie beer
OK, beer is not really going to help you lose weight, but switching to a low calorie/low alcohol version can help.
A 12-ounce serving has about 100 calories, compared to 150 calories for normal beer.
If you are watching your weight then clearly you need to choose your drinks carefully, both in quantity and in the ingredients you choose. And occasional drink is no problem, but if you are prone to put on weight it’s a good idea to balance that with a diet which supports overall weight loss.
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