Marta Montenegro: How to Drink Your Calories the Right Way

One of the most common diet pitfalls is “drinking your calories.” You can easily consume about 800 calories, a full meal, throughout the day just by gulping some seemingly innocent beverages.

Take a look at this data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Morning: Medium café latte (16 ounces) made with whole milk 265 calories.

Lunchtime combo meal 20-oz. bottle of non-diet cola with your lunch 227 calories.

Afternoon break: Sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine (16 ounces) 180 calories.

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Dinnertime: A glass of non-diet ginger ale with your meal (12 ounces)130 calories.

Total beverage calories: 802.

The problem isn’t just about adding empty calories to your daily intake; liquid choice also affects hunger and fullness sensation.

Fifty two healthy people were given the same amount of calories but in different forms (liquid or solid) to evaluate the sensory and cognitive effects of food form on ingestive behavior. According to the study “Beverage consumption, appetite, and energy intake: what did you expect,” published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Energy intake was greater on days when perceived gastric-liquid preloads were consumed than when gastric solids were consumed.”

Experts attribute this response to a more rapid gastric-emptying and a smaller ghrelin – a hormone that stimulates appetite- reduction of the liquid form food compared to solid food.

Easy swap

Instead of looking for major diet changes to lose some pounds, just changing your beverage habits may be good way to jumpstart better habits.

In another recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, replacement of caloric beverages with non-caloric beverages (water or diet beverages) resulted in an average weight losses of  2 percent to 2.5 percent, in addition to a significant reduction in fasting glucose and improved hydration.

Changes can be as easy as swapping regular soda with water. The problem is some people just don’t like to drink the plain stuff.

Make it easier

But proper hydration is not just a matter of keeping appetite and weight in control, it also affects cognitive performance and mood. In a study when young subjected were experiencing over 1 percent level of dehydration, the results were degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration and headache symptoms, as states in an the article “Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in healthy Young Women” published in The Journal of Nutrition.

The good news is that you can still enjoy a variety of some healthy beverages by making the right choices. However, when in doubt always opt for the food version instead of the liquid form, as in eat the apple instead of drinking an apple juice.

Lisa Cohn, R.D., president of Park Avenue Nutrition in New York,  provides some strategies for sparing calories and optimizing your beverage choices to the different drinkers’ type.

Juice addicted

-Take a half can (4 oz.) of 100-percent juice no sugar added and dilute it with one cup of water.

-Make ice cubes out of the juice and add that to the water.

-Santa Cruz juices – health food store brands.

-Fruit sodas that have less than 40 calories and vitamin C.

-Honest Tea brands have some drinks with under 20 calories.

Soda addicted

-Flavored seltzer with no artificial flavors.

-Ginger beverages – some are sparkling.

Cold coffee beverage frequenters

-Go with regular coffee and add Coffeemate from the natural bliss line – one tablespoon of caramel has 35 calories (sweet but low in calories), which is same as two teaspoons of sugar.

Energy drinkers/smoothie types

-Always go with the real thing – whole vegetable and fruit juice.  Or blend one cup of unsweetened almond milk, one tablespoon of hemp nuts (rich in omega-3 fat), half cup of blueberries and half banana for a natural energy boost.

-Use coconut water, fresh cucumber, green or ginger tea for hydration and reducing inflammation; add green apple or papaya for fiber and electrolytes.