U-M expert offers tips to help you make healthy beverage choices.
ANN ARBOR, MI –Think you’ve got your diet under control? You may be gulping down hundreds of unwanted calories without even knowing it. “Believe it or not, more than 20 percent of our daily calories come from the things that we drink,” says Susan Aaronson, M.S., R.D., wellness coordinator for the MFit Health Promotion Division at the University of Michigan Health System.
“Soda is full of sugar and empty calories, making it a major contributor to the obesity problem in the United States,” says Aaronson. ”If you chose to eliminate one can of soda each day, which contains about nine teaspoons of sugar, you can lose about a pound in one month; and over the course of a year, you can lose up to 15 lbs.”
Fruit and vegetable juices
Are you drinking ‘fruit juice’ or some beverage labeled ‘fruit drink’? The difference can mean extra calories and few nutrients, says Aaronson. “Read the label carefully,” cautions Aaronson. “If a juice label says that it’s ‘made with real fruit juice’, it may actually contain less than 10 percent of ‘real’ juice and about seven teaspoons of sugar. The best juice drinks to pick are those that say they contain ‘100 percent juice.’”
Choosing low-fat milks can help you save hundreds of calories each day, says Aaronson. Milk also contains vital nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin A that you won’t find in other beverages. Plus, it is recommended that you get three servings of dairy every day. To get the most from your milk, Aaronson says to choose 1 percent, 1/2 percent, or skim milk. With these options, you will still get all the nutrients your body needs but without the extra calories and fat.
Sports drinks and energy drinks
Although sports drinks replenish your body with electrolytes that help you retain water and stay hydrated, they still contain a lot of calories – one-half to one-third the amount of sugar you’ll find in soda. “Sports drinks were actually developed for endurance athletes,” explains Aaronson. “So if you plan to exercise for more than one continuous hour, then sports drinks are for you.”
If you are planning an evening of dinner and drinks, remember that you could have the calorie-equivalent to a whole meal in drinks only, before you’ve eaten anything at all. The average glass of wine has about 100 calories and a 12 oz. beer contains approximately 150 calories.
According to Aaronson, it’s not uncommon for a mixed drink to have about 300 calories and the decadent frozen drinks like daiquiris to have 500 or more calories each.
“Water is the single most important beverage that we can consume,” says Aaronson. “A person could drink only water and be just fine, as long as he supplements his diet with food sources that contain calcium and other nutrients that one may find in other beverages such as milk and juice.” In general, 80 percent of a person’s liquid calories should come from water depending on their height, weight, and where they live. That means the average adult should drink between 4 and 6 cups of water a day, which should be supplemented with milk and 100 percent juice to meet total daily liquid requirements. (SOURCE: University of Michigan)
Subscribe to our free newsletter and get articles and tips about your personal interests in your own inbox every week.SUBSCRIBE