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Thirst-Quenchers or Weight-Gainers?

You may be reaching for a chilled or bubbly beverage while you read this! But before you take that first sip, check out this terrific exerpt from the timely new book, Go UnDiet by Gloria Tsang, RD to help you make the most healthful (not to mention waist friendly) beverage selections:


What Happened to Water?

Our beverage consumption patterns have shifted markedly during the 20th century, and they continue to evolve. In his study,[i] Dr. Barry Popkin found an increase in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Findings from the American Heart Association back this up as well. The AHA found that over the past 30 years, our total calorie intake has increased about 150–300 calories per day – and half of that increase comes from liquid calories, primarily in the form of sweetened drinks[ii]. In fact, across all age groups, from toddlers to senior citizens, we now drink more calorie-containing drinks than we drink water. In particular, adults aged 19–39 drink an average of 533 calories every day![iii] That’s equal to a whole extra meal, and sugar-sweetened drinks are the main contributor to that stack of extra calories.

So, what exactly is considered a sugar-sweetened drink? I’m sure you know that soda is sweetened, but we drink a lot of sweetened beverages that fall outside the soda category.

Sugar-sweetened Drink (per 8 oz.) Calories
Slurpee, 7-11, Coca-Cola Classic 65
Iced Tea, Arizona – Lemon 90
Sunny D Tangy Original 90
Coca-Cola – Regular 93
SoBe Energize Mango Melon 120
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry 120
Rockstar Energy Drink 140
White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino Blended Beverage, Starbucks 240
Strawberry Milkshake, McDonald’s 280
Milkshake, Cold Stone’s PB&C 670

Table 12. Calories in sugar-sweetened drinks

The worst part is, not only are these sweetened drinks high in calories, but those calories don’t give you a feeling of being full. That means that although you consume extra calories through your drinks, you don’t end up eating any less food – so your total calorie intake just keeps creeping up each time you drink a sweetened beverage.

So, think about why you’re consuming that beverage – is it really because you’re thirsty? If so, stick to drinks that actually re-hydrate your body without filling you up with sugar. Calorie-free tap water is a good choice, but tonic water with 125 calories may not be as good. A cup of green tea is a good choice, but a bottle of iced green tea with 200 calories may not be as good.


Go UnDiet Action #26: Un-drink your calories.

Drinks are meant to replenish your body’s fluids – so good drink choices are those that do just that, without a ton of calories.


[i] Popkin BM. Patterns of beverage use across the lifecycle. Physiol Behav. 2010;100(1):4-9.

[ii] Johnson RK et al. for the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009; 120:1011-20.

[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006.


Source: Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Copyright @2010, Gloria Tsang, RD,

What’s your favorite summer drink? And how do you keep your liquid calories in check?

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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