Nutrition Tip of the Week

Author: Nadea S. Minet, MS, RD, LD

Week of February 11, 2013

Be Leery of Liquid Calories

You are exercising four times a week, cutting out fatty and sugary food, stocking up on salads, watching what you put on your plate, and yet you still are not shedding the weight as quickly as you hoped. Or maybe you are looking for ways to cut your calorie intake in general.  Are you watching what is in that mug, glass or cup?  If not, you could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.  Beverages are undoubtedly the greatest source of hidden, mostly empty calories in our diets and they are an easy place to start evaluating your intake because you could be drinking, rather than eating too many calories.  Even those that are positioned as super-healthy, like grapefruit juice and orange juice, can pack 100 calories in 8 ounces. And most of us do not drink just 8 ounces.

Well accumulating evidence shows that our bodies have a hard time registering calories from beverages in the count towards satiety.  Unfortunately, these beverage’s calories still score in our energy balance.  This is why the extra calories in beverages are just extra—much like items that didn’t go into the budget, but will nevertheless have to be paid.  Previous research suggests that a fluid consistency leads to less satiety.  Beverages require less chewing, and travel faster through the stomach and the intestine, explaining the lower satiety effect.  Here are a few tips to reduce your liquid calories intake so you can keep shedding those pounds.

Drink plenty of water.  Whether you drink regular or flavored water made from natural fruit essence, it is hydrating, refreshing and calorie-free. A good goal to shoot for is 64 oz. per day.

Juice.  Juice is often high in calories and can sabotage your weight loss efforts, or worse, contribute to weight gain!! Try eating the whole fruit, which will satisfy your appetite (largely due to the bulk and fiber content), provide you with more nutrition (vitamins and minerals) and decrease the amount of calories you consume.

Soda Pop and Sports Drinks.  These beverages frequently come in supersized portions and contain huge amounts of sugar and empty calories. If you are craving a soda or sports drink, try a diet version to limit your sugar and caloric intake. Some practices may even recommend avoiding all carbonated beverages; check with you health care professionals for further information and follow their recommendations as to what is best for you.

Coffee.  Black coffee is calorie-free but adding creamer, sugar or flavored syrups can make coffee as caloric as an entire meal!! For a healthy, but tasty coffee beverage, use nonfat, 1 % or light soymilk and sweeten it with a teaspoon or single packet of sugar, calorie-free artificial sweetener or sugar-free flavored syrup.  Some practices may recommend avoiding coffee all together due to it’s caffeine content; be sure to check with you health care professionals for further information and follow their recommendations as to what is best for you.

Soups.  Soup does have a higher satiety value than most calorie containing beverages, possibly for mere cognitive reasons; however it is still easy to overdue it on soup too.  Creamed soups can have hidden calories when made with whole milk or heavy cream that can add up fast.  If you are going to consume soup, try a low-fat option or a broth-based soup, which tend to be lower in calories.

Protein shakes.  Yes, it’s true! Even protein drinks do not satisfy the appetite the way protein foods do. While one might think a protein drink is entirely a good thing, protein foods (solid calories) have been proven to reduce appetite and increase satiety more so than protein shakes (liquid calories).  If you turn a solid protein food into a protein drink, it loses some of its appetite suppressive properties in the same way that happens when you turn fruit into fruit juice.  If you are not able to tolerate solid protein foods, a protein shake is a great option, just be sure to count the calories obtained from the shake.

Cut down on alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are high in calories and dehydrate the body. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, make sure you drink in moderation. For women, that means no more than one alcoholic drink a day and for men, it is no more than two alcoholic drinks a day.  Some practices may even recommend avoiding all alcoholic beverages; check with you health care professionals for further information and follow their recommendations as to what is best for you.  If alcohol is allowed, here are some guidelines to follow without compromising your commitment to a healthy lifestyle after weight loss surgery:

Guidelines for drinking alcohol:

  • Avoid alcohol for the first six months after bariatric surgery.
  • If/when you get permission to start drinking alcohol again, avoid carbonated beverages and sugary drink mixers.
  • Remember, after surgery even small amounts of alcohol can cause intoxication and low blood sugar.
  • Never drink and drive, even after consuming only minimal alcohol.
  • Only drink with meals or while eating to help slow absorption of alcohol.
  • Be aware of the calorie content of alcohol.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but beverages can be just, if not more, caloric as some sugary treats. Take your morning trip to your favorite coffee house. While it is undoubtedly hurtful to your pocket, depending on what you drink, a trip to the coffee shop can be just as bad for your waistline.

It is also important to remember fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties; they do not suppress hunger as well as solid food; and they do not provoke compensatory dietary responses. In fact, when drinking fluid calories, people often end up eating more calories overall throughout the day.

However, they definitely have a significant place in the healthy eating plan.  I encourage everyone to include hydrating foods in their diet, including but not limited to stews, fruit and vegetables. It is important to understand that hydration does not have always come from drinking water. Stay hydrated for good health and to continue to Celebrate your weight loss success.

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