Skinny Sipping: Drink Pounds Away
Many of us watch what we eat but not what we drink when on a diet. That’s a mistake. The average American gets a fifth of daily calories from beverages. Choosing the right drinks can tweak your metabolism, curb your appetite, and reduce your total calorie count. Which drinks are spoilers and which are helpers on the path to weight loss?
Every time you chug a bottle of soda, you’re consuming 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 results in weight loss. Some studies show a short-term benefit. Others find diet soda drinkers gain weight. If your calorie intake exceeds what you burn off, just switching to diet soda may not do the trick.
Replacing carbonated soft drinks with water will cut hundreds of calories per day, and the benefits don’t stop there. Drinking two glasses of water before a meal may encourage the stomach to feel full more quickly, so you don’t eat as much. In addition, new research suggests drinking plenty of water may have a positive effect on your metabolism.
Jury’s Out: Fruit Juice
Juice can have as many calories as soda, but it has far more to offer in the way of nutrients. This presents a dilemma – you want the vitamins and antioxidants without all the extra sugar. The safest bet: Look for 100% fruit juice. Steer clear of juice drinks that have added sweeteners. Look for the percent of real juice, noted on the nutritional label. You can also slash calories by drinking water with a tiny bit of juice added.
Helper: Vegetable Juice
Vegetable juice is every bit as nutritious as fruit juice with about half the calories. One cup of tomato juice has 41 calories, compared to 122 calories for orange juice. Choosing juice with pulp provides some fiber, too, which can help control hunger.
Blend a banana, strawberries, and blueberries into a frothy smoothie, and you’ve got a delicious arsenal of disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. The homemade variety is best when you’re counting calories, because you can control the ingredients – skim milk and fresh or frozen fruit are all you need. Restaurant smoothies may contain 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, but calcium probably won’t help you lose weight, new research now reveals. Some earlier studies suggested calcium may prompt the body to burn more fat, but there’s little evidence to support these claims. To get the benefits of calcium without getting extra fat, stick to skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Spoiler: Energy Drinks
Sports and energy drinks are calorie bombs like soda. They may have more added nutrients, but you can find the same vitamins and minerals in low-calorie foods. People who are serious about losing weight should stay hydrated with water rather than sports drinks.
Helper: Black Coffee
When you need a shot of caffeine, coffee is a better choice than soda or energy drinks. Black coffee is calorie-free and rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that consuming moderate amounts of coffee (about 3 to 4 cups a day) may improve mood and concentration, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer.
Spoiler: Fancy Coffee
Once you add heavy cream, flavored syrups, and/or a snowcap of whipped cream, that innocent mug of black coffee becomes a minefield of fat and sugar.