An astounding portion of the calories in a standard diet come from an unexpected source: drinks. While most diet plans are quick to forbid calories and carbs, they are often too vague or too jargon-laden for the average person to realize just how damaging beverages can be to their weight loss plans. Some beverages, however, are very good for weight loss plans, and for health in general, and some drinks can be tweaked to make them more enjoyable, or more healthy.
Water and Juices – A strong alternative to sodas
Cold water has long been touted as a “negative calorie” food, as there are no calories in water, but calories are expended as the water is warmed in the stomach. This is true, but don’t expect to lose weight just by drinking water. A “calorie” is the amount of energy that it takes to raise a the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius, and a dietary calorie is one thousand of these units, so unless one drinks a gallon of nearly frozen water, drinking cold aqua isn’t going to be significant.
That having been said, water is an important nutrient that too many people get primarily from sweetened drinks and juices. Drinking plain water is a great way to incorporate water into the diet without the extra calories.
If plain water is too boring, there are no-calorie flavor additives on the market, although most of these contain artificial flavors and colors. Slicing up a favorite fruit and adding that to a water bottle can flavor the water while adding minimal calories and still getting some of the vitamins and minerals found in that fruit.
On that note, juice was listed above as a high-calorie source of many people’s water intake. It might not be good to shy away from fruit-juice all together, as fruit juice can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. Many fruit juices on the market, however, have added sugars, flavors, colors, and preservatives that make them diet-wreckers for those trying to lose weight, and anyone trying to eat and drink healthy. Look for juices that are one hundred percent fruit to avoid these additives. Some people try to stay away from fruit juice from concentrate, but there’s really no nutritional difference. Fruit juice shouldn’t be seen as a fruit-substitute, however, as whole fruits carry a great deal of fiber with them.
Hot Drinks – coffee without the calories
Coffee is another popular drink with a lot of health potential that is often twisted into something unhealthy. While sweetened and flavored coffee is a huge source of calories for many, black coffee by itself is regularly found to have health benefits, not to mention its caffeine content can help give a little boost to the immune system. The acidity of coffee can be too much for some people, and there’s nothing wrong with cutting it with milk. That frothy coffee-shop texture can be achieved without the added flavours and sweeteners to, as it just comes from steamed milk. Try ordering a standard order like a mocha, or a latte, but without an added flavor.
Teas can be another less-bitter source of caffeine, with more variety and more health benefits than coffee. Because teas aren’t usually as bitter, they can usually be more enjoyable without a sweetener, although a little bit of honey can go a long way in a grean tea, and many black teas go well with milk. Watch out for bottled teas in the stores, as these almost always contain added sweeteners, which can add calories to a usually nearly-calorie-free beverage.
If traditional green and black teas are still too bitter, there are a lot of options in herbal or fruit based teas. These teas don’t have as many additional health benefits as old-world teas, they are never caffeinated, and fruit teas usually have a few extra calories, but they are still a healthy and flavorful drink option that will be a welcome addition to any diet.
Hard Drinks – What to drink if you’re going to
Of course no article about drinks and the diet is complete without a discussion of alcohol. Alcohol is itself an energy yielding nutrient, with more calories per ounce than fats, but fewer than carbohydrates. For this reason, even the healthiest choice of drinks is going to have quite a few calories. Of course, some drinks have more than others.
While no alcoholic drink is a friend to the diet, wine has been found to have several health benefits when consumed in moderation. Many of these health benefits can be found in grape juice, or grapes, though some come from the aging process. Furthermore, all of the sugars in most wines come from the fruits that the wine is made from, so it’s not terribly high in sugar from calories. It is worth noting, however, that while wine has somehow gotten a reputation as a weaker drink (often considered “feminine” by ultra-macho beer drinkers) wine actually has a higher alcohol content than most beers, so it will also have a few calories just from the alcohol.
As for beer, it usually has more ingredients than wine, and in many cases that includes sweeteners. Many craft beers (which also tend to have a higher alcohol content) use sweeteners like fruits, sugars, chocolates, molasses, and others, which can affect the calorie-count of the beer. Because beer is made from wheat rather than fruit, it can also have a higher carb-count than wine (and more carbs means more calories). Many breweries make calorie-reduced (“lite”) beers, which should be a consideration to any who may be trying to cut calories without gutting their coolers.
Many stronger spirits and liquors like vodka, whiskey, and rum contain fewer calories from added sweeteners, but remember that these drinks also have a significantly higher alcohol content, which means a significantly higher calorie count.
It should be noted that there is a difference between “liquor” and “liqueur” with the latter being heavily sweetened, making them a no-go for weight watchers. Also, those who can’t stay away from their mix-drinks for the sake of their diets should (get help with their drinking and) stay away from drinks that contain “simple syrup” which is literally just sugar and water.