Written by Elizabeth Boham, MD
Stop Drinking Your Calories!

Stop Drinking Your Calories!

It’s the afternoon, you’ve had a long day, and you’re looking for a pick-me-up. You go into your favorite coffee shop for a drink, and the next thing you know, you have consumed 200-300 calories. Depending on your age and activity level, this may be 20% of the calories that your body needs in a day. The worst thing about this habit is that most of these calories are coming from added sugar, which has no nutritional value. Everyone knows that we should be avoiding soda, but many of us are not thinking about the easily consumed calories in our caffeinated drinks, like added honey or sugar in our coffee and tea.  Here are the top four reasons to stop drinking your calories:

 

  1. Weight gain – Research shows that substituting water (or unsweetened tea/coffee) for sugary beverages helps everyone lose weight.  It is easy for extra calories to sneak into your day when you drink them. Many of us are looking to drop a few or more pounds and the first thing to change is to stop drinking anything with added calories. Avoid sweetened iced tea, coffee drinks, soda, juice or juice drinks, gatorade and other sports drinks, and sweetened kombucha. Work on refraining from adding any sweeteners (including honey and agave) to your drinks. If this is new for you, don’t worry, you and your taste buds will adjust to the change. But don’t substitute with artificial sweeteners either! After a couple of weeks, your tastes will change and you will not be so hooked on sweetened beverages. If you want to learn more about why you should be avoiding artificial sweeteners, you can watch me discussing this with Dr Oz. Part 1 and Part 2.

 

  1.  Empty calories. Whenever I counsel someone about nutrition, I always focus on nutrient density. What does this mean? You want to get the best bang for your buck — so choose food that has the most nutrients per calorie. A good example of a nutrient dense food is broccoli. Broccoli is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and is low in calories. On the other hand, a frappuccino is a good example of a nutrient poor, high calorie food.

 

  1. Liquid calories do not help you feel full. Fiber, healthy fats, and protein help us feel full. Sugar sweetened beverages do not help us feel full. Fiber is found in vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds. Most Americans are deficient in fiber; in fact, less than 5 % of Americans are meeting the recommended daily intake of 25-38 grams of fiber. Often, people are fooled into buying foods with “whole grain” labels. Instead, reach for fiber-rich whole foods without labels.  Mix beans and legumes into soups, throw some nuts or seeds onto your salad, add ground flaxseeds into your shake, and bulk up on vegetables. Try to eat 3-4 cups of vegetables every day. These fiber-rich foods help you feel more satisfied than a sugary drink, which will help you cut down on unnecessary calories.

 

  1. Insulin resistance. Sweetened beverages are quickly absorbed into the body. As a result, our insulin needs to respond quickly in an effort to keep our blood sugar in control. If we are regularly consuming sugary drinks, our insulin gets worn out and we develop insulin resistance. This means that the body needs to make more and more insulin as the hormone becomes less effective. Insulin resistance is associated with weight gain, especially around the midsection, as well as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and infertility.

 

So, the next time you go into your favorite coffee shop, get an herbal tea without any added sweeteners, or a black coffee. With this simple change, you’ll quickly notice how much better you begin to feel!

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