Nutrition Articles

The Sneaky Calories You're Sipping On

Rethink Your Drink

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Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives, is often overlooked when it comes to calories. Although the beverage tastes great and is great for you, it does still contribute calories. A single serving of milk is 8 ounces, which is probably less than what many people pour at meals or on a big bowl of cereal in the morning. A tall dinner glass is about 12 to 16 ounces, which provides 132-168 calories if you choose skim. Fill your glass with 2% milk and that number jumps to 240 calories. These facts don’t discount the key nutrients found in milk that are healthful, but they hopefully encourage a proper serving size.

Many of us can’t function before 11 a.m. without our coffee. The brewed beverage is, by itself, calorie free, which makes it seem innocent. But with all the enticing additives offered by java joints, the numbers rise sharply. An 8 ounce latte made with whole milk is about 130 calories, but add flavored syrup, sugar and whipped cream on top and your drink now tops 200 calories. But when was the last time you ordered a latte that small? Once we bring up the tall, grande and venti sizes it’s a whole new ball game. A venti gingerbread latte with whole milk and whipped cream packs 440 calories into the cup. Granted, this is a large size, fully loaded, but it does a fine job of painting the picture of how many calories you could be drinking if you don't look up the facts beforehand.

Those who don’t drink coffee may turn to energy drinks to put pep in their step. Exercisers may also tend to favor energy drinks and sports drinks pre- or post-workout. These drinks may look tiny and taste light, but they can have up to 112 calories per cup. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade come in at about half that, around 60 calories per cup. But watch out: the bottles they come in can contain up to 32 ounces—not 8 ounces—which adds up to 240 calories per bottle.


Considering how cheap, accessible and delicious sweetened and caloric beverages are, it's easy to see how the average person consumes hundreds of calories per day from drinks alone. Those liquid calories add up fast for another reason, too: It's so easy to mindlessly drink beverages. If you’re sitting at your desk, driving your car, or watching a movie, it’s not hard to suck down a supersize beverage in 5 minutes without even feeling full or satisfied. Couple this with free refills, and you’ve completed an equation for calorie over-consumption!
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • Just enjoyed a mile walk and a smoothie made with I teaspoon of natural peanut butter, black berries, strawberries, papaya, banana, and almond milk. Yum Yum :-) - 1/26/2016 8:16:28 PM
  • DANDYLINES
    Your research on alternatives for milk is not necessarily true - needs some tweaking.
    - 1/26/2016 3:53:30 PM
  • I gave up "drinking my calories" years ago! I consume soda only if desperate and there is no other choice (fortunately that occurs rarely), juice very occasionally and I prefer my coffee black. Just thinking about the calories in some of the coffee drinks is enough to keep me from choosing them. Water is my beverage of choice along with my flavoured morning coffee and a cup of green tea in the evening. - 1/26/2016 11:24:24 AM
  • Very informative. I don't like to drink water, but I've learned to put lemon or orange slices in it, sometimes a sprig of fresh mint and go for it. When fresh fruit isn't available, I put an once of fruit juice in 8 or more ounces of water and go for it. - 1/25/2016 7:36:13 PM
  • MS_GODDESS
    Like many others, I just make my morning coffee at home so I can control (and accurately track!) the calories I add. I also have started ordering water to drink in restaurants. ($2.50 for a glass of iced tea?!?!?!?!) I'm not big on juice or juice drinks, so my biggest downfall at home is soda. I have discovered that sodas made with my SodaStream have fewer calories, so I feel a little better about that, but still try to limit my intake to weekends. - 1/25/2016 10:21:57 AM
  • The concluding paragraph saying that you don't have to give up the beverages you're drinking - it should be noted that maybe soda shouldn't be included, if only for health reasons. - 1/22/2016 11:13:45 PM
  • Rather than buying a mocha (300 to 500 calories) I make my own, to my morning coffee, I add a packet of hot chocolate mix (80 calories for regular; less than 10 for sugar free).

    I also make my own fruit drinks . . . in one glass of water, drop one frozen strawberry (or any frozen fruit, blueberries are great). Can add sweetener, if you like. - 1/21/2016 1:53:50 PM
  • Great article. I do know how many calories are in these beverages. I have been drinking black coffee and water for a very long time but a few years back started drinking a grande mocha from star bucks. I usually drink this on Saturday for breakfast and have it with skim milk. 350 to 400 calories for breakfast once a week is good for me. I don't drink pop or juice at all but I give my granddaughter juice and my grandson drinks chocolate milk. I will need to watch out on their calories as well. - 2/19/2015 9:43:37 AM
  • This has been one of the most helpful and healthful things I've done so far is to stop adding beverages to my meals. (It's cheaper too.) I don't miss them (I thought I would) and it's caused me to take a liking to water! I never used to drink enough water, and now I enjoy it. I agree beverage calories add up fast, and it's too easy to overlook portions in a store-bought beverage. It's also way too easy for me to order a beverage when I eat out, and the refills appear like magic, and then I get a take-home cup because I'm hooked on whatever I've been sipping through the whole meal. Water is so much better - now when I eat out, I get a take-home cup of water too. Obviously there are many other adjustments I need to make to eat healthier, but this was a huge one. - 11/25/2014 2:19:19 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    Where do these so called "Studies" get their answers from, where are the people living? I haven't drank anything but black coffee since 2004, never drank soda of any kind, and only drink a few sips of water for my daily thyroid med..............
    .......I don't buy any of those juices, they keep advertising, no kid's drinks, nothing. Plain water doesn't cut it for me, black coffee is just fine, can be decaf, doesn't matter, it's the taste I enjoy, not the caffeine. - 11/25/2014 12:54:17 PM
  • 10 months after I last read this article and left a comment, I have gradually reduced my morning OJ. Now it's only 4 oz not 8 and I'm using the "juice glasses" that got pushed to the back of my cabinet as portion sizes increased. - 11/25/2014 7:42:16 AM
  • In 1992 I decided that I would never drink another calorie after breakfast (coffee-almost black and OJ - 8 oz). I want to chew and crunch my calories. Since I don't want artificial sweeteners either, it's water for the rest of the day. I don't mind at all.

    I credit that decision with my not having double the weight to lose when I finally decided to get serious. - 1/17/2014 8:57:02 AM
  • I can't drink large quantities of straight water because it upsets my stomach. However, I can add a lot of things to it. Lately, I've opted for the lazy 5 cal packets per small bottle (16-20 oz). I usually care a liter of flavored no-cal sparkling water in the car. Drunk hot, it has a little zing. - 5/21/2013 8:19:13 PM
  • I try very hard not to drink my calories. They are not filling calories and hardly ever serve a nutritional purpose. - 5/21/2013 7:51:42 AM
  • I like to eat my calories. If I drink something besides water, it's probably going to be zero calories. I do have an afternoon coffee with cream every once in a while but it's not a daily thing.

    I am lucky, though. I live where the tap water is delicious. - 5/21/2013 5:59:22 AM

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