Nutrition Articles

Danger Drinks and Healthy Alternatives

Healthy Eating Goes Beyond the Food You Eat

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You've been working hard at making healthy changes to your diet and exercising regularly to lose weight. But there's more to weight loss than watching what you eat; the beverages you drink can also affect your progress. Are you sabotaging your diet by drinking unhealthful things?

A recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared beverage intake and weight changes in more than 800 men and women ages 25 to 79. The research found that when subjects cut 100 calories of liquids from their diets, they lost more weight than when they had cut 100 calories in the form of food. That said, do you know how many calories you're drinking?

Below are some "danger" drinks, along with healthier alternatives that will help you get your beverage fix for fewer calories (and better nutrition).

Danger Drink #1: Soda
Sometimes our bodies crave sugar, and all too often, we answer the call by guzzling soda instead of choosing a healthier alternative. Sugar is one of the main reasons soda is unhealthy (and caloric), especially when you are trying to lose weight. It’s filled with empty calories. On average, a 12-ounce serving contains more than 110 calories and 8-10 teaspoons of sugar! Another problem is caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, serving to dehydrate the body. Even diet sodas can adversely affect weight loss; the artificial sweeteners can leave you craving more sweets, which may sabotage your efforts to eat healthier.
Rescue Drink: Seltzer or carbonated water
Instead of soda, try something that still has the refreshing carbonation you love but no added sweeteners. Swap out soda for seltzer water or flavored carbonated water and a slice of lemon or lime. This drink will help rehydrate you and not leave your taste buds asking for more sugar.
Danger Drink #2: Fancy coffees
Believe it or not, your cup of Joe does offer some health benefits. When adults consume coffee in moderation—and don't load it with sugar and cream—they can help decrease their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and more. On the flip side, when your coffee of choice is a caramel cappuccino, more than just a few calories sneak into your daily calorie allowance. Even a seemingly innocent blended iced coffee can have almost 200 calories—and that's one of the lower-calorie coffee drinks. Fancy coffee drinks are a prime example of how liquid calories can stack up.

If you start your day with a regular cup of Joe, be careful about how you dress it up. Sugar and creamers are not calorie free, so use as little as possible. If you take your coffee with three sugars and two creamers, you're adding about 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.
Rescue Drink: Plain coffee
Enjoying coffee in moderation (no more than two cups a day) can be part of a healthy diet. Try a low fat or fat-free creamer to add a satisfying creaminess to your morning java. Slowly taper your use of sugar and cream and go for flavored coffee beans to add taste without calories. Adjusting your taste buds might take some time, but it's worth it.
Danger Drink #3: Alcohol
Your social life shouldn’t run dry when you are trying to lose weight and get healthy. You can even go out to happy hour with friends if you're smart about your choices. A good rule is to avoid frozen drinks like margaritas, daiquiris and pina coladas. These drinks have enough calories to count as a meal, and they're rarely made with any real fruit; they usually contain corn syrup and artificial flavors. A 10-ounce pina colada has close to 550 calories—without cherries, pineapple or other garnishes. And the worst part is that it’s hard to stop at just one! When drinking alcohol, your willpower often slips, making it all that much harder to resist unhealthy foods.
Rescue Drink: "Mocktails" or light cocktails
When choosing what to drink while mingling, choose a light beer, dry wine or liquor mixed with soda water instead of sugar-loaded beverages. Even better, choose soda water with a splash of juice for a fizzy, festive and low-calorie drink. You'll save money and calories, and you won't have to worry about not being able to drive. Always drink a cup of water in between alcoholic beverages, and when you're hosting a party or get-together, offer low-calorie beverages for your guests. To see a few of SparkPeople’s diet-friendly alcohol suggestions, click here. Continued ›
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