Nutrition Articles

Danger Drinks and Healthy Alternatives

Healthy Eating Goes Beyond the Food You Eat

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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Member Comments

  • When my family wants to eat at McD's or anywhere else that offers tea, I fill 1/4 of the cup with the Sweet Tea and fill the rest of the cup with Unsweetened Tea. Still tastes sweet and takes the bitter out of the unsweet tea. - 2/11/2015 3:36:48 PM
  • Didn't they find that lower fat versions of milk and milk products contain other questionable ingredients to make up for the fat/flavor loss? I do not drink Milk, but I have found that when I use cream, I use real half and half and I use less than if I used a "low fat" version of it. It is all a gimmick to get us hooked on whatever they can. They lie to us and tell us things are healthy all the time. We are rats in a big unorthodox experiment and until we open our eyes and realize anything packaged is likely not good for us! - 1/21/2015 11:28:19 AM
    I would advocate lowfat over skim milk. - 2/23/2014 2:22:55 PM
    A nice drink for summer is a jug of plain water with a sliced lemon and a handful of mint leaves added and kept in the fridge. The flavour is pleasant , refreshing, and not to strong. - 11/19/2013 5:43:12 AM
    Presumably when you talk of soda you mean something like lemonade or orangeade, fizzy sickly drinks. Soda to us Aussies is carbonated water with no sugar whatsoever. I hope this is reasonably healthy though I know that some people think that the fizziness is not healthy. I wonder why? - 11/19/2013 5:36:50 AM
  • Very interesting. A study in my newspaper this morning (3/20/13) said that skim milk contributed more to obesity in children than whole milk. The rationale was that skim milk did not make them feel "full" so they ate high fat snacks to satisfy their hunger. A Very interesting study... Made me think, "God knew what He was doing when He created milk." :) - 3/20/2013 2:59:08 PM
  • Replace milkshakes with smoothies? No thanks. While smoothies made at home may be better for you, so are milkshakes made at home...and a smoothie from some place like Jamba Juice might be absolutely DEVASTATING when it comes to calories. - 3/20/2013 12:28:53 PM
  • Besides alcohol, I think I do pretty good. I drink beer rather regularly, but not excessively. Usually one or two a day a couple times a week. Beer is just one of those things I could never give up entirely. Other than that I mostly drink water, plain tea, and black coffee, and sometimes I'll make a fruit smoothie or have fruit juice, and rarely will I have a low sugar soda. - 3/20/2013 10:57:39 AM
  • Any thoughts on Simply Lemonade or Raspberry flavor? I drink water and a lot of fresh fruit green smoothies but since we stopped by coke I use SL to fill that void. - 3/16/2013 1:05:18 PM
  • BB19861
    I just tried a great all natural clear liquid water infusion product called Water Sensation, it really tastes great and their is nothing artifical in the product. Go to infuseyourwater.c
    om for free samples!!! - 2/11/2013 12:58:59 PM
  • ROBYN878
    I agree juice contain to many artificial flavorings

    - 10/21/2012 5:46:07 PM
  • Thank you DANASEILHAN for pointing out that low-fat and skim milk are NOT the better alternatives to whole milk. I have said for years that the only time that low fat and skim milks are better than whole milk is in a beaker. Vitamins A and D, which are added to almost all milks here in the US, are fat-soluble, which means that you HAVE to have the higher fat content in whole milk just to absorb them into your body. Granted, you get get vitamin D from the sun, but when coupled with all the high SPF sunscreens, you're back to needing it in your food.

    Here's the funny, people. Humans are the only creatures (as a whole) on the planet that: 1) drink milk after weaning, and 2) drink the milk/eat the milk product of other animals (Feeding cats milk is not good for them). Cow's milk is NOT essential to healthy diet, but it is an easy way to get calcium. For an interesting article, please see http://www.mtcapr
    k-vs-cow-milk/ - 10/10/2012 12:03:23 PM
  • We make our own smoothies at home every morning for breakfast (just with coffee for me), with a bagel for my boys. 1 Banana, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup frozen mixed berries and/or 1/2 cup semi thawed strawberries, 1 whole apple (minus seeds), 1/2 cup of real fruit juice (flavour varies with our whim), whirl it up in the food processor and I'm off to suck and chew my smoothie. It's how I get fruit into my boys - 5 a day minimum fruit goes into theirs...they love it too. - 8/1/2012 12:51:22 AM
  • I love water but I need flavor at times also. What are people's opinions on mio or crystal light? I dont drink alcohol or soda. I dont drink protein shakes or milkshakes or juice. - 7/4/2012 6:33:16 PM
  • Yay - generally I drink the right stuff. Mostly water, sometimes juice, sometimes wine, and every so-often a green tea or a fruit infusion.

    One thing to note - Grapefruit can affect contraceptive pills, so if you're drinking that, make sure it doesn't have any unintended effects! - 2/20/2012 3:48:46 AM

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