Today I want to discuss a very simple, yet effective, strategy to improve your health and your waistline….don’t drink your calories!!
Specifically, I’m referring to sugar and/or fat laden drinks, such as fancy coffee drinks, soda, juice, energy drinks and others similar to this. These types of drinks can be a hidden source of very high amounts of unhealthy calories!
Why, might you ask?
Well, I think it’s pretty well established and agreed upon that sugar is bad for our health. There are those that argue a small amount of added sugar a day is permissible, but many health and wellness advocates, myself included, recommend avoiding any added sugar as much as possible. To make matters worse, many of the specialty coffee drinks contain a ridiculous amount of fat as well. High amounts of sugar + high amounts of fat (especially unhealthy fats) = bad for your health (and your waistline!).
These various types of drinks are engineered by food scientists (yes you heard that correctly) to not only taste good, but to be consumed quickly and trigger a dopamine response (which makes you feel good) further prompting you to make a return visit and buy more!
High calorie beverages are so dangerous because not only do they taste good, but they are sooooooo easy to consume. Drinking is much easier than eating, both from a conscious and subconscious perspective. Putting a straw or a can to your lips and swallowing is technically much easier, and more convenient, than chewing food. After it’s in your body, sugary and/or fatty liquids are much more rapidly absorbed causing more rapid increased in blood sugar (and higher risk for an impending blood sugar crash) putting you at risk for the dreaded and dangerous blood sugar “roller coaster”. Also, sugary beverages tend to contain much higher amounts of sugar and/or fat than snack foods, making it more likely to consume 2-3 times more calories than you would if you were eating your snack. All of this puts you in an endless cycle of fluctuating blood sugar and craving more sugar when the blood sugar crashes. These sugar and/or fat calories are quickly absorbed and put you at risk for being stored as visceral fat (fat around the organs—very, very bad) as well as subcutaneous fat (bodyfat—the dreaded blubber). The blood sugar “roller coaster” can put you at risk for eventual insulin resistance which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, cancer and a whole host of other really bad things!
These sugary beverages, as mentioned above, oftentimes contain a ridiculous amount of sugar in them. Here are some examples:
- Starbucks Venti (biggest size, 20 oz), whole milk, white chocolate mocha has 619 calories, 26 grams of fat (17 g saturated) and a whopping 74 grams of sugar!!! Oh wait, you ordered a “healthy” version, size tall (12 oz) made with skim milk? This has 277 calories with almost 8 grams of fat (4 saturated) and 39 grams of sugar…..a far cry from “healthy” and, sorry, but the skim milk doesn’t make it good for you. Most of the other custom Starbucks drinks fall somewhere within this same spectrum. I think you get the point!
- Soda comes in various sizes, all of which contain loads and loads of sugar, except if you drink diet soda (which I do not recommend either but that’s another post in and of itself).
- Fruit juice. Healthy, right? No, sorry, it’s not. Whole fruit is healthy because it contains all the fiber (slows digestion) and nutrients you don’t get when you turn it into juice. Plus, when you eat a piece of fruit (take an orange for example), you typically only eat one piece. When it comes to fruit juice, it typically takes several pieces of fruit to squeeze out one serving of juice. For example, instead of 10-20 grams of naturally occurring sugar in a piece of fruit, it’s easy to consume 40+ grams of sugar in a glass of fruit juice! The same principle applies….don’t drink your calories!
Those are just a few examples of thousands of unhealthy beverages that exist in our society.
If you are “addicted” to any of these calorie laden beverages, a quick and easy start on your path to better health is to give these up!! I realize this is easier said than done so I will give some tips on some healthier alternatives.
I personally have seen dramatic results take place when people simply give up their high calorie drink habit. I have seen people lose 10, 20, and even 30 lbs of bodyfat just by simply doing this! I have heard other stories of people losing as much as 50 lbs or more by ditching their soda or mocha frappucino habit!
I totally recognize that quitting this habit can be very tough. Sugar is highly addictive and our brains like the reward of the sugary/fatty beverages. It will take some discipline as you wean yourself off and give your taste buds some time to adjust away from the highly palatable drink habit. The first week or two will be hard, no doubt, but you will eventually be able to break your habit for good.
My beverage recommendations:
- Plain old water. Squeeze some lemon or lime into it. Put a pinch of pink Himilayan sea salt in as well. This combo will not only be hydrating, but might have a bit of a “detoxifying” effect as well.
- Naturally flavored sparkling water. This market has exploded…and for good reason. I absolutely love carbonation and these hit the spot for me. There are many brands out there…Waterloo, LaCroix, Ice Mountain, Bubly, and most stores, like Costco and Kroger, even have their own brand. The key is to ensure it is just carbonated water and natural flavor. Make sure there is no sugar (obviously) and no artificial sweeteners. These drinks should have ZERO calories.
- Plain ‘ol coffee. Yeah, I know, it isn’t very sexy but it’s much better than these high sugar and high fat coffee drinks. If you can’t stomach black coffee, it’s perfectly acceptable to add some cream (½ and ½ or even heavy cream) to make it more palatable. If you like more flavor be creative and add some natural cinnamon powder along with it. Avoid adding sweetened creamers as these are equally as bad as the fancy coffee drinks.
- Eat fruit, not fruit juice. A piece or two of fruit a day can be part of a healthy diet. Fruit juice is not part of a healthy diet (as mentioned earlier).
- Unsweetened tea. Black tea, green tea, chai tea, herbal tea….it’s all good assuming you drink it unsweetened. Tea contains antioxidants and contains much less caffeine than coffee (if you are caffeine sensitive). Drink it hot or cold—however you prefer.
I hope you found this helpful, and if you do have an addiction to a high calorie beverage, I hope you consider giving it up! Your health, and your waistline, will thank you!
I’d like to hear from you in the comments! Have any of you successfully quit a sugary drink habit? If so, what kind of positive health results did you achieve?
In good health,