floating button
drinking your calories

Drinking Your Calories

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are Liquid Calories Keeping You from Losing Weight?

Are you watching what you eat and wondering why you aren’t seeing the change you’d like on the scale? The problem may not be with what you’re eating but rather what you’re drinking.

It’s easy to forget about the liquid calories you consume every day. Your Starbucks habit, the juice you have with breakfast, a sip of soda here, a glass of wine there, a margarita at your favorite Mexican restaurant — these calories really start to add up, and quickly. With the exception of water and diet drinks (which aren’t necessarily a healthy alternative), most drinks contain calories.

With these beverages, not only are you adding calories but you’re also adding “empty calories.” Unlike the calories in food, which fill up your stomach and trigger it to signal your brain that you’re full, your body responds differently to liquid calories. It may not even register the calories you’re drinking. Think about it — if you have a soda or glass of wine with dinner, do you eat any less food than if you were to drink only water?

Liquid calories are simply extra calories that make it harder for you to lose weight. They may even be causing you to gain weight. If you’re tracking calories to lose weight, you must account for those liquid calories. That means you’ll have to consume less food to stay within your daily quota. All in all, you may find yourself feeling hungrier than if you simply drank water instead.

In addition to calories, sweetened drinks also contain carbohydrates, which aren’t doing you any favors either. How many carbs and calories are we talking about? Here’s a look at the approximate carb and calorie counts for some popular beverages. (Unless otherwise noted, all of the following figures refer to a serving of 12 ounces.)

  • Soda: 182 calories | 35g carbs
  • 32-ounce sweet tea: 138 calories | 38g carbs
  • Apple juice, unsweetened: 160 calories | 38g carbs
  • Tomato/vegetable juice: 80 calories | 15g carbs
  • Cranberry juice cocktail: 180 calories | 45g carbs
  • Sports drink: 80 calories | 21g carbs
  • Whole milk: 220 calories | 16g carbs
  • 2% low-fat milk: 183 calories | 17g carbs
  • 1% low-fat milk: 154 calories | 17g carbs
  • Soy milk: 147-191 calories | 23g carbs
  • Café latte with whole milk (16 ounces): 230 calories | 19g carbs
  • Chai tea latte with 2% milk (16 ounces): 270 calories | 45g carbs
  • Beer: 150 calories | 12g carbs
  • Wine (5 ounces): 125 calories | 3.8g carbs
  • Liquor (1.5 ounces): 100 calories | 0g carbs

What can you do to cut the calorie and carb counts for your favorite drinks? Try these tips.

  • Order coffee and espresso drinks with nonfat milk.
  • Skip the whipped cream and toppings.
  • Watch portion sizes.
  • Avoid soy milk. (Soy milk adds 40-50 calories to one 16-ounce drink).
  • Request sugar-free syrup. Sugar-free syrup is available in a variety of flavors, from vanilla to hazelnut, caramel and cinnamon. Sugar-free syrups add sweetness but zero calories and zero grams of fat to your drink.
  • Brew your own coffee and drink it black or with unsweetened almond milk.
  • Drink unsweetened green tea instead of sweet tea.
  • Drink water enhancers or unsweetened tea instead of juice.
  • Substitute almond milk for regular dairy milk.
  • Try sugar-free soda or sparkling flavored water instead of soda.
  • Opt for a “skinny” vodka and soda instead of a margarita (or skip the alcohol altogether).

Of course, sticking to water is always your best choice. Making smart choices when it comes to what you drink can help you reach your weight loss goals and avoid weight gain.