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The Truth about Liquid Calories

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tracking calories can be tricky, but many people miss one big category of calories altogether: liquid calories.

With the exception of water and diet beverages, most drinks contain at least some calories, and it can be easy to quickly rack up the calorie count on drinks such as coffee beverages and juices. These extra calories add up, increasing your daily caloric intake and getting in the way of your weight loss goals.

It’s not just the calorie count that can be a problem; it’s how your body processes those calories. When you consume calories by eating food, you also fill up your stomach, signaling to your brain that you’re full. Your body responds differently to liquid calories. It doesn’t register all those calories, leading you to eat just as much to feel full. For example, if you drink a soda or sweet tea with dinner, you likely won’t eat any less food than if you were to drink water with your meal.

Unless you’re counting them, liquid calories are essentially “extra” calories that can lead to weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

Just how many calories are in your favorite drink? Here’s a look at the calorie count for some of the most common beverages. (These numbers are for a 12-ounce serving size unless otherwise noted.)

Soda: 124–189 calories
Diet soda: 0–7 calories
Bottled sweet tea: 129–143 calories
Unsweetened tea: 4 calories
Apple juice, unsweetened: 169–175 calories
Tomato/vegetable juice: 80 calories
Cranberry juice cocktail: 205 calories
Sports drink: 99 calories
Fitness water: 18 calories
Whole milk: 220 calories
2% low-fat milk: 183 calories
1% low-fat milk: 154 calories
Soy milk: 147-191 calories
Café latte with whole milk (16 ounces): 265 calories
Beer: 150 calories
Wine (5 ounces): 125 calories
Liquor (1.5 ounces): 100 calories

Stick with plain water or water flavored with low-calorie sweeteners, and/or low-fat or skim milk. Sparkling water is another option, and there are several plain and flavored varieties on the market now.

Remember, making smart beverage choices can help you reach your weight loss goal that much more quickly.