There’s an old saying about health that reminds us that “you are what you eat.”
Judy Mitnick wants us to know that we’re also what we drink.
Mitnick, a Registered Dietitian/Certified Diabetes Educator with Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, said it might not be what we’re eating that is adding calories and keeping the pounds on.
It could be what we’re drinking.
“Our efforts to stay hydrated may have some figure-busting effects,” she said. “While dieters often carefully count the calories in the food they consume, many don’t take the calories in their beverages into consideration.”
Take diet drinks for instance.
Often the soft drink of choice, diet sodas usually lack the high sugar content that real sodas have.
So they’re perfectly fine, right?
“The use of “diet” drinks and sodas, particularly those using artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame (Equal) or Sucralose (Splenda) has come under some scrutiny recently,” Mitnick said. “While these drinks usually contain fewer than five calories per serving, some research suggests that the very sweet flavor of these drinks could stimulate sugar cravings in the brain and gastrointestinal tract.”
That, she said, often leads to the continued search for that sweet “fix” and more filling sources of sweets. While an occasional artificially sweetened drink is perfectly fine, Mitnick advises drinking something equally as refreshing, but less sweet-tasting in general.
Even fruit juice drinks, 100 percent fruit juice drinks at that, can contain more than meets the eye.
“Apple, grape, and cranberry juice cocktail are particularly high in sugar and calories,” she said. One way to lessen the impact is to dilute the high sugar fruit drink by adding some water or soda water to create a lower-calorie “spritzer.”
Smoothies have become the go-to choice for many dieters and for health-conscious people alike. But these fruity drinks can also pack the calories.
“While popular smoothie chains imply that all smoothies are health drinks, many contain up to, and beyond, 600 calories,” Mitnick said.
When ordering a smoothie, calories can be cut by asking for one with no sugar or with Splenda instead. That could save around 200 calories. If the smoothie has added protein powder, it can even serve as a meal replacement Mitnick said.
When it’s hot or when we’re active, sports drinks are a popular choice.
“Sports drinks containing carbohydrates – thus calories – and electrolytes are necessary only when you are exercising vigorously, and continuously, for over an hour outside,” Mitnick said, advising that calorie-free water is the best way to stay hydrated.
Watch that booze, too
Finally, adult beverages too can contribute calories and lead to weight gain.
“While it wouldn’t be summer without the occasional adult beverage, excessive alcohol intake can have a disastrous effect on your physique,” she said. “Besides the calories in the alcohol itself – over 100 in just a shot glass sized serving of whiskey, rum, vodka, or gin – the inhibition lowering effects of alcohol almost always leads to over eating.”
Fruity and creamy drinks “pack a calorie wallop,” so if you’re watching your weight, opt for a glass of wine, a light beer, or a mixed drink with a sugar free mixer.
“You can stay slim and hydrated this summer,” Mitnick said. “These tips can help you better ‘think your drink’ and keep your summer calories under control.”