Summer 'Break' Your Bad Habits: Drinking Excess Liquid Calories
By Kristen Hung, MPH, RDN and Maggie O’Meara, Dietetic Intern
Warm weather, sunshine, and time with friends and family are some of the best parts of summer. With this sweltering season often come feelings of dehydration and thirst. If you find yourself craving more beverages, watch out for the common bad habit of consuming excess liquid calories. Keep reading to find out what these sneaky calories are, their health risks, how to avoid them, and the best summertime drinks to choose from instead!
Liquid calories in just about any form - alcohol, juice, soda, energy drinks, sweetened water, sports drinks, coffee or tea beverages - are stealthy calories. We don’t often think of them as adding to our daily calorie intake, but they do make an impact when consumed regularly. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that approximately 50% of the U.S. population drinks sugar-sweetened or calorie-filled beverages on any given day. About 25% of this population drinks at least 200 calories worth of these beverages a day. That might not seem like a lot, but those calories add up quickly when being consumed with other sugar-filled or excess calorie-containing foods throughout the day. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend that fewer than 10% of a person’s daily calories come from added sugar in food and drink. A healthy dietary pattern does not have much room for extra added sugars or calories from beverages. Decreasing your intake of excess liquid calories can be a great step toward a healthier diet.
It may seem impossible to give up your daily iced latte or that mid-afternoon soda but choosing lower calorie or sugar-free beverage choices is beneficial in the long run. Excess liquid calories and sugar-sweetened drinks have been linked to weight gain, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other health problems. The act of drinking excess calories is also linked to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, not getting enough sleep, infrequent exercise, high amount of screen time, fast-food consumption, and poor fruit or vegetable intake. Choosing hydrating and nutrient-dense beverages within your calorie limits is not only better for your health but will keep you more satisfied than sugar-sweetened drink that often leave you feeling hungry.
Try these alternative low or no-calorie beverage swaps for summer:
- Instead of Soda, choose Sparkling Water for a bubbly and flavorful soda substitute.
- Instead of "Vitamin" Water, choose a Low-Sugar Kombucha for a kick of subtle sweetness and added health benefits of probiotics.
- Instead of Energy Drinks, choose a Green Tea packed with antioxidants that boost heart health and lower blood sugar levels.
- Instead of Store-Bought Juice or Smoothie, choose a Homemade Smoothie customized with your own fiber-packed smoothie with no added frozen yogurt, sherbet, or fruit juice.
- Instead of your Specialty Coffee/Tea Drink, choose a Sprinkle of Cinnamon. Skip the sugary syrup and added sugar for a boost of flavor and blood sugar stabilizing benefits.
- Instead of Flavored Drops or Powders, choose Infused Water. Choose less artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors by infusing your bland/boring water with a combination of fruit, vegetable, and herbs.
If you have questions or are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707.