What can I eat for…er…drinks? That’s a strange title for a blog, I know. Well, it’s because it’s part of a “What can I eat?” series, you see. Drinks get swallowed and digested just like food. Some drinks offer meal sized calorie content, so drinks really need to be part of the series!
“What can I eat?” is one of the questions we get asked most by our clients. In this series of blogs we attempt to answer that question. To find out why this is a common question, take a look at the first of the series on lunch.
Read on to find out more about drinks.
Are you consuming unconscious calories?
If you’re not concerned with your weight then you probably don’t think twice about what you drink. If you’re calorie aware you probably make sensible choices about your food. But you may simply not think about the calorie content of what you drink. Or you may not be aware of the calorie content of your drinks.
It’s easily done. Have you ever gone into a coffee shop with someone, been offered a drink by them and just gone with “Ooh I’ll have a latte please”? You don’t think about it, it’s just a coffee, just a drink. It’ll cost you 180 calories though. Or 300 for a large one. Even the standard skinny option comes with 150 calories.
Perhaps you have 2 or 3 of those on a standard work day without totting it up in your head. It all adds up.
Incidentally, if you wanted a coffee of meal-sized calorie proportions – go for the large salted caramel mocha with whipped cream – 610 calories. I see a lot of parents treating their older kids to that sort of thing.
There are plenty of other examples of unconscious calorie consumption, misinformation or a lack of awareness when it comes to drinks.
Let’s look at some.
Calorie counts for common drinks
To kick this off, let’s take a look at the calorie content of some common drinks.
|Fruit shoot hydro, 200ml||2|
|Robinson’s no added sugar, 250ml diluted||4|
|Robinson’s fruit and barley, 250ml diluted||5|
|Fruit shoot no added sugar, 200ml||10|
|Capri sun, 200ml||42|
|Coconut drink, typical 250ml||50|
|Cranberry juice, 250ml||50|
|Standard fruit shoot, 200ml||54|
|Spirit shot, no mixer, 1 unit||88|
|Skimmed milk, 250ml||93|
|Glass of wine, 125ml, 1.5 units||101|
|Orange juice, 250ml||108|
|Semi skimmed milk, 250ml||125|
|Innocent smoothie, strawberry and banana, 250ml||133|
|Coca cola, 1 can||139|
|Lucozade sport, 500ml||140|
|Standard sized latte||180|
|Standard lager, 1 pint, 2 units||182|
|5% lager, 1 pint, 3 units||227|
|Yop yoghurt drink, 500ml||325|
Do you drink any of these? Do you factor in the calorie content? Or, because it’s ‘just a drink’, do you not even think about it?
For most of these you should definitely treat them like a food item. Factor them in to your daily calorie allowance, especially if you’re having more than one a day.
Calories aside, some of these drinks are worth commenting on. Some you shouldn’t really be drinking at all, some might surprise you and others come with some misinformation.
Let’s take a closer look.
Take a look at the ‘per 100ml’ column of these two food labels.
Notice the similarity? One of them is orange juice and one of them is Coca-cola! Orange juice is more or less pure carbohydrate. Oh no, hang on…. it’s pure sugar! And who are they trying to kid with their 150ml serving size? I think I’m being conservative by putting the average household serving size at 250ml. That’s 108 calories of pure sugar. And perhaps you have a second glass at breakfast? Would you drink half a litre of coke for breakfast? Would you drink it at all?
Does orange juice have any redeeming features? Yes, lots of vitamin C. But that’s it. I always say this, but why not eat the orange? You get ALL the goodness, lots of fibre, a much slower release of energy (GI of 40) and it’ll fill you up more for about 65 calories.
Smoothies and other ‘healthy’ drinks
At least with a smoothie you’re getting the whole fruit. You’re getting fibre and therefore slower releasing energy.
But just be aware they come with calories. Quite a lot of them. In the example, a rather paltry 250ml serving comes with 133 calories. Drink the usual 750ml bottle and you’re looking at 400 calories!
A 750ml bottle of strawberry and banana smoothie contains 22 strawberries, 2 bananas, 13 blackberries, one and a half pressed apples, 38 pressed grapes and some orange juice. If you were logging your food to keep a track of your calories, you’d certainly log all that fruit.
Just be calorie aware when it comes to drinks, particularly with ‘healthy’ drinks. It’s easy to forget that heathy does not necessarily mean low calorie. You should also apply that logic to yoghurt based drinks, alternative milks, coconut based drinks and drinks like cranberry juice, which are marketed as healthy.
Interestingly the top end of the list – the low-calorie end – is full of kids’ drinks. Or at least the ‘no added sugar’ varieties. Fair play to the drinks companies on that one. I don’t think any kid is going to be in danger of putting on weight from drinking no added sugar squash all day.
What I would say though, is that you should check the ingredients for additives. For example, some drinks contain sodium metabisulphite, which is a preservative. Whilst you won’t find a lot about any connection with cancer, for example, I’d still personally prefer not to consume that in any quantity. You’ll also find artificial sweeteners in a lot of them.
So, the take home here is that no added sugar squashes are ok in terms of their calorie content. But if you’re opting for the full sugar versions or, worse, fizzy drinks such as coke, you’re giving your kid a lot more sugar. If you’d like to know more about sugar, take a look at our recent blog on the health risks of sugar.
There’s only one on the list, Lucozade sport. I’m not against sports drinks when they are used appropriately. But a lot of people drink these as if they were water, just to stay hydrated. Parents often buy these for their kids.
Water is fine for most sporting activities. If it’s under an hour, drink water. If it’s longer duration, or extremely intense, then a sports drink can keep you energised and hydrated. Otherwise, choose water.
For everyday, out-and-about activities…. water.
I met someone once who was convinced that there were no calories in alcoholic drinks. If you meet someone who tells you that, then you might want to take everything they say with a pinch of salt!
Alcohol has 7 calories per g. Compare that with protein and carbohydrate at 4 and fat at 9. Alcohol is closer to fat in terms of its energy content.
Have a look at this food label for a spirit.
I like showing this because it lists micronutrients as well as macronutrients. Can you see anything of any value to the human body? Not in any appreciable amount that’s for sure. But lots of calories you’ll see.
If you didn’t know this already, you’ve probably twigged by now: the frequent weight loss ‘trick’ of switching from lager to spirits really makes very little difference. Almost all the calories, and 100% of the ill-effects, are in the alcohol itself.
Calories are not the only problem with alcohol of course. Alcohol….. pause, deep breath… is calorie dense, nutrient poor, lowers testosterone, increases cortisol, suppresses fat burning, interferes with blood sugar control, lowers self-control, can lead to fatty liver disease and diabetes and has been associated with some cancers. For health and calorie control reasons, stick to the government guidelines of 14 units or less per week. That number has had A LOT of scientific input, so you can be assured it’s set at that number for good reason.
So, what can I drink?
You know the perfect answer to this question already. Water. Ideally tap water – it’s cheap, convenient and eco-friendly.
But tap water can be boring! And, depending on where you live, it might not be very nice.
But you do need to stay hydrated for optimal health. A rule of thumb is to consume 1ml water for every calorie burned. For the average person this will be at least 2 litres a day. You’ll need more if the weather is warm.
So, what can you do to encourage yourself to drink enough? How can you drink enough to stay hydrated without adding calories?
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Chilled tap water
Tap water might be boring, especially at room temperature. But when you chill it, it suddenly becomes refreshing and much more imbibable. You might also want to try a filter jug to make it taste a bit better. Most filter jugs are designed to fit in the fridge.
I must admit, this is my go-to for hydration. I just like the taste and the fizz. Again, keeping it in the fridge makes it more drinkable and helps keep the fizz in the drink. The only problem then is coping with the bubble release when you neck a big cold gulp.
It’s not as eco-friendly as tap water of course. One way around this is to invest in a soda stream and use refillable glass bottles.
In terms of calories, these are ok. They are generally calorie free. You can drink as much of these as you like without worrying about calories.
But I don’t drink these. They often come with other ingredients like dimethyl dicarbonate. These things might be present in very small quantities, but I’d still prefer not to consume them.
No added sugar squash
As we’ve seen, you won’t get too many calories from these squashes, so they’re fine as a choice for yourself or your kids, especially if they encourage better hydration.
As with flavoured water, always check the label for ingredients. If you’re not sure what an ingredient is then Google it. Don’t buy it if you don’t like what you find out.
Fruit and herbal teas
These are a good option. They generally come with too few calories to be of any concern. And most of them have something healthy you can say about them.
The only problem with hot drinks is that you have to sip them. You have a to do a lot of sipping to achieve good hydration!
Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks
These are ok for supplementing your liquid intake but shouldn’t be your main source. Here’s why.
First of all, caffeine is a diuretic and so will encourage water excretion. But unless you’re having espressos, you’ll still see a net increase in hydration. It’s just not a good idea to have too much caffeine. It’ll increase your stress, keep you awake and probably make you pee more.
Second, coffee and tea are usually drunk with milk. Or even made with milk. If you’re having a lot then it’ll add up and you’ll need to factor in the extra calories.
Life Force Fitness Supercharged Iced Tea
Here’s one from our recipe book. It’ll give you 3 cups of supercharged tea for about 36 calories. Keep it chilled to make it even more drinkable. It’s a little more interesting than your standard tea or coffee options, comes with some good healthy ingredients and won’t make you gain weight.
That said, it’s not calorie free, so factor in around 100 calories if you’re going to make it your main source of hydration all day.
The take home message
There is more than one actually.
First, for hydration, water is the best option. No surprises there. As a rule of thumb, 1ml per calorie burned will keep you hydrated.
Second, be calorie aware when it comes to any drink. Remember to factor drinks into your calorie allowance.
Finally, some drinks are bad for you. If they are loaded with sugar, have harmful additives or are calorie dense, then they’re not going to do you any good. Always check the label. Stick to government guidelines on alcohol.
So, there you have it. Stay hydrated, adopt a healthy approach to hydration and be calorie aware. Do you need to change your drinking habits? You know what to do!