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Counting Liquid Calories

When counting calories, don’t forget the ones you drink. For many people, these so-called liquid calories can make or break an effort to lose pounds.

Beverages with high-fructose corn syrup can be a major contributor to weight gain and obesity, according to the CDC. These include sodas and sports and energy drinks.

Americans drink about 1-1/2 cans of soda per person per day, according to the USDA. For regular soda drinkers, that adds up to 240 empty calories per day, or 25 extra pounds per year. (Calories in soda and alcoholic drinks are called empty because they have no nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.)

There is also some evidence that liquids are less satiating than solids, so it is easier to consume too many calories from beverages.

These tips from the CDC can help you reduce your liquid calories:

  • Calculate the calories in the beverages you drink by multiplying the calories per serving on labels by the number of servings you drink. If a canned or bottled drink has 150 calories per serving and contains two servings, you have consumed 300 calories.

  • Choose diet, low-calorie, or no-calorie beverages, such as tap or bottled water, and tea.

  • Keep your coffee simple. Black coffee is low in calories, but whole milk, flavored syrups, and whipped cream aren’t. A 16-ounce cup of black coffee has 15 calories, but the calorie count jumps to 100 for cappuccino made with skim milk. A 16-ounce café latte with skim milk is 160 calories. A latte flavored with syrup and made with whole milk is 320 calories.

  • Remember that calories in alcoholic drinks can add up fast. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, just short of the 9 calories in a gram of fat. Add soda or sugary mixers, and the calories can exceed 300 per drink.


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