Friday, May 15, 2009

Are You Drinking Calorie Bombs?

It’s not just what you eat. Liquids make up about 22 percent of our daily calories. A 12 oz. can of sweetened soda contains 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar that do nothing at all to satisfy hunger. An extra can of soda a day can pile on 15 pounds in a single year. The average American drinks about 2 cans of soda per day. By cutting soda and those 300 calories, you could save 8,400 calories in four weeks—and lose about 2.4 pounds. And, this means you haven’t consumed the equivalent of nine cups of sugar!

And, there’s more. Liquid calories don’t satisfy the appetite the way whole foods (even junk foods, shudder the thought) do. Why? When solid food is consumed before (snacks or appetizers) or during a meal, the volume and caloric content of that food limits what else you eat, or should eat, fairly proportionately. Most caloric drinks consumed before or during a meal are not satiating and have little or no effect on how much you eat in one sitting or over the course of several meals. Because liquids travel more quickly than food through the intestinal tract, they alter the rate of nutrient absorption, which can affect satiety hormones and signals. Through liquids, more calories are ingested in a short period of time.

When you consider that an appropriately sized meal is anywhere from 400 to 700 calories, and one 44-ounce Super Big Gulp is 800 calories, you start to see the extent of the problem. A 16-ounce Starbucks blended coffee Frappuccino is 470 calories.

Now, here’s the good part. Since liquid calories don't contribute to feelings of satiety, cutting back on them shouldn’t make you feel deprived—or hungry. Thinking along these lines—this single, positive change is easier than some to make. And, water (I know, it doesn’t sound exciting) is a healthful substitute.

This takes us back to “mindful eating,” or in this case, drinking. The next time you drink a high-calorie soda or beverage (including specialty coffee drinks), check-in with your stomach an hour later. How do you feel? Are you still satisfied?

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