Most people trying to lose weight or simply eat better think about their food choices and what they put on their plates. But what they are drinking each day may be having a greater impact on their health and waistline then they realize. Americans now consume nearly a quarter of their daily calories from beverages according to a 2007 analysis of government data on U.S. beverage trends.

Sweetened sugary drinks are currently the only specific food that clinical research has directly linked to weight gain. This can include soft drinks, fruit flavored drinks, sweetened ice teas, specialty coffee drinks, and even flavored vitamin waters with added sugar. A typical 20oz bottle of soda has nearly 70g sugar which is equivalent to about 23 packets of sugar. A “nutritious sounding” 20oz flavored juice drink like peach papaya has 72g sugar which is equivalent to about 1/3 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons. Most people would never consider adding this much sugar to a drink they were making themselves.
Research suggests that people do not compensate for liquid calories by eating less food. Liquid calories on the stomach may not send the same appetite-suppressing message to the brain that solid food does. Liquids also do not require chewing. Chewing food which takes longer may allow the brain to register that you are satisfied.

Here are some tips to help you “think before you drink” especially as the warmer months approach:

Reach for good old water! You can make it more appealing by adding lemon wedges or trying something natural like True Lemon packets sold in supermarkets.

Choose only 100% fruit juice instead of fruit flavored drinks. Juice should still be limited to 4-8oz day. You can also dilute juice with water to lessen calories.

Instead of whole or 2% milk, switch to fat-free or 1% milk. Milk even though it has calories provides a much better nutrition package than the sugary drinks!

Ideally, keep regular soft drinks out of the house and skip the super-sized regular sodas when eating out. If you can’t kick the soda habit try to choose diet soda and limit to one or two a day.

Read the labels: most of the 20oz and 24oz bottles have two or three servings. The calories have to be multiplied by 2 or 3!

Don’t assume something that says water is calorie-free! Many specialty waters spiked with vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients also now have sugar added.

Request fat-free milk and sugar-free syrup when ordering special coffees. Try ordering “skinny lattes.”

Drink alcohol in moderation which means one drink a day for women and two for men. Calories in alcohol can add up quickly!

For more information on the subject of beverages you can visit In March 2006 the American Journal of ClinicalNutrition published guidelines for beverage consumption that were developed by the Beverage Guidance Panel. These experts reviewed years of beverage research and made recommendations.