Time to “Rethink the Drink”

I’m four weeks in, and so far, my New Year’s resolution is going pretty well. This year I decided to give up carbonated beverages, in particular Diet Coke.

While that may seem like a pretty simple task, it was a bit of a challenge based on the number of those drinks I was consuming daily. I was easily drinking six or more Diet Cokes per day at 20 ounces apiece. It had become a habit. A fairly innocuous one, but a hard habit to break nonetheless.

For many years, I believed that my “addiction” to Diet Coke had a number of advantages. About a decade ago, I decided to give up sugary drinks altogether, switching out my regular Cokes and sweet tea for diet or unsweetened versions. So for the past 10 years, I haven’t been taking in an inordinate number of empty calories in the carbonated beverage department.

But I was concerned about the effects that drinking that many diet drinks might be having on my body.

The good news for me is that once I’ve made up my mind to make some kind of change to benefit my health, I usually follow through. I just tell myself “No, I don’t want a Diet Coke right now,” and pretty soon, the cravings go away.

While reducing calories wasn’t the impetus behind this year’s resolution, I’ve been doing a little research on calories in beverages, and it’s been eye-opening to see how many calories people can save by just “rethinking their drinks.”

“Rethinking our drinks” has a lot to do with mindfulness and making sure that we’re only taking into our bodies those foods and beverages that in some way nourish us.

It’s interesting to see just how many beverages contain empty calories and can result in unwanted weight gain over time.

While we all know that “calories in” should equal “calories out” in order to maintain the same weight, it’s incredibly easy for the calories in our drinks to get “a pass,” so to speak. In other words, it’s easy to forget to include those beverages in our daily calorie counts.

Take a look at the number of calories in some of our typical beverage choices. A 12-oz. glass of lemon/lime soda contains 148 calories, while 20 ounces of the same drink “weighs in” at 247. A 20 ounce bottle of sweetened ice tea contains 225 calories; a 12 ounce glass of Coke has 136; a large sports drink contains 165; and a 20 ounce lemonade has a walloping 280 calories.

That’s a lot of extra calories.

But water, both carbonated and tap, contains zero calories, and more impressive than that, provides innumerable health benefits. Water is refreshing, keeps the muscles of the body hydrated, and helps us perform mentally at a higher level.

Of course, other beverages can be beneficial as well. Low-fat milk, consumed as often as three times a day, can help build and maintain healthy bones for people of all ages, and may even help lower the risk of high blood pressure. And many studies show that low-fat milk can serve as an effective “sports drink.”

If you’re planning to “rethink” your own beverages of choice this year, you might want to limit the amount of fruit juice you’re taking in. Yes, 100 percent fruit juice does have health benefits, but more than four to six ounces a day can add significant calories to your daily intake.

And if you’re determined to reduce your caloric intake, it’s also a good idea to limit certain other beverages as well, such as sweetened teas, energy drinks, alcohol, and even some specialty coffees, which are often loaded with lots of fat and sugar.

For my part, it’s a bit too early to call this abstinence from Diet Cokes a complete success, but I’m on my way. I’ve added a few more cups of coffee to my mourning routine, but I’ve also learned to enjoy and appreciate the refreshing taste of no-calorie water. Actually, it’s not so bad and I already feel better.  I’ll keep you posted.

In Good Health,

Greg Dent