Caroline’s Better Beverage Guide. Re-Think Your Drink and Get Fit While You Sip!


When we think about health we often think: diet, exercise, and regular visits to the doc.  But did you know that what you drink makes a huge difference on if you are successful or not with your health goals? A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that around 37 percent of our total daily liquid calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. And here’s the really crazy part: Guzzling those beverages has a bigger impact on our waistlines than we think. “People don’t typically reduce food intake when they drink their calories from soda and other beverages,” says Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. By my definition, any calorie you consume without noticing is an empty calorie. And since calories add up, it’s time to learn how to drink fewer empty ones. Awareness is the first step to sipping mindfully. Feeling thirsty? This guide will help you re-think your drinks and gulp the good stuff so you can reach your health goals 🙂

Caroline’s Better Beverage Guide. Re-Think Your Drink and Get Fit While You Sip!


What Do You Drink? It Makes More Difference Than You Think!

Heres an example on how many calories beverages can contribute to your daily intake. As you can see in the example below, calories from drinks can really add up. But by boosting awareness and choosing mindfully,  you can reduce the number of calories you take in when you get thirsty. (image courtesy of CDC)

Occasion Instead of… Calories Try… Calories
Morning coffee shop run Medium café latte (16 ounces) made with whole milk 265 Small café latte (12 ounces) made with fat-free milk 125
Lunchtime combo meal 20-oz. bottle of nondiet cola with your lunch 227 Bottle of water or diet soda 0
Afternoon break Sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine (16 ounces) 180 Sparkling water with natural lemon flavor (not sweetened) 0
Dinnertime A glass of nondiet ginger ale with your meal (12 ounces) 124 Water with a slice of lemon or lime, or seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice 0 calories for the water with fruit slice, or about 30 calories for seltzer water with 2 ounces of 100% orange juice.
Total beverage calories: 796


(USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

As you can see, substituting no- or low-calorie drinks for sugar-sweetened beverages cuts about 650 calories in the example above.

Of course, not everyone drinks the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages shown above. Check the list below to estimate how many calories you typically take in from beverages.

Type of Beverage
Calories in 12 ounces
Calories in 20 ounces
Fruit punch
100% apple juice
100% orange juice
Regular lemon/lime soda
Regular cola
Sweetened lemon iced tea (bottled, not homemade)
Tonic water
Regular ginger ale
Sports drink
Fitness water
Unsweetened iced tea
Diet soda (with aspartame)
Carbonated water (unsweetened)
*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.
( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

You Better Look Twice. Read Nutrition Facts Labels Carefully

Be aware that the Nutrition Facts label on beverage containers may give the calories for only part of the contents. The example below shows the label on a 20-oz. bottle. As you can see, it lists the number of calories in an 8-oz. serving (100) even though the bottle contains 20 oz. or 2.5 servings. To figure out how many calories are in the whole bottle, you need to multiply the number of calories in one serving by the number of servings in the bottle (100 x 2.5). You can see that the contents of the entire bottle actually contain 250 calories even though what the label calls a “serving” only contains 100. Look closely at the serving size when comparing the calorie content of different beverages, you could be getting twice the calories if you aren’t careful!

Serving Size 8 fl. oz.
Servings Per Container 2.5
Amount per serving
Calories 100

Sugar by Any Other Name: How To Tell Whether Your Drink Is Sweetened

Sweeteners that add calories to a beverage go by many different names and are not always obvious to anyone looking at the ingredients list. Some common caloric sweeteners are listed below. If these appear in the ingredients list of your favorite beverage, you are drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage.

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

Sipping Slueth. Find High-Calorie Culprits in Unexpected Places

Coffee drinks and blended fruit smoothies sound innocent enough, but the calories in some of your favorite coffee-shop or smoothie-stand items may surprise you. Check the Web site or in-store nutrition information of your favorite coffee or smoothie shop to find out how many calories are in different menu items. And when a smoothie or coffee craving kicks in, here are some tips to help minimize the caloric damage:

At the coffee shop:

  • Request that your drink be made with fat-free, low-fat milk, soy, or almond milk instead of whole milk or half and half
  • Order the smallest size available.
  • Forgo the extra flavoring – the flavor syrups used in coffee shops, like vanilla or hazelnut, are sugar-sweetened and will add calories to your drink.
  • Skip the Whip. The whipped cream on top of coffee drinks adds calories and fat.
  • Get back to basics. Order a plain cup of coffee with fat-free/soy/almond milk and a splash of truvia (or brown sugar) or drink it black.

At the smoothie stand:

  • Order a child’s size if available.
  • Ask to see the nutrition information for each type of smoothie and pick the smoothie with the most nutrition and fewest calories.
  • Hold the sugar. Many smoothies contain added sugar in addition to the sugar naturally in fruit, juice, or yogurt. Ask that your smoothie be prepared without added sugar: the fruit is naturally sweet.
  • Save money and make your OWN. I use my nutribullet at home to whip up green smoothies when Im busy and want a drink that powers my day. Click here to get my quick, easy, and amazing Green Smoothie recipes. 

Mindfully sip the following Beverages in Moderation:

  • Milk Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville found that having three servings of low-fat dairy per day can lead to weight loss of 10 percent or more. Dairy contains calcium and the amino acid leucine, which together promote fat burning, says Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of the university’s Nutrition Institute. And a study of overweight women at Northern Illinois University found that soy milk was just as effective as nonfat cow’s milk in helping them shed pounds. Stick to skim or low-fat milk, almond milk, and light soy milk; otherwise, the calories add up quickly. And always watch the portion size. 
  • Alcohol Happy hour is good for plenty of things, but weight loss isn’t one of them. Savoring a drink every now and then does have perks, including reducing your risk of heart disease, but alcohol packs a lot of calories into a small glass, and it may even stimulate your appetite. And unlike the calories in fat, carbohydrates, and protein, those in alcohol can’t be stored in your body, so they have to be used immediately. As a result, your body stops burning fat until the alcohol is processed—that’s roughly an hour for every drink. What can you do if you want to go out but don’t want to gain weight? Click here for my party smart guide to going out, having a drink, AND honoring your health.
  • Juice Many juices have added sugars. And in terms of health benefits, you’re always better off eating whole fruit instead. A medium orange has a mere 59 calories, and its 12 grams of sugar come with three grams of belly-­filling fiber. A typical eight-ounce glass of OJ has 110 calories, twice as much sugar as the fruit, and no fiber. For a healthier juice fix, try watering it down. Mix four ounces of your favorite kind with 32 ounces of water. You’ll get the flavor with fewer calories. 
  • Diet soda No calorie soda may not pile on the pounds directly, but new research from Purdue University suggests that drinking these artificially sweetened beverages can screw with the brain’s ability to measure caloric intake. Drink them often enough and you may actually start to crave sweets more. You can read my personal story on how cutting out artificial sweeteners changed my health for the better HERE. If you swig diet drinks all day, you’re taking in fewer healthy liquids, such as tea. Get your carbonation fix with zero-calorie seltzer instead, or make your own with a home soda maker that carbonates your drink of choice.

Pour it Up With These Healthy Beverage Choices:

  • Water. This one is obvious of course. Drink fresh water as much as you can! Drinking more water can: increase energy, reduce fatigue, relieve constipation, help digestion, improve skin, aid in weight loss, boost immune system, cure headaches, and flush out toxins among other things. Not only that but water is FREE. All good reasons to drink up!
  • Tea. Hot or cold, it’s calorie-free, and comes in millions of different fun flavors for you to try. Studies have even found that compounds in green tea known as catechins rev your metabolism for up to 24 hours—meaning it actually helps you burn more calories. With so many varieties and stores like David’s Tea serving up endless samples, theres a good chance you can find a few tea flavors that meet your preferences. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (AVC) is rich in minerals. There is a long history of its use in medicine dating back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates used it to treat his patients. AVC is considered to be a potent remedy for illnesses and overall health. Apple cider vinegar’s strong suit is balancing pH levels, and creating a healthy, alkalized state when you eat or drink it—or use it a skin-care product. (You want to be more alkaline than acidic for a trillion health reasons, some experts say.) It’s also pretty renowned in natural-health circles for curbing digestive issues, spiking weight loss, promoting great skin, and banishing a handful of other pesky afflictions. Read up on the health boosting benefits of this vinegar drink, and get my easy ACV detox drink recipe I have EVERYDAY for health! 
  • Kombucha. Check out KOMBUCHA. Kombucha (pronounced com-boo-ka) is a fizzy fermented tea beverage that is a health-seeker’s delight. Kombucha is an “ancient fermented tea beverage” that has a natural effervescence (like bubbly carbonation) that is full of probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins and so much more.There are many brands that serve lower calorie beverage options, like my favorite: Clearly Kombucha who’s products clock in at 25 calories a piece. YES it really IS too good to be true (and delicious!)
  • Coconut Water. If you need a real sports drink to help with dehydration or just want some juice, try COCONUT water. It has more potassium per equivalent serving than a banana and It is lower in calories than any popularly consumed fruit juice including grapefruit juice
 (76 per eight ounce serving), and has 10% of the sodium found in tomato juice. For flavor, potassium, and hydration, coconut water is a healthful choice. Im addicted to ZICO natural and the chocolate flavor is a nice treat too! 


Make it EASY to drink well. Simple lifestyle hacks for better beverage choices.

  • Choose water, diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t “stock the fridge” with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
  • When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
  • Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages. Healthiness is contagious – PASS it on!

Cutting back on drink calories can be a great way to kick start weight loss, re-boot energy levels, and achieve optimum health. A mindful and moderate beverage habit really can fill you up with health. Do you drink too many empty calories? Are you cutting back? Share your strategies in the comments. 

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Cheers to your healthy and drinking happy for the rest of your life!


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