One of my rules of weight management is to not drink calories. Everything I eat needs to perform a job, and that job is to keep me from feeling hungry. Beverages do not aid satiety, so they don’t get on the plan very often. Not soda, not cocoa, not a triple vanilla half-caf mocha frappuccino with whipped cream, not fruit juice, not egg nog for sure! There are just two exceptions for me, but I’ll cover those last. First I want to talk a little more about two of the drinks I just listed which often cause people to want to debate, so let me tell you my take on them.
“No fruit juice!” is something I’m militant about. To my mind drinking fruit juice is exactly the same as drinking regular soda – a giant calorie bomb of sugar with no feeling of fullness. The process of making juice from fruit is the process of removing the beneficial part of the fruit – the fiber – and leaving the part that’s only there, evolutionarily speaking, to make humans want to consume it – the sugar. There’s nothing magical or special about fructose (aka the sugar that sweetens fruit) which makes it healthier than the sugar used in soda. Sugar is sugar, it exists to carry fuel, in the form of calories, into a body. Often people think choosing fruit juice is a healthy option, but for weight management that would be shooting myself in the foot. Ounce for ounce, soda has fewer calories, and neither one provides any significant health benefits. I might as well have a Coke and a smile, because according to experts, “The upside of juice consumption is so infinitesimal compared to the downside that we shouldn’t even be having this discussion.” Whole foods are a much better source of vitamins and minerals if that’s a concern. If I want something that tastes like fruit, I eat a piece of fruit. I get the feeling of fullness I should be getting for the calories I’m consuming plus all the vitamins and minerals. And honestly, eating 7-10 cups of fruits and veggies a day I’m getting the nutrients I need from my food already.
Diet soda has been getting a bad rap lately. But if my choices are regular soda or diet soda, I will always pick the diet soda. I know that some people are happy to eschew all soda, diet or regular, and that’s great. But not everybody is ready to do that. I’m one of those people. I occasionally drink diet soda because so far, none of the claims made about artificial sweeteners have been conclusively proven. However, the risks to my health of morbid obesity are widely understood. Where my health is concerned, I’m much more concerned with the immediate and obvious risks of obesity upon my life versus the unproven, potential, scientifically-nebulous
risks posed by diet soda. So I do occasionally enjoy diet soda. In moderation – I don’t drink more than one a day, and some days none at all, because where food and diet is concerned, all things should be enjoyed in moderation. When I don’t feel like having a soda but having something bubbly to drink sounds good, I will happily have club soda or seltzer water with some lemon or lime squeezed into it. Iced tea is another calorie-free option I enjoy. But, as far as I’m concerned, diet soda is a useful tool for me to employ in moderation. I lost 200 pounds while drinking it, so I’m not concerned that it causes weight gain, as some claim.
So what are the two exceptions to the “don’t drink calories” rule I mentioned above? Alcohol, and a latte. First – if I have the calories in my budget, a small non-fat latte is 90 calories gladly spent for me. I have one about once or twice a month – it’s a treat, not a habit. And secondly – as of today, as far as I know, there is no calorie-free alcohol anywhere in the world. So if I’m going to enjoy alcohol, I am careful to write down the calories, limit myself to only one or two, and make the best choices I can. A bloody mary is a decent choice for weight management – I can get away with a small one for about 150 calories. A glass of wine comes in about the same, a moderate-sized glass of cider or beer on vacation won’t derail me either. It’s a treat, something to be enjoyed only once in a while, but on days when I do, it’s good to have a couple of moderate-calorie options available to me.