Weigh up those liquid calories

Tue, Dec 18, 2012, 00:00

You’re exercising three times a week, cutting out fatty and sugary food, stocking up on salads and yet you still can’t shed the weight. But could you be drinking, rather than eating, too many calories?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but beverages can be just as calorific as sugary treats, if not more. Take your morning trip to your favourite purveyor of coffee. While it’s undoubtedly bad for your pocket, depending on what you drink, a trip to a coffee shop can be just as bad for your waistline.

Take the example of a Starbucks grande latte. If you opt for a full-fat milk option, you will effectively be drinking 220 calories in just one drink. As a comparison, a Crunchie bar has only 185 calories. If you drink the latte twice a day, it will account for almost a quarter of your recommended daily calorie intake if you’re a woman.

Better to switch to non-fat milk, which will help you save 100 calories a drink, or if you can give up the comfort factor of a latte, an Americano can be yours with no impact on your weight, apart from the milk you add. If you find it difficult to give up a milky drink, swapping from a latte to a cappuccino can still pay off, saving you about 60 calories.

Benefits of milk

But it’s important to remember that unlike a fizzy drink which might be high in calories but deficient in nutrients, a milky coffee has its benefits.

“Milk gets a bad press but it’s one of the essential nutrients. I recommend for people to consume milk products because it has so many other nutritional benefits,” says Harriette Lynch, a consultant dietitian and exercise specialist with Healthpro.

For Lynch, it’s what goes with a coffee that can be more problematic. “It could be a problem in pushing people to overconsume. A latte with a muffin, for example, could be close to 500 calories, which could be close to a main meal,” she says.

With the Christmas season upon us, alcohol – along with an extra sized tins of Roses – is another offender this time of year. While it might be an odd approach to take when considering what tipple to choose (as opposed to what is on special offer in the supermarket), calorie content can differ significantly from drink to drink.

Calorie load

Take wine, for example. The Spanish wine Marques de Caceres, which is popular with Irish drinkers, has almost 200 calories in a glass of red. A glass of Ernst Julio Gallo Merlot, on the other hand, has just 119 calories.

Typically, the lighter the alcohol content, the lighter the calorie load; the more “full-bodied” the wine is, the more calories it probably contains.

In this regard, if you’re indifferent to the colour of wine you drink, you might opt for a light rosé, which is often lower in calories than a full-bodied red or white alternative. For example, Banrock Station Light Shiraz Rosé, which has alcohol content of just 5.5 per cent, has just 79 calories in a standard glass.

On the other hand, a rosé with 14.5 per cent alcohol content will have 140 calories in a glass.

Spirits tend to be lower in calories, with vodka, for example, containing just 57 in a single measure – which might be why models have a reputation for drinking it.

Sports drinks

Apart from alcohol, another culprit is a sports drink you might take down the gym, or after a run. A bottle of Lucozade Sport, for example, has about 140 calories, while they also tend to be very high in sugar, and one drink gives you as much as a quarter of your daily sugar allowance.

For reasons such as this, Lynch says such drinks should be restricted to elite athletes.

“If you’re an average gym goer, then you generally don’t need sports drinks to complete workouts. Water would be a lot better,” she advises.

Finally, Lynch notes that drinks should be consumed for their hyrdating benefits also, with coffee not so good on this front. But she says people shouldn’t get fixated on drinking 2,000mls of water every day.

“I would encourage people to include hyrdating foods in their food diet, such as stews, fruit and vegetables,” she says. “It’s really important for people to understand that it doesn’t just have to be water from drinking water.”

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