Stick to a small coffee with a dash of milk and you’ll be reducing your liquid calorie intake significantly. Picture: Supplied.
Stick to a small coffee with a dash of milk and you’ll be reducing your liquid calorie intake significantly. Picture: Supplied.

Surprising source of half your calories

YOU may have heard the expression, 'not all calories are equal', and indeed when it comes to liquid calories, the ones we consume via a variety of smoothies, juices, coffees, wines and spirits we need to be particularly careful.

You see, when we consume our calories via liquids, not only do we not register that we have actually consumed this many calories but especially sugary drinks such as soft drinks and juices are more likely to see fat accumulated in the liver when we drink them regularly. Soft drink is also one of the only individual food groups directly linked to excessive sugar consumption and weight gain. So if you have not done so before, it may be worth considering how many of your daily calories you are actually drinking.

Some of us start our day with coffee, others a green smoothie or maybe you are more of a juice person. Whatever your morning go to, chances are it could be adding almost a breakfast worth of calories without you realising it. Take a coffee for example, a black coffee with a dash of milk contains an insignificant number of calories and sugar, while a large caramel Latte contains at least 200 calories and more than 5 teaspoons of sugar. Or an average serve of fruit juice will offer at least 200 calories and 6 teaspoons of sugar, while a large smoothie will clock in with at least 400 calories and up to 12 teaspoons of sugar. So if your goal is weight control and to keep your sugar intake to a minimum, when it comes to breakfast drinks, choose small unflavoured coffees, vegetable juices in place of fruit and order a small smoothie and remember it is the meal, not just a drink.

This is the best option if you’re choosing a smoothie for breakfast. Picture: istock.
This is the best option if you’re choosing a smoothie for breakfast. Picture: istock.

Next we have the beverages we choose why we go about our day to day jobs - you may enjoy a midmorning coffee; a coconut water after a visit to the gym or you may pick up an energy drink to keep you awake until lunchtime. Again all of these popular drinks are adding a significant number of calories to your day - a coffee at least 100, an energy drink at least 150 calories and up to 7 teaspoons of sugar, and even 'healthy' coconut water will give you more than 3 teaspoons of sugar in a single serve. The good news? It is easy to wipe out these extra calories by sticking to water, plain tea and coffee in between meals and if you must add some flavour to your drinks in between meals, always look for sugar free options.

Soft drink, flavoured mineral waters and juice remains the favourite lunchtime drink options, with many a lunch meal deal dependent on choosing one of these sugary additions to round out your lunch. The issue? All of these options will add 5-9 teaspoons of sugar along with a couple of hundred extra liquid calories. Better options? Water, sparking or soda water or if you must a diet or no sugar bubbly alternative.

Once we make it through the day, while sugary drinks have less of a focus, if you do enjoy a wine or beer most days, it can be easy to drink as many calories as a meal without even noticing. It is a common belief that alcohol contains a lot of sugar, this is not exactly true. Rather it is the nutrient alcohol that contains a significant number of calories, and when we are enjoying alcohol the body is so busy burning off these alcohol calories that the calories we consume via food (think fried food, dips, chips and snacks) while we are drinking that are more likely to be stored. It is for this reason that alcohol is closely linked to weight gain.

So if you regularly enjoy a couple of alcoholic drinks after work, with the larger glasses we tend to pour our own drinks into, we will be adding an extra 200-300 calories into our day, or almost that of a small meal in itself. For many of us, our liquid calorie intake explains very simply why we are gradually gaining weight, even though we may not be eating all that differently.

You don’t have to just ditch the brownies if you’re on a diet. The large mocha or caramel latte isn’t doing you any favours either. Picture:Instagram
You don’t have to just ditch the brownies if you’re on a diet. The large mocha or caramel latte isn’t doing you any favours either. Picture:Instagram

The average female who spends much of the day sitting will burn roughly 1200-1500 calories per day and an average male between 1600-2000 calories. If you consider that a couple of large milk coffees along with a smoothie or juice and glass or two of wine will be adding up to an extra 700-1000 calories each day, you could be drinking more than ½ the number of calories you need. Liquid calories are closely linked to weight gain, we do not eat significantly less when we drink some of our calories and they are one area of our diet in which we can easily cut back.

So where possible choose plain black or piccolo sized coffees; limit your intake of sugary drinks and juices opting for no or low calorie sparking water or vegetable juices instead and watch the size of your nightly wine pour to slash these extra liquid calories and your calorie intake overall.

Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter @SusieBDiet



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