Each week a nutritionist from University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post to The Baltimore Sun’s fitness blog Exercists (baltimoresun.com/exercists). This week, Robin Rudner writes about summer beverages.
The summer heat has settled in, and there’s nothing like a refreshing beverage to help keep you hydrated and cool. But some drinks are not as innocent as they might sound. Here are some tips to help you make the best choices when considering your beverages this summer.
Smoothies come in different varieties and are a popular drink to beat the heat. Order or make a smoothie that has low-fat or fat-free yogurt and fresh fruit. This will keep fat and sugar in check while providing protein and other vitamins and minerals to help keep you more satisfied.
If you choose a fruit juice-based smoothie, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice. However, even with 100 percent fruit juice, you may be consuming more sugar than you think and not as much protein. Remember to watch your serving size.
Coffee drinks can range tremendously in their nutrition content. Many lattes and frappuccinos have enough calories for half (or more) of your recommended daily intake and are loaded with sugar (ranging from 40 to 70 grams). Some coffee drinks can have more than 500 calories. For example, a 16-ounce frappuccino made with whole milk can range from 300 to 500 calories, while a frappuccino made with skim milk and without whipped cream is closer to 150 calories.
The first thing to consider is your portion size. Order a small, and you can save yourself anywhere from 50 to 350 calories, and half the sugar. Add skim or 1 percent milk.
Whether it’s from the bottle, fountain or in ice cream (such as a root beer float) soda-based beverages will add significant calories and sugar without providing much in terms of essential vitamins/minerals. Keep these to a minimum or try a diet soda.
There are many low-calorie or calorie-free powders or liquids available that can be added to your water to give a bit of extra flavor. The flavors are plentiful and may be a good option if you are trying to watch your overall calories from liquids. If you have a difficult time with water, try adding lemon to make it more refreshing. Homemade unsweetened tea with a little bit of mint and lemon is also a refreshing drink that is low in calories.
Alcohol comes in many forms and can also contribute significant calories if you are not aware of how much and what types of beverages you are consuming. Wine contains approximately 120 calories per 5 ounces, beers can range from 60 to 200 calories and mixed drinks can reach 600 to 700 calories. Do you like pina coladas? Twelve ounces of this drink will cost you close to 700 calories. (That’s more than a large fast-food burger).
Be sure to keep track of the types of beverages you are consuming, and drink responsibly.
Read your labels. Nutrition information is more readily available to consumers than ever before, so take a look and compare what is offered. Many restaurants and chains will have brochures available or list the calorie/nutrition information next to each item. If the store cannot provide the information, look online. Try calorieking.com and mypyramidtracker.gov.
Consider your lifestyle. Are you spending a lot of your summer days exercising, or are you more sedentary? Water is always the best choice to help keep you hydrated. If you are exercising for longer than 60 minutes a day, consider a beverage that will help you replenish electrolytes, like a Gatorade or Propel.
Many drinks that sound healthy are loaded with sugar and calories. If your drink claims it has many vitamins and minerals but is also loaded with calories, sugar and fat, consider getting your vitamins from fresh summer produce and whole grains instead.
Instead of focusing on things to avoid completely, remember that calorie budgeting and portion sizes are keys to success. Ordering a smaller size or preparing drinks yourself with lighter ingredients can make all the difference. Try to keep overall calories from liquids to a minimum and focus on getting most of your calories from nutrient rich foods that will satisfy your hunger and give your body the energy you need to be active this summer.