Rethink Your Drink

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How will you quench the thirst of summer? For many of us, grabbing a soda, a sweet tea, or an iced latte is an everyday indulgence during the summer months. But beware—calories from the sugar in those beverages can add up quickly. Even one sugar-sweetened beverage per day could put 10–20 pounds on your frame in a year's time. The good news? If you have a sweet drink habit, kicking it can help you subtract an equal number of pounds.

So you’ve already heard all about the evils of soda—empty calories, rots your teeth, makes you fat. Maybe you’ve even given up soda. That’s a great step toward better health and a healthy weight. But what about juice? And energy drinks? And coffee drinks? Extra calories and loads of sugar live in many more drinks than you may realize.

Extra Calories = Weight Gain
The key to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than your body uses. While most diets focus on food, just changing your drinking habits could reduce your calorie consumption anywhere from 50–1,000 calories a day, translating into real weight loss over time without necessarily changing your food intake or increasing your exercise.

It takes 3,500 extra calories (not burned off by physical activity) to add a pound of body weight. The chart below shows how just a single drink a day, whether it’s a soda, juice, a latte, or a glass of wine or beer, can easily add 10–20 pounds a year if you’re not physically active enough to burn off those calories.

How many extra calories are you drinking?

If you drink a: *Calories x365 Days   Weight Gain
12-oz can of soda 150 54,750 about 15 pounds
20-oz soda bottle 220 80,300 about 23 pounds
16-oz latte (whole milk) 272 99,280 about 28 pounds
16-oz latte (nonfat milk) 168 61,320 about 17.5 pounds
12-oz average energy drink 152 55,480 about 16 pounds
8-oz cup orange juice 112 40,880 about 12 pounds
8-oz cup apple juice 117 42,705 about 12 pounds
12-oz beer 153 55,845 about 16 pounds
6-oz glass of wine 150 54,750 about 15.5 pounds
**Cocktail (1.5-oz jigger) 97 35,405 about 10 pounds

(**gin, vodka, rum, or whiskey—does not include calories from mixers, fruit juice, or other spirits)

(*calories calculated from

For example, to burn off the 168 calories in that non-fat latte, you would need to do about 30 minutes of fast walking or low-impact aerobics. The website Health Discovery ( has an interesting calorie burning calculator that lets you input your weight and time spent, then gives you the calories burned for a number of activities. Maybe you don’t drink a high-calorie drink every day. But it still adds up by the end of the year.

Downsizing is Good
Reducing the size of your drinks can equal a huge reduction in calories consumed, even if you don’t cut them out entirely. Downsize from super-size to regular, from large to medium, from a 20-oz bottle to a 12-oz can, or from grande to tall, and you may cut 50–500 calories from your daily intake.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has great suggestions on its Healthy Weight website with simple substitutions that can seriously reduce your number of calories. Flat or sparkling water with a slice of lemon, lime, or orange is a great no-calorie alternative, as is unsweetened coffee or tea.

healthy summer drinksTake our Rethink Your Drink Challenge and get to zero sugar-sweetened and high-calorie drinks a day. Do it on your own, or grab two friends or coworkers and do it together.

Download for print
1. Your own Challenge Chart, or:
2. A Challenge Chart for you and two friends or coworkers.

Try these tips to avoid drinking yourself fat:

  • Drink water!
  • Choose fat-free or 1% milk
  • Switch from juice to whole fruit
  • Drop sports and energy drinks
  • Check the nutrition information on coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies

The most important thing is to be aware of the calories you consume. Read the labels on bottles and cans. Ask for the nutritional guide at your local coffee shop. Rethink what you drink and you may welcome the downsizing that accompanies it.

Pia Hinckle is a journalist and publisher at The FruitGuys.


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