If you’re looking to lose weight, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about what you're eating, focusing in on consuming more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins and less processed or high-in-added sugar foods. But you should pay as much attention to the items you choose to drink. There is such thing as the best drinks to help with weight loss goals.
“Weight loss ultimately comes down to burning more calories than you eat,” says registered dietitian and certified personal trainer Gabbi Berkow. “So, to maximize calories from food, we want to minimize our calories from drinks.”
Berkow therefore says to be very mindful of what you're drinking, as items like soda and alcohol are really just “empty calories," she adds. Meaning, they provide calories and sugar, but no beneficial nutrients. The worry is that added sugar in drinks can cause blood sugar to rise and fall, a rollercoaster that can enhance sugar cravings.
Artificial sweeteners can be a little risky, too. People who regularly consume artificial sweeteners may also grapple with increased sugar cravings, which can make it harder to stick to a healthy eating plan. What's more, most drinks don’t have fiber in them, so there's not that satiation factor that keeps you full like eating a meal would.
In the end, overconsumption of calorie-containing beverages can counteract efforts to lose weight. But don’t stress—there are definitely some low-cal beverages filled with a host of other health benefits that you can add to your diet. Below are the top 12 RD-approved drinks that can also help you lose weight.
Eh, a little boring right? Not so fast. Water is imperative for losing weight, according to Berkow. “Staying hydrated is also really key for weight loss—and of course health in general. Water is needed for metabolism, circulation, energy, digestion, and every function in your body," she explains. Plus, you've probably heard that it's easy to scramble hunger and thirst signals, and that's true. You might actually be thirsty if you feel hungry. Berkow recommends drinking a full glass of water before eating to properly gauge your appetite. Aim for at least eight cups (64 ounces) a day, and even more if you’ve been super active or sweat a lot. To make it fun, add any sliced fruit you have in the fridge.
Unsweetened green tea has zero calories, and studies have suggested that it can also help speed up your metabolism. “This is because of the caffeine content in the green tea, and also because green tea contains catechins, which are antioxidants that can support fat burning,” says Berkow. Though, some perspective here: You need a calorie deficit to lose weight, so you can't rely on catechin-containing beverages to majorly increase your metabolic rate.
“Smoothies, when done right, are a great option for weight loss, but you have to make sure they are filling enough to be used as a meal or snack replacement,” explains Berkow. “You should also remember they will not keep you as full as solid food would, so be careful not to overdo fruits and sugars.”
Berkow suggests using her formula to create filling and balanced smoothies that have plenty of protein, fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals: Combine at least 20 grams of protein (from protein powder or plain 0% Greek yogurt), one or two fruit servings (e.g. bananas, berries), a handful of spinach or another green of choice, one serving of unsaturated fat (e.g. one to two level tablespoons of nut butter, ¼ avocado, or 1 tablespoon of chia seeds), and one cup of water or non-dairy milk/skim milk for liquid.
“People love herbal teas for a bit of flavor and a non-caffeinated break in the middle of the day,” says Berkow. Depending on the type of tea you choose, it can have different benefits: For instance, lavender and chamomile teas are great for relaxation or peppermint tea can help digestion. Other perks include being low-calorie and hydrating.
Green juice can pack in the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it doesn’t have the same fiber as eating the vegetables whole, which is why you need to be mindful of the kinds of juices you consume, according to Berkow. That said, a green juice can be a refreshing and hydrating drink when you're aiming to lose weight. “When selecting a green juice, make sure to get ones that contain only vegetables, or are made with one fruit like an apple,” she says. “Those with too many fruits can be really high in sugar and calories, and can actually leave you craving more sugar later on.”
According to Berkow, coffee can be a great option to add to your diet. “Black coffee would be ideal because it doesn’t contain any calories, and caffeine can speed your metabolism a bit,” she says. (Although this metabolic bump isn't enough to cause weight loss on its own.)
“Coffee and tea become high in calories and problematic when tons of sugar and cream or milk are added," says Berkow. Think flavored frappuccinos and lattes. If you take your coffee with sugar and cream or milk, no problem. She recommends a plant-based sugar substitute like stevia or monk fruit, as these won't raise your blood sugar. Stick with a small portion of milk or cream. Oh, and don't forget to drink water, too. It can be easy to sip coffee throughout the day and forget to hydrate with plain H20.
Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks
It's tangy and puckery, but many people like to incorporate a little apple cider vinegar (ACV) into a daily drink or sip on a ready-made bottled version, which are easier to find in grocery stores now. “ACV is linked to many health benefits, such as aiding in blood sugar regulation and helping with weight management by enhancing fullness,” explains New York City-based Marissa Meshulam, RD. In addition, raw, unfiltered ACV (the kind where you can see the cloudy-looking 'mother' in the bottle) is a source of probiotics, which can benefit immune and gut health, she says.
Add ACV in water or sparkling water for a zero calorie option, but if that's too powerful and zingy, you can try a bottled ACV drink, just make sure that what you choose doesn't have added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“Nut milks are super low calorie and depending on the milk you choose, can be a great source of iron, vitamin E, and antioxidants,” says Berkow. If fortified, nut milks also provide calcium and vitamin D. “They’re also lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegan.” Your best option is unsweetened nut milks. Sweetened varieties are loaded with extra sugar.
There's nothing like sipping a fresh coconut on a beach somewhere, right? Okay, you're probably sipping yours from a single-serve box you bought at the store, but that can be just as refreshing, too.
Coconut water is full of electrolytes, which is great to rehydrate the body, says Meshulam. “Coconut water is a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and potassium,” she explains. These vitamins and minerals play a role in immunity and collagen production in the skin (vitamin C, we're looking at you), manage blood pressure (hats off you to, potassium), and provide disease-fighting antioxidants (thanks, manganese). Coconut water does contain some sugar though, so be sure to balance out coconut water consumption with regular plain water.
“Kombucha is a fermented tea,” explains Meshulam. “During the fermentation process, health-promoting probiotics are formed, plus it's made from tea, so it contains antioxidants from the tea leaves." However, kombucha naturally contains sugar, so read the label and purchase those that have less than 15 g of sugar per bottle. When poured into a fancy glass, it can make a nice substitute for an alcoholic bev.
Ginger tea is one of several teas that show up on this list. “Ginger is known to ease stomach upset, specifically nausea, and reduce gas/bloating," says Meshulam. That can help you feel good throughout the day. When it comes to weight loss, ginger tea contains almost no calories and can add variety to your drink rotation. Try it as a mid-day sip instead of running out to get a sugary coffee drink as a pick-me-up.
For weight loss, Berkow recommends consuming at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight. That can be a tall order for the day, but protein shakes can help you get there. (Or, at the very least, get your protein intake up if it's lagging.) She recommends a protein drink made from a protein powder (supplying 20 grams of protein) mixed with water, a non-dairy milk, or skim/low-fat milk. However, pre-made protein shakes can also work, provided you examine their calorie and sugar content before sipping. Berkow recommends Core Power Fusion for a dairy option, and Owyn for a non-dairy option.
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