Healthy weight loss is not only about the food you eat; it’s also about the beverages you drink every day. While we all know it’s probably best to stick to water to stay healthy and hydrated, you may be tempted to drink some sweet drinks throughout the day. When it comes to our daily consumption habits, it’s important to be mindful of the types of drinks we are consuming and how they may impact our overall health. Unfortunately, there are a few types of drinks that should be avoided as much as possible because of their high sugar and caffeine content.
To discover some of the worst high-sugar drinks that could be stalling your weight loss goals, we spoke to health experts Barbara Kovalenko, a doctor and nutritional consultant at Lasta, Catherine Karnatz, a registered dietitian, and Jesse Feder, a personal trainer, registered dietitian, and a contributor to My Crohn’s and Colitis Team. They pointed out three major culprits: sodas, alcoholic beverages, and milkshakes.
One place where we get lots of added sugar that we may not think about is beverages like soda. Being mindful of how much soda you drink can drastically lower your sugar intake. Health experts like Kovalenko say that women over 40 should be avoiding soda.
"Soda is high in added sugar, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease," she explains. "Not only that but soda is also known to be a major contributor to the obesity epidemic and has been linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. To put it simply, soda is packed with empty calories and should be avoided as much as possible." Yikes!
Karnatz agrees that sodas try to sneak in a lot of soda that our bodies don't need. "Each gram of sugar has 4 calories, which can add up fast and lead to weight gain over time," she notes. "Soda spikes our blood sugar quickly after drinking it, leaving us feeling hungry shortly after and wanting more sugar to feed our cravings for something sweet."
Similar to sodas, Kovalenko recommends avoiding energy drinks. This beverage typically contains large amounts of caffeine and copious amounts of added sugars. These legal stimulants can increase alertness and energy but they are also known to increase blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. "Energy drinks are high in caffeine and sugar, which can lead to jitteriness, anxiety, and a rapid heartbeat. They can also cause an increase in blood pressure, which can be dangerous for those who already have hypertension," she adds. "Additionally, consuming energy drinks in large quantities can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when you stop consuming them."
Even though diet soda is praised for being a healthy substitute for soda, that's not always the case. Diet soda can be an equally unhealthy beverage because the artificial sweeteners in these seemingly better drinks may lead to complications over time.
Instead of sipping on sodas, Karnatz recommends switching out soda for flavored seltzer that way you can still "satisfy your thirst for a bubbly beverage." And, for more flavor, "Add an orange slice, a wedge of lemon or lime, or a splash of your favorite 100% fruit juice for some extra taste without adding in a ton of calories." As for energy drinks, Kovalenko says there are many healthy alternatives "such as herbal teas, green tea, or Matcha tea are great options that provide a natural boost of energy."
If you're trying to shed a few pounds, you might want to reconsider drinking alcohol in excess, experts warn. Kovalenko says to think twice about chugging that next bottle of beer or sipping on that second glass of wine.
"Consuming alcohol in excess can lead to a wide range of negative health consequences, including liver disease, cancer, and addiction. Alcohol can also disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain, leading to mood swings, depression, and anxiety," Kovalenko says. "Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to addiction and have a negative impact on relationships, work, and overall quality of life."
While alcoholic beverages like beers, wines, cocktails, and more are frequently enjoyed, they have a fair share of health consequences. Not only can excessive drinking lead to addiction, liver damage, and even cancer, but on a much lower-stakes scale, alcoholic beverages can cause weight gain and even age your skin.
So, instead of alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, and cocktails, Kovalenko says to opt for "non-alcoholic beer, mocktails, and Kombucha" because they are healthier options that can still be enjoyed at parties or dinners!
And, the last drink that experts like Feder suggest removing from your diet are milkshakes. "Milkshakes contain a high amount of sugar, unhealthy fats, and very high amount of calories. They are typically made with whole milk, ice cream, and tons of other unhealthy additives," Feder explains. "You can have close to half [day's] worth of calories in just one milkshake. They will more than likely lead to weight gain and other negative health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease if consumed regularly."
Milkshakes are extremely unhealthy (even for your skin!), but one way to still enjoy your sweet treat is to use "fat-free milk and reduced fat ice cream." Feder also recommends simply making a smaller serving of milkshake to help cut back on calories. He says, "This can make it something that can be consumed throughout the week as it will be lower in sugar, calories, and fat." Nice!
At the end of the day, treating yourself to some sweet beverages every now and then won't kill you. But, it's important to be aware of the risks when you indulge in sugar-packed drinks that lead to belly fat like sodas, alcoholic beverages, and milkshakes. Just remember that moderation is always key. It's also crucial to note that there are healthier alternatives available.