Food & Drink

On the Table: Lots of calories lurk in beverages

Beat the heat by staying well-hydrated. Just be careful that what you’re drinking doesn’t pile on the pounds, too.

Unlike solid foods, which require some work to swallow, liquids go down easily. Too easily, for some of us.

Researchers have found that when you add calories to your diet in the form of liquids, you tend not to compensate by cutting back on solid foods. Those calories you consume from beverages just become extras.

They can add up to weight gain if you’re not careful.

One 12-ounce glass of sweet tea or a soft drink contains about 150 calories. On a hot day, it isn’t hard to drink two or more glasses.

Just 300 calories more each day can produce a 1-pound weight gain in a month. Many people drink more than that.

Do what you can to cut calories from the beverages you drink this summer. Start by trying these tips:

• Make water your first choice. It doesn’t matter if it’s bubbly or flat. Seltzer water that has a touch of flavor – lemon, lime, raspberry, orange – is OK, too.

• Dilute other beverages with water. Pour a little fruit juice into a glass and fill up the glass the rest of the way with plain water. Use seltzer water if you need a little fizz, or add a squeeze of lemon or lime to amplify the flavor.

• Choose calorie-free drinks. If you must drink soft drinks, choose diet over caloric varieties. Drink unsweetened iced tea or sweeten it with a small amount of a sugar substitute.

• Pay attention to alcohol. It’s a concentrated source of calories, and mixers add even more calories.

• Indulge in simplicity. Borrow an idea from the spa and keep a jug of cold water ready in the refrigerator. Spike it with fresh lemon wedges and cucumber slices. It tastes great, and it’ll make you feel more like reaching for a glass of water when you’re thirsty.

• Be aware of hidden calories. Iced coffee or tea drinks at coffee shops, for example, are often loaded with calories from sweeteners and flavorings.

• Watch portion sizes. Big smoothies and shakes can total several hundred calories.

Think about what you drink. Keep it simple and remember: Plain water is always best.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.