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Let's drink to summer -- the healthy way

It's hot, and you're thirsty! But don't just grab the first cool drink that comes along. What you choose to quench your thirst can make or break your weight-loss efforts.

The way I see it, high-calorie beverages are one of the major reasons Americans are overweight. Think about how many people you know who drink several sodas every day. Now let's do the math:

  • A 12-ounce soda (non-diet) contains around 150 calories (the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar).
  • So three sodas a day adds up to around 450 calories (the equivalent of 30 teaspoons of sugar).
  • This means that every week, we would save approximately 3,150 calories (the equivalent of 210 teaspoons of sugar) if we switched from drinking three cans of soda a day to drinking three no-calorie beverages.

It just doesn't make sense to spend your precious calories on sweet drinks that add calories without any nutritional value.

Here are a few beverage facts that may help discourage you from sipping these empty-calorie beverages.

Fact 1: Most people don't drink enough water. So do your body a favor; when you get thirsty, reach for water first.

Fact 2: If you choose a beverage that contains calories, select one that contributes important nutrients as well -- like nonfat or low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice. According to a national survey of food consumption, as people's milk intake went up, so did their intake of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). But they didn't end up consuming more fat or cholesterol.

Fact 3: Liquid calories don't tend to satisfy your hunger as well as calories from solid foods.

What You Should Know About Soda

  • It stands to reason that if Americans drank less regular soda, the number of overweight and obese people would also decrease. In a recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that overconsumption of soft drinks could lead to overweight or obesity because of the calories it adds to the diet. A recent study on an educational program that encouraged children ages 7-11 to drink less soda found just that: Cutting down on carbonated drinks was linked to a modest decrease in the number of overweight and obese children over a year.
  • The more sweetened beverages kids drink, the less milk they tend to consume. Researchers from Cornell University followed 30 children for two months. They found that the children who drank more than 12 ounces of sweetened drinks or soda per day gained significantly more weight than children who drink less than 6 ounces a day. The children didn't appear to eat any less to compensate for the extra calories they were drinking.
  • African-American teens who drank four or more sodas a day had a 6-point higher systolic blood pressure than white teens who drank the same amount of soda.

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