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Liquid Calories Add Up Quickly

You're trying to lose a few pounds, so you're watching what you put on your plate. But are you watching what's in that mug, or glass, or can? If not, you just might be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts.

"Beverages are probably the biggest hidden source of empty calories in our diets," says Mark Izzo, PhD, director of science and technology at Orafti Active Food Ingredients. "Even those that are positioned as super-healthy, like grapefruit juice and orange juice, can pack 100 calories in 8 ounces."

"What's worse," says Izzo, "is that nobody drinks only 8 ounces. A typical serving is usually 16 ounces. That's 200 calories for one drink!"

And then there's soda, which contributes few useful nutrients but plenty of calories in the form of sweeteners. A 20-ounce soda, for example, has the equivalent of 18 teaspoons of sugar.

Soda is unquestionably among the many sources of excess calories contributing to the obesity epidemic in this country, says David L. Katz, MD, associate clinical professor of public health and medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and author of The Way to Eat.

"A standard 12-ounce (non-diet) soda has roughly 150 calories," says Katz. Drink two or three of those a day and that's enough calories to gain a pound a week! And just think what a supersized (44-ounce) drink can do -- just one a day can lead to an extra pound per week.

More Calories, Less Satisfaction

"Some of the calories consumed in soda may be taken out of the diet elsewhere," says Katz, but he doesn't think that's necessarily a good thing. "Sodas provide no nutrient value, while the foods eliminated may. Further, the calories we drink are likely to be added to, rather than replaced by the calories we eat."

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2000 bears this out. Fifteen healthy men and women consumed an extra 450 calories, in the form of either jellybeans or soda, every day for four weeks. After four weeks, the soda drinkers switched to jelly beans and vice versa.

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