Fit and fab

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

As we near Thanksgiving, many tend to begin devising strategies on how to lose weight or simply avoid gaining weight. What many fail to account for are liquid calories. These calories are often the silent culprits in unwanted weight gain.

I typically find most people are well aware of regular versus diet when it comes to cola. But how many know the actual caloric content of their favorite Starbucks drink? Should you choose wine or liquor at the annual office party? How many calories are in a DQ malt or McDonald's milk shake?

Well, I have provided a short summary table of caloric content in some popular beverages below:

The take-home message here is that what you drink does directly impact your daily caloric intake. If you are drinking too many calories, you are much more likely to gain weight or struggle to shed pounds as these liquid calories offer little essential nutrition and tend not to satiate hunger. These calories are often referred to as empty calories. In reality, they are anything but.

Most women attempting to lose weight should only be consuming 1300 to 1800 calories per day anyway. So be cautious not to use up too many on beverages with no real nutritional value. Specialty coffee drinks have become all the rage in the last year or so. When choosing coffee blended drinks (even hot chocolate) you should always ask for skim milk and no whipped cream. This will drastically cut down the calories and in many cases save you 100 or more per drink.

When tempted to get a cold shake or malt, be sure to make this the exception rather than the rule. While tasty, these dairy delights pack a punch when it comes to calories per serving. Their only saving grace may be the protein they provide, but that is not a good enough trade-off to consume them on a regular basis.

In regard to alcohol, moderation really is the key. Do not mistakenly assume mixed drinks, liquor or shots are calorie free. This is a false perception or myth that people often have. Light beer is always more calorie friendly and stay away from draft beer as the portion size is always so much bigger.

Finally, I want to address energy drinks, smoothies and flavored water. Athletes endorse many of these products. Although I am not a fan at all of energy drinks, I often encourage people to choose flavored water if they refuse to drink plain water. Gatorade should ideally be reserved for people/athletes participating in vigorous exercise lasting greater than 60 minutes as the extra sugar is otherwise unnecessary. Water is best for most in regard to rehydration.

What about smoothies? Well, this is a mixed bag. I do like smoothies when you can get real fruit and protein together. My main caution here is portion size and sugar. Smoothie shops are convenient and certainly healthier than many other options. Just be sure to pick the skinny option when ordering. With that said, you can make even healthier ones at home with low fat or non-fat yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and non fat milk.

Gaining a better understanding of smoothies as well as sports nutrition and energy drinks will enable you to more effectively educate and monitor the dietary intake of your children as well. Getting them to drink more plain water as opposed to these specialty drinks will save the whole family a lot of money over the course of a year.

One final note: pay close attention to serving size as there are often more than a single serving in a beverage. Gatorade, Propel and Monster are all examples of this type of labeling. In the end, it is a heightened awareness and consistency, or lack thereof, in making better liquid calorie choices that will either fuel or impede your weight loss goals.

Brian Schiff, owner of Fitness Edge, is a nationally-known sports and fitness training expert, specializing in injury prevention and return to play for professional and amateur athletes of all ages. Fitness Edge now offers Adventure Boot Camp for Women in Dublin, Westerville, Upper Arlington and Grove City. www.thefitnessedge.cc.