Water, sure, but there must be other healthy drinks
ShutterstockWhenever we strive to make significant changes to our diets, we tend to focus on our meals and snacks—which makes sense given that we’re usually more able to feel the effects of what we eat (full, uncomfortable) more so than the drinks we have.
“Beverages almost always become an afterthought when thinking about lifestyle changes or weight loss,” says registered dietitian Abby Langer. “They’re consumed quickly, don’t require chewing and don’t generally contribute to feelings of satiety.”
But, it’s because of those characteristics that what you drink could be affecting your health and weight-loss goals. After speaking to both Langer and registered dietitian Vincci Tsui, we discovered that addressing what you drink has less to do with counting calories or a prescriptive diet, and more to do with mindfulness and awareness.
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The hidden culprits
ShutterstockThe first step is to determine how drinks might be sabotaging your goals. While alcohol is definitely a culprit, we’ll be focusing on those less obvious drinks—the ones you have every day. The thing to remember here is that anything with added sugar or unknown ingredients is probably not doing your body any good. “Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are at the top of the list,” says Langer. But so are things like your daily coffee—if you add sugar to it—and smoothies. (By the way, you won't want to miss these fast, easy tips to lose weight.)
And going on a juice cleanse might not do what you intend it to do. “Having a green juice once in a while, might be an efficient way to get some vitamins and minerals,” says Tsui, “but going on a juice cleanse is more likely to deprive your body of the nutrients that it needs to properly cleanse itself via the liver, kidneys, and lungs.”
The bottom line? There’s no quick fix for losing weight or getting healthy—even when it comes to liquids — so listening to your body and being mindful of what you’re consuming is key.
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Mindful changes to make
ShutterstockCutting things out of your diet cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone, so gradually reducing something that you’ve become accustomed to is probably your best bet. So, don’t beat yourself up if you relapse and grab a pop. It’s also a good idea to begin to question why you want to cut something out—is it because you know it’s something your body doesn’t need or is it because it’s become trendy to cut it out? (Here are some things that happen to your body when you stop drinking diet soda.)
“You need to consider the drink in the content of the individual,” says Tsui. “For example, some people may be concerned about the amount of sugar in chocolate milk, but for athletes, it can be a quick option for recovery as it contains the necessary carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes.”
Different activities—and different bodies—will require different things. The important thing to keep in mind is that some components of non-water drinks like sugar, sweeteners, fat, caffeine, alcohol and carbonation should be enjoyed in moderation— “they can have a negative effect on people in the short- and long-term, so you may choose to limit them,” says Tsui.
The easiest way to make changes to the liquids you consume is to be most mindful of sugar. Here are a few concrete changes to make.
1. Swap store-bought smoothies for homemade smoothies
ShutterstockIf you’re making the smoothie at home, you can control what goes into it. Langer recommends Greek yogurt, a bit of fruit and extras like peanut butter or flax seeds. (Need some more inspiration? Try one of these delicious superfood smoothies–your body will thank you.)
“Any pre-made smoothie with more than one to one and a half servings of fruit or filler juice tends to be a sugar bomb—avoid.”
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2. Swap pop for sparkling water with a splash of juice
Shutterstock“Instead of soda, try sparkling water with a splash of a natural juice with no added sugar,” says Langer. Her pick is POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, which has no added filler and it a good source of potassium. Learn the differences between seltzer, club soda, and tonic water.
3. When it comes to coffee, ditch the sugar
ShutterstockAdding sugar to your coffee every day could be seriously sabotaging your health and weight loss efforts. Try ditching the added dose of sugar completely—but if that proves hard, start by cutting the amount of sugar you add in half. (Here are some other ways to make your coffee habit healthier.)
4. Swap our low-quality juices with filler to fresh-pressed juice
ShutterstockThough we admit, freshly pressed is more expensive, it’s also better for you. Looking at a label to make sure you’ve got 100 percent juice with no filler or added sugar will actually make a difference in your juice-drinking habits.
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5. Forget sweetened ice tea and brew your own
ShutterstockYou can buy unsweetened ice tea, but we recommend brewing your own. Simply pick out your favorite tea, brew it with a bit less water than you’re used to, and then add ice. This is a great way to replace juice entirely when you pick herbal tea options too. (Don't miss these things experts won't tell you about weight loss.)
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