am very careful about what I eat, but I am not losing weight. Why not?
Your question may have a simple answer. Have you considered what you are drinking? How many cups of sugar and cream-laced coffee or cans of sugary soda do you drink each day? Some drinks can have as many as 500 calories (Like those Tim Horton’s Iced-cappuccinos). If you consider that most people need somewhere between 1800 and 2500 calories to maintain their weight (and less to lose weight), you can see how what you are drinking might affect your success.

A recent study showed that 21% of Americans’ calorie intake comes from the beverages they drink. Americans are drinking more sweetened beverages than ever before. Between 1977 and 2001, the proportion of calories obtained from calorically sweetened soft drinks and fruit drinks (sweetened fruit beverages, not 100% fruit juices) increased three times.

Your body does need liquids to keep it healthy. The amount of liquid you need depends on your health and body size. Meeting all of your fluid needs with beverages containing sugar is not a good idea.

What is the best thing to drink?

Woman Drinking Glass of Water

For calorie-free hydration, you cannot beat good old water. Water is one of the best fluids to drink, because it contains no calories, no artificial flavors or colors, and no sugar.


Other calorie-free beverages, such as black coffee and tea without sugar or milk, are good beverage choices. Although these beverages do contain caffeine, they do not appear related to any health problems. The Beverage Guidance Panel recommends you limit your intake of caffeine-containing drinks to three to four 8-fluid-ounce (fl oz) servings/day.

Artificially sweetened teas, lemonades, and sodas also are calorie-free choices that are preferred over sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit punches, and regular lemonade. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved artificial sweeteners are considered safe. Using this type of beverage can add variety and taste without the extra calories.

milk glasses

Low-fat milk, skim milk, soy milk, and 100% fruit juices are good beverage choices, because they are loaded with nutrients your body needs. However, it is important to realize that these drinks contain calories. Too many calories, even healthy ones, can result in weight gain. Therefore, you should limit yourself to three 8-fl-oz servings of low-fat milk/day and one 4- to 6-fl-oz serving of juice/day to help meet your nutritional needs without adding to your waistline.

What about sports drinks?
Sports drinks contain sugar and also small amounts of nutrients. Most experts agree that sports drinks can replenish nutrients, such as sodium and potassium, when you exercise for more than 60 minutes. However, sports drinks do contain around 150 calories for 12 fl oz. For the average exerciser, the electrolytes lost during exercise are easily replenished through eating a healthful diet. Unless your exercise is long and intense, water is a great calorie-free way to quench your thirst.

Does alcohol have more calories than soda?

red wine, sunny afternoon
Alcohol and soda are both high in calories. A 12-fl-oz beer has about the same number of calories as a 12-fl-oz cola. However, a 1.5-fl-oz serving of spirits (gin, vodka, etc) has about 100 calories. Combine that with 8 fl oz of a mixer and your drink will have more than 200 calories. Large specialty drinks can contain up to 500 calories. To save calories, drink diet soda or water, use diet sodas as mixers, or drink lite beer or wine. Remember, the larger the portion of any drink, regular or alcoholic, the more calories you will consume.

I love specialty coffees. Are they healthy?

Latte, closup
Many of these delicious coffee and tea drinks are loaded with calories. For example, a 16-fl-oz café mocha with no whipped cream contains 240 calories. Whipped cream, cream, and whole milk add many calories to any coffee or tea drink. Instead, order a smaller drink with skim milk to save fat and calories.

The following table shows the number of calories in 12 fl oz of several different types of drinks. This 12-fl-oz serving is the size of a beer or soda can.

Beverage (12 fl oz) Calories Beverage (12 fl oz) Calories
Fruit punch 192 Whole milk 150
Lemonade 168 Fat-free milk 90
Kool-Aid® 174 Orange juice 168
Tonic water 124 Grape juice 255
Sports drink 99 Coffee 0
Cola 136 Tea 0
Fruit smoothie 225 Beer 139
Frappuccino® 320 Lite beer 110
Diet cola 0 Wine (3.5 fl oz) 70


Fresh vegetables falling

RED: Extreme moderation or not at all
While many of these foods are nutritionally solid, they are greater than 30% fat and/or calorically dense.

Use the following foods with extreme moderation or not at all:

  • Bacon
  • Black olives
  • Blue cheese
  • Croutons
  • Eggs
  • Feta cheese
  • Green olives
  • Marinated salads
  • Nuts
  • Pepperoni
  • Raisins
  • Reduced-calorie dressings
  • Regular salad dressing
  • Salads made with mayonnaise
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tofu

Tossed Salad and Salad Dressings

YELLOW: In moderation
While many of these foods are full of important nutrients, they are also 20%–30% fat and/or moderately calorically dense (especially when compared to the GREEN category of foods).

Use the following foods in moderation:

  • Beets
  • Chickpeas
  • Cottage cheese
  • Kidney beans
  • Tuna
  • Peas


GREEN: Unlimited
These foods are low fat and low calorie, but also full of important nutrients, vitamins, and fiber.
Use the following foods without any limits:

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Bean sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Green pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Radishes
  • Red pepper
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Zucchini

Smoked Salmon Salad and Apple Lunch

A tale of two salads

Salad #1   Salad #2
Food/Amount Calories Food/Amount Calories
Lettuce, 1 C 55 Lettuce, 1 C 55
Tomato, 1 small 20 Tomato, 1 small 20
Cucumber, 3 large slices 2 Carrots, 6–8 strips 12
Cauliflower, ½ C 14 Avocado, ½ avocado 188
Carrots, 6–8 strips 12 Kidney beans, ¼ C 55
Broccoli, ½ C 20 Tuna, ¼ C 78
Beets, ¼ C 21 Hard-boiled egg, 1 egg 72
Red cabbage, ¼ C 6 Coleslaw, ½ C 45
Radishes, ¼ C 5 Pasta salad, ½ C 160
Green peppers, ¼ C 6 Diced ham, ¼ C 113
Green onions, ¼ C 11 Cheddar cheese, ¼ C 112
Mushrooms, ¼ C 5 Croutons, 2 Tbsp 132
Kidney beans, ¼ C 55 Bacon bits, 2 Tbsp 48
Tuna, ¼ C 78 Sunflower seeds, 2 Tbsp 102
Lite dressing, 2 Tbsp 30 Salad dressing, 2 Tbsp 140
Total 340 Total 1332

C=cup, Tbsp=tablespoon