You are what you drink, Are you drinking your calories?

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Words by Saja El Masri, Allurion Program Nutritionist, Enfield Royal Clinic

We often hear the phrase you are what you eat, but not much thought is given to what individuals drink. Many find it easier to reach for a can of soda or processed juice before water, which can amount to almost 200 to 300 calories consumed, depending on the beverage. This can be a problem considering these beverages are not nutrient-dense meals. Based on people’s requirements, this can easily count as 20% of the calories their body requires in a day. With much of the discussion focused on our eating habits, it is easy to miss that the drinks we consume also play a significant role in our health, particularly for those on weight loss or weight management journeys.

I have noticed with my patients, time and again, that they believe the problem solely lies with soft drinks, and once they reduce or cut these out of their diets, they are good to go. Whilst soft drinks can account for empty calories, the problem does not stop there. Most drinks, including the daily tea and coffee options from go-to cafes, have calories that come from added sugar, such as honey, jaggery, processed sugar, and more. Most of the time these will not provide any nutritional value to the body and can further contribute to increasing a person’s weight. According to a survey conducted by SUN Cohort in 2016, obesity is a major epidemic in developed countries in the 21st century, with one of the main causes of obesity being energy imbalance, which contributing factors include a sedentary lifestyle, epigenetic factors, and excessive caloric intake through food and beverages. High consumption of caloric beverages, such as alcohol or sweetened drinks, can particularly contribute to weight gain, and lower satiety has been associated with the intake of liquids instead of solid calories

Research shows that liquids do not promote the same feeling of fullness as solid foods do. When you drink something, it eliminates the act of chewing, which may impact the signals between the stomach and the brain. This means that the calories that you are drinking will not promote the same amount of fullness between meals as eating the calories might.

It is important to remember, especially for those looking to lose weight, that it is not just about the number of calories consumed but also about the nutrients in those choices. For instance, broccoli is a nutrient-dense food that is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and is relatively low in calories. On the other hand, a cup of coffee with sugar is an example of a nutrient-poor, higher-calorie option. 

 So how do you make sure that you are not drinking too many calories? The first step would be to make a conscious effort to replace your daily sugary carbonated drink with other options like sugar-free choices, sugar-free flavoured or plain water. Water is not only free of calories but is essential for life and health. All of the tissues and organs within the human body require water to maintain their structure and function. A good idea is to buy a reusable water bottle and carry it everywhere with you so you always have it on hand. 

Depending on how frequently you consume sugary sodas, cutting down could be a good start. There is a significant body of research that supports the benefits of this choice, demonstrating that substituting water and other zero-calorie beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages has a positive impact on both weight and body composition.

Try some of these tips to avoid calorie-laden beverages: 

  • Add fresh fruit, like slices of citrus or watermelon, to flat or sparkling water for a boost of flavor
  • Try adding cucumber slices for a refreshing twist to the water 
  • Sparkling water (or seltzer) can be a great way to enjoy a bubbly, flavorful beverage without any calories
  • Swap your sugar-sweetened beverages for ones that are lower in sugar or sugar-free

Furthermore, if you are on your weight loss journey and want some support to achieve your goals, Allurion, a medical device company that employs a holistic approach to handling weight issues and eating habits, can help you on your journey. The program is the world’s first and only weight loss device that requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia, allowing patients the chance to take a break from the feeling of hunger often associated with a weight loss program.

While most weight loss diets are designed to help one lose weight, their efficiency can be affected by a variety of factors. This is why I recommend a multilayered approach when advising my patients. Successful weight loss programs should always combine researched solutions with proper guidance from healthcare professionals, such as the Allurion Program. The Allurion Program does not focus solely on weight loss but gives patients the building blocks to rehaul their lifestyle, achieve their desired results, and set them up for long-term success; this includes a customized program for nutrition and activity. 

So, the next time you are at a store walking through the aisles with beverages, don’t forget to read the nutrition labels on the items in your cart to see which ones have the most added sugars. Remember that you can make a healthier choice every step of the way by choosing water and other healthier, low-calorie beverages over the highly sweetened ones.

Allurion’s Program is the world’s first and only weight loss device that requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia. It is a swallowable pill that expands in the stomach to around the size of a grapefruit and allows patients to lose an average of 10 to 15% after approximately 16 weeks. Allurion’s Program combines its high-tech balloon solution with a full package of support to help its patients develop healthier lifestyle habits that can remain with them long after their balloon has gone. Patients benefit from six months of lifestyle change support from a trained nutritionist to ensure lasting lifestyle changes alongside an Allurion body composition scale, health tracker watch and mobile app.