Did you know: the human body can survive for up to 30 days without food, but less than a week without water?1 Beverages are our primary way of keeping our bodies hydrated and healthy. But they’re also the perfect gateway for extra fat and sugar calories to sneak in — they go down effortlessly with no chewing required — and thus an easy way to impede the progress of your weight loss journey. Here are the best and worst beverages for weight loss, along with some helpful tips for staying on track. Cheers!
Water is life. Literally.
Your body is 60% water, and this essential substance is critical for just about every bodily function.2 Water helps to regulate your body temperature, keep your tissues hydrated, cushion your joints, protect your spinal cord, transport nutrients and keep your digestion moving right along.2 Water is also essential to maintaining a healthy weight; studies show3 that inadequate hydration is a key contributor to obesity.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend drinking 8–12 cups of water per day, or somewhere around 2–3 liters.4 While other beverages technically “count” toward your daily fluid intake, nutritionists recommend that at least half of these requirements are water — and suggest that you choose wisely with the bevvies that are left. We sat down with Janet Nash, RD with Jenny Craig, to get her recommendations on the best and worst drinks for weight loss.
Bottles & cans
We get it! Sometimes you want something with a little kick — whether that’s the fizz of carbonation, the tanginess of lime or even something a little sweet. Just make sure to read your labels, and ensure it’s a low-or-no calorie soda. Sugary drinks like lemonade, sweet tea and regular pop can add up to over 800 calories to your day — and 1-2 lbs. to your weekly check-in with the scale.5
BEST: 10 calories or less; beverages naturally flavored and/or sweetened with no-calorie natural sweeteners
WORST: Artificially flavored; sweetened with sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup
Coffee & tea
For some of us, coffee is less about what we’re drinking and more about the ultra-comforting act of holding a warm mug with the aroma of fresh-ground beans. Coffee and tea are also deeply ingrained in our social and work lives. That’s why it’s important to be aware that your favorite flavored chain-store coffee drink, which could pack as many calories as three doughnuts.6
BEST: Plain coffee or tea; versions made with skim milk and non-nutritive sweeteners
WORST: Lattes, chai teas and frozen/blended drinks made with whole milk, sugar and whipped cream
Dairy & alternative milks
While dairy has gone in and out of fashion over the years, it’s actually solid nutrition. One cup of 1% low-fat milk has just 90–100 calories, and is loaded with protein, calcium and (if fortified) vitamins A and D.7 Be aware that alternative kinds of milk are not automatically “healthier,” and can be loaded with sugars/carbs.
BEST: 1% or skim milk; unsweetened non-dairy soy, almond, rice, hemp or coconut beverage
WORST: Flavored and sweetened milks like chocolate and strawberry; flavored milk alternatives
Relationship status: it’s complicated. While smoothies are a great way to boost your daily intake of healthy fruits, veggies and greens, they can also be loaded up with ingredients that are less supportive of your weight loss journey — like peanut butter, honey, fruit juice, sweetened yogurt and even sherbet.
BEST: Unsweetened 8–12-oz. portions made with whole fruits or veggies, spices and water or ice
WORST: Most bottled smoothies; over 15-oz or 250 calories; made with additions listed above
For more information on how Jenny Craig can help you with your weight loss journey, contact your local neighborhood Jenny Craig center.