What would you eat if you had 450 calories to spare?
A recent study by Kiyah Duffey and Barry Popkin, from the Department of Nutrition of the University of North Carolina shows that the consumption of calories from drinks of US adults almost doubled from 1965 to 2002.
The average American consumed 458 calories per day from beverages in 2002. This is an astounding figure. Unfortunately, these beverages are an additional source of calories, not something we are substituting for other foods. Sweet beverages are a very significant source of extra, for the most part empty, calories
The study quantified trends and patterns in beverage consumption among 46,576 American adults aged 19 and older using nationally representative surveys of food intake. Over these 37 years, total daily intake of calories from beverages increased by 94 percent. Beverages in 2002 account for 21 percent of daily energy intake among U.S. adults, with a shift to higher calorie, lower nutritional value drinks. This amounts to an additional 222 calories from all beverages daily.
There is growing evidence linking consumption of caloric beverages with increased weight gain and diabetes.
For most of human history, babies were weaned from breast milk to water. Beverages such as wine, beer, fruit juice and milk were consumed infrequently. The human body does not seem to “register” calories from drink, and food consumption is not adjusted and reduced to compensate for the caloric intake from drinks.
It seems like beyond infancy solid food satisfies hunger.
Beverages satisfy thirst and do not satisfy hunger.
I will describe just a few studies to illustrate this point:
Nutritionist Barbara Rolls from Penn State gave women water, diet soda, regular soda, orange juice, milk or no drink before lunch. Total intake was 104 calories greater for those given caloric beverages than those given diet soda, water or no beverage without significantly affecting satiety ratings (see here).
In the Jelly bean study Purdue University researchers gave men and women 450 calories a day of either soda or jelly beans for a month, then switched them for the next month and kept track of total consumption. Candy eaters ate less food to compensate for the extra calories. Soda drinkers did not, so they ate more calories than usual.
So let’s go for the low hanging fruit. Although it is difficult to curb hunger, and eat less food, it shouldn’t be that hard to replace sweet drinks with non-caloric drinks for hydration. The list of the caloric good guys is short: Moderate amounts of wine and other alcoholic beverages are beneficial to cardiac health, and an important part of our culinary culture. Low fat, skim milk or soy milk is also a good nutritional source of protein, carbohydrate, calcium and vitamins A and D. For me that’s it. I wouldn’t personally waste any calories on any other drink. Fruit and vegetable juices have some nutritional value, but I am not a supporter of them. Even freshly squeezed fruit juice falls short nutritionally from eating the whole fruit, forms the habit of expecting beverages to be sweet, and most of the commercial fruit juices are of very little nutritional value, and full of simple sugars and calories.
The list of calorically sweetened, nutrient poor beverages is very long, and includes carbonated and noncarbonated beverages, sports drinks, energy drinks, and high calorie smoothies. Fortifying caloric drinks with minerals or vitamins does not redeem them; they are still liquid candy.
Most of the beverages we drink to hydrate ourselves should be with no calories.