Avoid Drinking Calories

I’ve written a couple articles on ensuring the sensation of fullness while limiting caloric intake [1,2] and this article continues with the same theme. When attempting to lose weight, it is important to limit calorie-dense foods that don’t contribute well to a feeling of fullness. In particular, sugary beverages are calorically dense and do little to elicit a feeling of fullness. Eliminating or limiting sugary drinks is a great first step in reducing your caloric intake. This is one of the easiest dietary changes to make, as there are alternative beverages that are simple, inexpensive, and enjoyable.

The first and most obvious alternative is to simply replace sugary beverages with water, but this isn’t always appealing to everyone. There are other alternatives, such as:

► Add stevia (a natural, zero-calorie plant-based sweetener) and lemon/lime juice in water.

► Drink naturally flavored/plain seltzer water (if desired, add stevia for more sweetness).

► Instead of drinking straight fruit juice, dilute the juice (50% or less of juice, and 50% or more of water).

► Diet soda is a zero-calorie alternative to regular soda.

► Reduce the number of sugary beverages you consume per day. If you drink 3 sugary beverages per day, just drink 2 or 1.

Here are some examples of sugary beverages:

► Fruit juice

► 12 ounces of orange juice* contains 165 calories, and 31 grams of sugar [3]

► Soda

► A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar [4]

► Specialty coffee drinks

► A 12 ounce Mocha Frappuccino with almond milk from Starbucks contains 180 calories and 39 grams of sugar [5]

► This is the smallest and lowest calorie version of the drink

► A midsized version, being 16 ounces with whole-milk and whipped cream comes to a total of 410 calories and 61 grams of sugar

► Sweetened iced tea

► 12 ounces of sweetened iced tea* contains 105 calories and 27 grams of sugar [6]

► Beer

► 12 ounces of beer* contains ~150 calories [7]

► While beer typically doesn’t contain much sugar, the combination of carbohydrates and alcohol make it a calorically dense beverage

*Calorie and sugar content vary from brand to brand

It is interesting to note that 12 ounces of orange juice contains more calories than 12 ounces of Coca Cola. It is important to realize that just because a drink is derived from natural (or even organic) fruit sources, it does not mean that they are any better than processed high-fructose-corn-syrup-containing drinks. Generally speaking in terms of weight loss, sugar is sugar – it tastes good, digests quickly, and can easily exist in high concentrations within liquid.

Here is an example of the dietary impact that can occur from reducing sugary/calorie-dense beverages:

► In this example, an individual has a daily caloric intake of 2800 calories.

► The individual drinks 3 calorically dense beverages per day.

1.) 12 ounces of orange juice in the morning (165 calories)

2.) 12 ounces of Coca Cola at lunch (140 calories)

3.) 12 ounces of beer at night (150 calories)

► The individual consumes 455 calories per day from the 3 beverages.

► The calorically dense beverages account for 16% of the total caloric intake

► If the individual uses zero-calorie alternatives in place of the calorically dense beverages, they will create a significant reduction in daily consumed calories, while not feeling any less full.

Continuing with the idea of the above example, it is best to progressively cut out the consumption of sugary/calorically dense beverages.

1.) First week: cut out the beverage that is easiest to give up

2.) Second week: cut out the beverage that is the next easiest to give up

3.) Third week: cut out the beverage that is hardest to give up

If one-week-progressions seem too much too quickly, try 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or even a month. The take-away message here is to create a change that will last many years, if not a lifetime.  When it comes to making consistent lifestyle changes, slow, gradual, and easily attainable steps are the best way to go. If you make many small lifestyle changes in an aware and intelligent manner, you may be surprised at the progress you’ve made by the end of a year.

Bottom line: Liquids don’t help you feel full nearly as much as solid foods do. If you are attempting to lose weight, you should be contributing to a sense of fullness whenever you consume calories. Therefore, drinking calories is counter-productive to weight loss goals, especially if you struggle with feelings of hunger when attempting to lose weight.


1.) Brandon, C. 2017. It’s Possible to Eat MORE Food While Eating FEWER Calories:

2.) Brandon, C. 2017. The Relationship between Water, Fiber, and Fullness:

3.) Calories in orange juice:

4.) Calories in Coca Cola:

5.) Calories in Star Bucks Mocha Frappuccino:

6.) Calories in sweetened iced tea:

7.) Calories in beer: