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10 Drinking Habits That Can Drastically Change Your Weight Loss Efforts, Say Dietitians

How you choose determines whether you gain or lose.

Consider this: of the 2,115 calories the average American adult consumes daily, 18% (or 385 calories) come from beverages, according to the USDA. And sugary beverages account for the bulk of our daily consumption of added sugars. That means your drinking habits can easily affect your weight loss efforts, making it harder or easier to lose, depending on what you drink. Which of the following drinking habits do you practice?

Don't: Drinking Soda Every Day

woman drinking soda

It's a lunchtime habit for so many. Soda or some other sugar-sweetened beverage. How 'bout you?

"Our food supply is already laden with tons of added sugars, and sweet beverages like soda, juices, and sports drinks are only making things worse," says medical board expert Laura Burak, MS, RD, an medical board member and founder of  GetNaked® Nutrition. "In my opinion, the only beverages worth drinking are coffee, water, and wine, or insert the ones that are worth it to you, and water is the only one you should be consuming in significant amounts every day."

But if you drink, say, a Dr. Pepper every day at work, consider how dramatically that can affect your body. A 20-ounce bottle contains 64 grams of sugar in a serving; that's 28 grams more than the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 36 grams per day. That serving of soda also carries 250 calories. At one Dr. Pepper a day for a year, you will have swallowed 91,000 extra calories, the equivalent of 26 pounds of weight.

For more reasons to avoid soda, read Dangerous Side Effects of Drinking Soda Every Day.

Do: Drinking Water Before Every Meal

drinking water

Drinking lots of water can have such a profound positive effect on your weight loss that one registered dietitian nutritionist and member of our board of medical advisors made it the core principle of her program and book, You Can Drop It! How I Dropped 100 Pounds Enjoying Carbs, Cocktails & Chocolate—and You Can Too!  Ilana Muhlstein, MS, RD recommends "water first;" drink 16 ounces of water as soon as you wake and another 16 ounces of water before every meal.

"To me, water is really the igniter switch to your whole weight-loss approach," she says. "It fills you up, it quiets hunger and settles those growls in your stomach, it can stoke your metabolism, and it can distract you from grabbing bags of chips, bowls of dips, and anything else you like on your lips."

Don't: Drinking Sweet Coffee Beverages


Your daily swing by the coffee shop on the way to work for a large specialty coffee may be what's keeping you from losing weight.

"Many people will skip the 'unhealthy' soda, but don't realize their $5 fancy coffee beverage might be costing them more calories than a soda," says board member  Amy Goodson, RD, who is also a certified specialist in sports dietetics and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. "Many flavored coffees are full of syrups and powders that are high in sugar, not to mention the whip and drizzles that might top them. Drinking 300 to 500 calories a day in a fancy latte might derail weight-loss goals."

Don't: Drinking Fresh Pressed Juices

juice bottles

"This trendy habit sounds healthy. After all, there are vitamins and minerals in juices. But they still contain sugar. Twenty ounces of fresh-pressed juice can be as many calories as a bottle of soda," says Goodson. "Those sugar-based calories can add up quick! This dietitian's best advice is to eat your fruit, don't drink it."

Do: Drinking Green Tea Throughout the Day

green tea

When you swap unsweetened green tea for the calorie-heavy beverages you usually drink, you're saving significant calories. But green tea offers something more: it can increase your body's ability to burn fat.

"Green tea is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, as well as the antioxidant EGCG, which research shows can enhance fat burning and increase metabolism," say medical board members Lyssie and Tammy Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, also known as the Nutrition Twins.

"In addition to the EGCG itself, research shows that the combination of the caffeine found in the tea and the catechins in green tea help with weight loss by increasing fat burning."

Don't like the taste of green tea? Try white tea. It too revs up metabolism spurring the body to break down fat for energy, says a study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism. Green, white, or black, unsweetened iced tea is an excellent no-calorie beverage.

Don't: Drinking Coffee Very Light

Coffee with cream

Coffee creamers and half & half are packed with artery clogging saturated fat.

"Depending on how light you like your coffee, creamer can add more than 200 calories per coffee cup," say the Nutrition Twins. "If you have several cups a day, cutting out the creamer can result in a two-pound weight loss per week. Try adding cinnamon for extra flavor, you'll get the blood sugar-lowering benefits, too."

Do: Drinking Almond Milk

milk almond

Your regular beverages should provide benefits, says registered dietitian nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of the website and blog That's why she's a fan of unsweetened almond milk.

"Almond milk has only 30 calories per cup, but contains more calcium than dairy milk, plus vitamins D, E, and A," she says.

Do: Drinking Smoothies

holding strawberry smoothie

A habit of drinking smoothies can help your weight-loss efforts or sabotage them. It depends on how you make them (or order them). Even hunger-satisfying high-protein smoothies can be calorie bombs if you make them with juices, sweet nut milks, and lots of fruit.

"Whether you order them from a smoothie shop or make them yourself at home, be wary of the ingredients, especially sugary ones like chocolate syrup and calorie-dense mix-ins like peanut butter," says registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

She recommends loading up your smoothie with vegetables instead of relying solely on fruit.

"A weight loss smoothie should have fiber, which low-calorie vegetables like kale, spinach, carrots, beets, and celery provide," she says.

Do: Drinking Sparkling Water

sparkling water with lime

If you find it hard to make a habit of drinking water throughout the day because, well, it's sort of boring, mix it up with some sparkling water.

"Sparkling water has been shown to increase feelings of fullness to a greater extent than plain water by keeping food in your stomach for longer periods of time," says Goodson. "And sparkling water satisfies your bubbly craving without all of the extra calories."

Don't: Drinking Craft Beer

Craft beer

Craft beers are hugely popular. You can tell by the number of microbreweries that have popped up in abandoned buildings around your town and the number of cases of 16-ounce cans with weird names and labels at your local beer distributor.

A regular habit of beer, as everyone knows, grows beer bellies. But that's regular beer. Craft beers tend to be higher in alcohol than mainstream pilsners and lagers. And as alcohol volume rises, so do calories. What's more, most craft beers are served in 16-ounce cans, not 12 ouncers, so you are getting four more ounces of calories per serving.

For example, a 16-ounce hazy IPA with 8% alcohol by volume may pack 300 calories while a 12-ounce Budweiser at 5% alcohol contains 145. Better to make a habit of a light beer or two if you're going to drink regularly and want to avoid a drastic change to your weight-loss efforts.

Another calorie-saving option is a low-carb cocktail: A vodka soda, for example, made with 1.5 ounces of vodka and club soda has just 120 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates. No matter your poison, drinking a glass of water between drinks can cut a significant amount of calories out of your total Happy Hour score. And whatever you do, avoid this Worst Alcoholic Drink for Abdominal Fat.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff