Are you drinking yourself fat?

If you’re struggling to lose weight, it could be because you’re guzzling calorific drinks – and it may not be the ones you think. Dietitian Juliette Kellow explains…


Are you drinking yourself fat?

You’ve cut out cakes, chocolate and biscuits, never fry food and exercise three times a week – but the pounds refuse to budge.

It’s possible to consume hundreds of calories each day from liquids. Here’s the lowdown on what nutrients drinks offer and how their calories compare to food…


Not surprisingly, water is free from calories, fat, sugar, salt and additives. But watch out for flavoured waters: many contain artificial sweeteners and are low in calories, but a few may tot up the calories with ‘hidden’ or added sugars.

  • One glass of flavoured water (based on a 250ml Volvic Touch of Fruit Lemon & Lime) contains 60 calories – equivalent to eating 1 slice of cantaloupe melon, 6 strawberries and 50g raspberries.

Milky drinks

Opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and you’ll get plenty of nutrients for your calories. A 250ml glass of skimmed milk contains just 83 calories; 115 calories if it’s semi-skimmed. Milk is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, especially bone-building calcium, and doesn’t damage teeth.

Milkshakes are a different story – they can be loaded with calories, sugar, flavourings and other additives. It’s better to make your own, by blending semi-skimmed milk with fruit.

  • One large banana milkshake (based on a McDonald’s milkshake) contains 510 calories – the same as a 225g grilled sirloin steak, home-made potato wedges, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and salad.

Fruit juices and smoothies

These provide vitamins but don’t contain the fibre of fresh fruit. That’s why one small (150ml) glass of fruit juice or smoothie counts as just one of the five-a-day recommended fruit and veg. Check labels to make sure you’re buying juice without added sugar. Squashes and fruit juice drinks  may contain large amounts of ‘hidden’ sugars, rapidly upping the calories.

Juice drinks are often a cocktail of water, ‘hidden’ sugars, flavourings, colourings and added vitamins. Cut calories by choosing ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no added sugar’ varieties.

  • One bottle of blackcurrant juice drink (based on Ribena) contains 256 calories – the same as 2 slices lean roast beef, 2 new potatoes, 1 Yorkshire pudding, steamed broccoli, carrots and low-fat gravy.

Fizzy and sports drinks

Drinking one can of fizz every day may be all that it takes to gain a stone in a year! These drinks are packed with calories, and contain a sugar and acid combo that’s harmful to teeth.

  • One energy drink (based on 380ml Lucozade Original) contains 277 calories – the same as a boiled egg plus 2 slices of wholemeal toast with low-fat spread.

Tea, coffee and other hot drinks

Tea and coffee are virtually calorie-free; it’s the milk and sugar that can make the difference. Milky, sweet lattes and cappuccinos can be calorie hazards, especially if topped up with cream or syrup. Herbal, green and fruit teas are the best options; hot chocolate is often the worst as it’s tempting to swirl on the whipped cream.

  • One hot chocolate with cream (based on Caffè Nero) contains 432 calories – the same as a chicken stir-fry made from 1 tsp sunflower oil, 1 skinless chicken breast, 1/2 pack stir-fry veg, 1 tbsp reduced-salt soy sauce and a block of cooked noodles.


In large amounts, alcohol is bad for your health, but it also contains calories, so stick to no more than 2-3 units daily for women and 3-4 units for men. Mixers can also add to the calories. Best options include single measures with a diet mixer for 50 calories. A large glass of wine contains around 130 calories, and a pint of ordinary strength lager or a bottle of alcopop is around 200 calories.

Cocktails are usually the worst calorie choice as they combine lots of alcohol with sugary juices.

  • One pina colada contains 280 calories – the same as 1 wholegrain bagel with a little low-fat soft cheese and a slice of smoked salmon with salad.

Easy to swallow

It’s easy for drinks to add to your daily calorie intake. Take this typical day…

Breakfast: 100ml shot of Actimel Original probiotic drink = 72 calories

On the way to work: Starbucks Grande Skinny Latte = 163 calories

Mid morning: can of Coca-Cola = 139 calories

Lunch: 250ml bottle of Tropicana Orange Juice = 108 calories

At the gym: 500ml Lucozade Sport = 140 calories

Dinner: large glass of white wine = 132 calories

Throughout the day: 4 mugs of tea, each with 1 tsp sugar = 138 calories

Total: 892 calories

That’s almost half the recommended daily calories needed for a woman and more than a third for a man – enough to stop you losing almost 1kg in a week!

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