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Drinks that weigh you down and what to swap to instead

‘Liquid lunch’ takes on a new meaning.

Move over alcohol. A new style of liquid lunch threatens to overflow into excess body fat for many adults and kids.

With drink sizes sneaking upwards and a reluctance to pay for plain bottled water, it is no wonder that waistlines are swelling. Take a look at your drinks to see if they might be stalling your quest for better health and shape.

Discover some easy swaps to make along the way and some tips to save.

Juice bars

  • When you juice at home, you know how much fruit goes into a glass. A juice bar drinks contains 4, 5 or more pieces of fruit or possibly an entire pineapple. Ask yourself, would you eat that much if the fruit was still whole?
  • Juice is a great way to get your fruit and vegetable except that the fibre is lost! Avoid juices that are pressed or strained. Choose a juice bar that blends the whole fruit to you get to drink the pulp (fibre) as well.
  • Switch to pure vegetable juice or a vegetable-fruit blend if weight loss is your goal.
  • Fruit smoothies pack a punch and provide you with about a third of your daily fuel needs. Basically a meal in itself when you look at the energy content which can be close to 2800 kilojoules or 670 cals. It’s no wonder you feel full after drinking a smoothie! So if you have a smoothie, call that breakfast or lunch. Don’t have it in addition to other food.
  • Unless you choose pure vegetable juice, go for junior or the smallest serves when buying from a juice bar.
  • Avoid added sorbets and sugar sources—you are better off with pure juice.

Sports drinks

  • Sports drinks contain between 5 and 10% sugar combined with electrolytes (salts) to maximize the absorption of water from the intestine. They are designed for speedy re-hydration.
  • There is no point drinking sports drinks unless you are training very long and hard (for more than 1 hr) or you work physically out in the heat all day and the sweat is bucketing out of you.
  • A 500 ml bottle contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. Drink one every day and by the end of the week, that’s more than 1 cup of pure sugar or about 250 g sugar (a massive 13 kg or 28 lb in a year).
  • Sports drinks contain sodium – between 350 mg sodium per litre. If you need to cut back on sodium, avoid these drinks.
  • Diet sports drinks seem a crazy idea. The advantage is perhaps a psychological one because without the sugar content, they may have no advantage over diet soft drink for hydration. It’s cheaper and as good to drink diet cordial!

Soft drinks

  • Soft drinks contain about 10 tsp sugar (40 to 50 g ) in a standard 375 ml can.
  • And a massive 16 teaspoons of sugar in a small 600 ml bottle. Drink one a day, and you consume almost 2¼ cups of pure sugar in 7 days or a massive 23¾ kg (52 lb) in the year. If you upgraded from a can to a bottle each day, that could cause a sneaky weight gain of 4 kg (almost 9 lb) in just one year.
  • Click here to check out my video clip to see how to strip 10 kg in a year.
  • Tonic water is a trap. Although not sweet, tonic contains as much sugar as regular soft drinks.
  • If you want soft drink and need to lose weight, choose varieties labelled diet, zero or low joule.

Energy drinks

  • Energy drinks contain caffeine or guarana laced with about as much sugar as ordinary soft drink. If you need to lose weight, then choose low joule versions of these energy drinks.
  • Excess caffeine may increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can stir up ulcers, trigger irritable bowel and act as a stimulant. Caffeine can help to suppress appetite.

Diet soft drinks – low joule and zero

  • Sugar and kilojoules (cals) are not an issue in these drinks but dentists will stress that these sugar-free drinks, especially the black coloured drinks, remain very acidic and will still damage your teeth.


  • Cordial is sugared like soft drink. It doesn’t matter whether the cordial has a high ‘juice’ content or not – the sugar and energy content is much the same between varieties.
  • One litre of cordial base (concentrate) contains a massive 2⅓ cups of pure sugar. If your household slurps down a litre bottle of cordial each week, then by the end of the year that’s 25 kg (55 lb) of pure sugar that’s disappeared into their stomachs and perhaps has reappeared as tummy fat.
  • Make your cordial really, really weak by adding just enough to just take the taste out of plain water or choose versions labelled low joule or diet.

When water is no longer water

  • Water with added vitamins, minerals and flavour is basically a cordial. Look at the nutrition panel and compare the sugar and kilojoule (cals) content with soft drink and you probably will be quite shocked. So don’t be tricked. Drink plain water instead.
  • Soda water with ‘twists of flavour’ is a sugared drink with about the same sugar and kilojoules (cals) profile as regular soft drink. Don’t be fooled. Drink plain soda water and add you own squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Tea and coffee

  • In years gone by, tea and coffee were not considered ideal hydrators, but now scientists have shown that they do give your body some water and help to keep it hydrated.
  • Be very careful with fancier coffees and teas. Latte, mugaccino, affogato, syrup flavoured espresso, chai tea – it is surprising how much extra milk, cream and other sugars these drinks add to your week. To keep the saturated fat, kJ and cals down, choose skinny or small or long black in coffee.
  • If you add a sachet of flavoured coffee to each day last month, then this might explain that mystery ½ kg (1 lb) you gained! Swap back to filtered coffee with a dash of milk instead.

7 drinking tips for a better body

  1. Choose water, plain soda water or unflavoured mineral water as your 1st drink
  2. Brew a good tea or coffee and add a dash of milk for the caffeine rush
  3. Wait until the very end of your solid meal before starting on the drinks – that way you have to chew your food and not take the lazy way out by flushing it down
  4. Choose low joule, low cal drinks if sweet is your choice
  5. Down-size to the smallest possible cup or container when buying fruit juice
  6. Switch to vegetable juice at the juice bar
  7. If you want fruit juice, make it with freshly blended whole fruit that is not pressed or strained.