Drinking your calories is rarely as satisfying as eating them. However, it could be the downfall in your expedition to lose weight or achieve a healthy lifestyle. Below is a comprehensive list of the best low calorie beverages available to help you make simple swaps to save on as much as 100 + calories per drink. Do you know how many calories are in your go-to coffee or drink of choice? If not, then this article is a must-read! It may shock you to learn about where hidden calories lie and the amount of them present in unsuspecting drinks.
Sneaky quantities of calories, fat and sugar often derail weight loss plans of even the best intentioned people. It’s about time you gain control of the drinks you consume and make smart, informed decisions so that you can live your best and healthiest life without putting your body through unnecessary health risks. You may even find that those energy dips and caffeine crashes you experience disappear!
What’s more, if you’re saving calories from consuming healthier drinks and you’re no on a weight loss plan, you could put them towards your favourite treat! These ingenious swaps are very apt for when you dine out at a restaurant or order a takeaway and you are unsure as to what drinks you can have without having to experience guilt and extreme rushes of sugar,which will have you awake all night.
Many people advocate cutting out alcohol during cutting or diet phases as they are an empty calorie that don’t keep you full like food does. That said, there are many people who enjoy a drink now and then, and would rather choose lower calorie options over banishing them completely. In addition, we all have lives to live, so there may be a night out you want to or need to attend and wish to make the best selections with the least calorific impact.
These are some golden rules that you can follow on a night out to make the most of it with minimal calorific damage:
- Opt for the low or no alcohol version of drinks, e.g. Heineken Zero
- Select drinks with lower alcohol by volume (ABV) – an indicator of alcohol content and thus a guide for calorie content
- Many spirits are generally lower in calories than other alcoholic drinks, e.g. vodka and diet coke
- Clear drinks, e.g. vodka, gin, champagne and white rum, are typically lower in calories than dark spirits, e.g whiskey
- Opt for light beer options, such as
- Tennents Light (66 calories per 330 ml)
- Gen!us Lager (79 calories per 330 ml)
- Coors Light (102 calories per 330 ml)
- Healthier seltzer drinks are now becoming increasingly prevalent, such as White Claw (70 calories per can)
- Avoid adding mixers to your drink, such as juice, energy drinks and soda
- If adding mixers, lower calorie options include diet soda, sparkling water
- White wine generally contains less calories than red wine
- Cocktails are often high in sugar and calories, swap them for a clear spirit and mixer topped with berries or fruit
- e.g. gin and flavoured sparkling water or elderflower with berries
- champagne cocktail with ice and decorated with orange peel
- Learn what the nutritional value of your favourite wine is here: Wine nutrition facts
My current hypothesis is that the harder the name of the drink is to pronounce, the greater the quantity of calories. Surely a mocha choca latte (yaya) is high in calories, but a Caramel Macchiato, Venti, Skim, Extra Shot, Extra-Hot, Extra-Whip must induce calories merely by looking at it! The rule of thumb with drinks is that the below ingredients will lead to an increase in calories, sugar and fat consumption:
- Extra shots
In addition, adding extra shots or requesting larger sizes will also contribute to a higher calorie consumption. Hazard a guess as to what the highest amount of calories is in a Starbucks drink. The Java Chip Fraps weighs in at an eye-watering 600 calories. Yes, the equivalent to a large dinner or even a McDonald’s meal!
You can avoid such encounters with the below hacks:
- Sticking to regular teas and coffees
- Americanos and many unsweetened iced coffees also have less than 5 calories
- Drink your tea or coffee black
- Ditch the milk, foam, syrups, cream, alcohol and sugar, where possible
- Choose a low-calorie or low-sugar milk (see below milk section)
- Opt for cinnamon as a healthy flavouring to your coffee
- Opt for unsweetened cocoa or dark chocolate as a healthier alternative to regular chocolate
- If skinny versions are available, choose those instead, e.g. skinny latte
- Swap regular sugar for sweeteners, e.g. Stevia is a natural sweetener
Ease yourself into the process of transitioning to healthier coffees by eliminating and reducing items on a phased basis, e.g. many people who take 3 spoons of sugar gradually move down to 2 spoons, then 1 spoon and sometimes they even completely disengage from adding sugar to their tea or coffee!
The same principles apply to other ingredients; for instance, adding slightly less milk or opting for a milk that’s lower in fat. This approach works for many people as the concept of moving from a sweet, sugary drink to a much blander, black tea or coffee often shocks their taste buds, and ultimately doesn’t withstand the test of time. So, before you know it, you’re back drinking the sugary goodness again. This transitionary approach allows your taste buds to become accustomed to less sweetness, and you ultimately won’t even notice the lack of sugar in your drink.
Skip the risk of drinking bland beverages by opting for flavoured coffees and flavour drops which are jam-packed with flavour and have little to no calories. I also add the syrups and drops to my food too for an added kick of flavour.
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Diet soda: This option can be somewhat contentious as the debate between artificial sweeteners versus sugar persists. However, if you are someone who drinks the regular version of drinks, then you can save yourself a significant amount of calories. Opting for flavoured water or diet soda instead of regular soda can save you upwards of 100 – 200 + calories per serving. So if you’re someone who likes to guzzle their soda by bucket-load, this will certainly make a difference.
Tip: Opt for diet soda as a mixer for your alcoholic beverage of choice and this will also slash some extra calories.
Flavoured water: Ditch the fizzy drinks for the healthier, natural alternative. We all know that plain water doesn’t exactly make the cut at times, but by opting for flavoured fizzy water, it adds about as much kick to your taste buds as the regular fizzy drinks. You could also opt for adding some fruit or a slice of lemon or lime to your water as well for a bit of extra zest.
You can also add water flavouring drops to water to quench your thirst in a healthier and tastier way. Just ensure it’s a dilute concentrated drink, or squash or cordial (or whatever you call it in your country) with low or no added sugar and low calories. I personally love Mi Wadi or Robinson’s summer fruit flavour drops.
The surge in variations of milk, from dairy milk to non-dairy milk alternatives, is a welcome addition to the supermarket shelves, especially for those who are lactose-intolerant, on vegan diets etc. Below is a nutritional comparison of a range of milk and dairy milk alternatives per 100ml and listed in terms of highest to lowest calories.
- Full-fat milk:
- Calories: 64 kcal
- Sugar: 4.7 g
- Fat: 3.5 g
- Protein: 3.4 g
- Low-fat milk:
- Calories: 47 kcal
- Sugar: 4.8 g
- Fat: 1.5 g
- Protein: 3.5 g
- Semi-skimmed milk:
- Calories: 36 kcal
- Sugar: 4.8 g
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Protein: 3.5 g
- Rice milk:
- Calories: 47 kcal
- Sugar: 3.3 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Oat unsweetened milk:
- Calories: 40 kcal
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fat: 1.5 g
- Protein: 0.2 g
- Soya unsweetened milk:
- Calories: 33 kcal
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fat: 1.8 g
- Protein: 3.3 g
- Coconut unsweetened milk:
- Calories: 14 kcal
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fat: 1.2 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Almond unsweetened milk:
- Calories: 13 kcal
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fat: 1.1 g
- Protein: 0.4 g
Lowest in calories: almond unsweetened milk
Lowest in fat: Semi-skimmed milk
Highest in protein: low-fat or semi-skimmed milk
Smoothies are often endorsed as a healthy way to get 1 of your 5 a day of fruit and vegetables in while also having a refreshing fun tasty drink at the same time. However, don’t be completely fooled, as these can harbour ingredients that can cause calories to skyrocket. Follow these below tips to lower the calories in your smoothie:
- Choose a low calorie milk from the above section as opposed to full fat milk
- Adding protein powder will not only increase the protein content, it will make you feel full for longer
- Protein powder will also bulk up the smoothie and add flavour too
- Bulking foods that can be added include spinach, ice and greek yoghurt
- Vegetables are generally lower in calories than fruit, e.g. broccoli,
- Swap fruits higher in calories for lower calorie fruits, such as swapping bananas for berries or apples
- Nuts and seeds should be limited as they are generally calorie dense foods
Tip: Making a smoothie bowl will make it feel like you’re having a meal, and you may be less prone to eat as soon after.
- Caffeinated drinks can account for a significant amount of hidden calories, sugar and fat
- Healthier and lower calorie / no alcohol drink options are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular
- Limiting or restricting mixers added to drinks and choosing light beer options can save on calories
- Adjusting your choice of milk can significantly reduce calorie, fat and sugar intake
- Smoothies can be used as smoothie bowls instead of drinks on the go
- Flavoured water is a healthier alternative to soda
Now that you’re equipped with the skills and know-how to choose low calorie beverages, it’s time to give your food a sanity check too with low calorie food swaps – cut 100+ calories a day. Can you guess what the leading cause of excess fat and calories is in a meal? I can almost guarantee that you’ll be astounded by the calories being added to your plate before food is even added!
Are you shocked by the calories in any of your favourite drinks? Do you think you’ll make swaps to healthier alternatives or have you already made swaps in terms of drinks that you choose? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.
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La Jeunesse, M., 2018. 10 Hacks To Make Your Coffee Healthier. [online] Insider. Available at: https://www.insider.com/hacks-to-make-your-coffee-healthier-2018-5
London, J., 2019. Try These Low-Calorie Cocktails For A Guilt-Free Happy Hour. [online] Good Housekeeping. Available at: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/g27458390/low-calorie-drinks/
Sanders, J., 2020. 10 Smoothie Ideas Under 150 Calories. [online] Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom by Jamie Sanders. Available at: https://www.scatteredthoughtsofacraftymom.com/low-calorie-smoothie-recipes_29/
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