It's not easy to choose the best drinks for weight loss. Brace yourself for a weight loss shock: Some 10 to 14% of your daily calories don't come from food at all, according to the USDA. They sneak through in drinks that wash down those calorie-counted meals. How's that possible? Consider this: One caffe latte for breakfast, one can of soda at lunch, and a fruit smoothie snack can blow your daily budget by 550 calories!
While tasty going down, liquid calories don't register on your appetite meter the way solid food does, so those excess calories can add up fast. Likewise, making a few shrewd swaps with your drinks could trick your body into weight loss by accepting fewer calories without cutting back on food. The exceptions, of course, are calcium-rich, low-fat dairy or soy milk or antioxidant-rich tomato, orange, or Concord grape juice. But if you root out another 200 liquid calories a day, you could have as much as a 20lb weight loss in a year—without your stomach even noticing.
Kick the Can The first place to look? Sweetened soft drinks. A 2002 study found that the average American drinks 41 gallons of sugared soft drinks a year. "That's a pound of pop a day," says nutrition researcher Michael Finke, PhD, of the University of Missouri in Columbia. "Remember that 16 ounces of sugared soda represents 200 calories right there."
Finke discovered that all those sweet drinks make it practically impossible to eat right and attain weight loss. "The more soda the subjects drank, the greater the likelihood they weren't getting the RDAs of the 14 essential vitamins and minerals that we studied," he points out. Biggest losses: bone-building calcium and heart-protective folate.