- Diet soda. My tendency is to recommend eating real foods and avoiding artificial sweeteners and fat replacements, such as aspartame and Olestra. Aspartame, a common sweetener in diet soda, has been linked to migraine headaches, among other adverse health reactions. In addition, there is a small amount of preliminary research indicating that your body releases insulin in response to artificial sweeteners. The release of insulin causes your blood sugar levels to drop and therefore makes you hungry. Trying to decrease the amount of sweeteners you use, whether they're natural or chemical, is the best bet. However, allow yourself to enjoy your favorite sweet occasionally, made with real sugar. If you choose to drink diet soda or use artificial sweeteners, do so in moderation (once or twice a week).
- Coffee drinks. With the rise of the chain coffee houses has come the popularity of creamy coffee drinks that are chock full of sugar and calories. A 16-ounce café mocha averages 300 to 350 calories, while a 16-ounce frozen coffee drink can have anywhere from 300 to more than 500 calories, depending on what "extras" you have added. Whipped cream alone can add more than 100 calories! Bakery treats such as banana bread, muffins, and scones have, on average, between 350 and 450 calories, while a caramel sticky roll or slice of coffee cake can have upwards of 700 calories. Yikes! You could easily get more than half of your daily calorie allowance from your coffee break.
Fortunately, you don't have to forgo your treat. There are many lower-calorie choices, such as a small café latte or cappuccino made with fat-free milk (about 120 calories). You could also try a 12-ounce Chai tea with fat-free milk for about 170 calories. Choose from a selection of herbal teas or, of course, plain old zero-calorie black java. And instead of the muffins or cake, try a crunchy biscotti for around 120 calories.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is another underestimated calorie source. A 12-ounce beer, a 7-ounce glass of wine, or a 2.5-ounce martini each adds around 150 empty calories. And that can double if you're drinking a tall glass of a creamy mixer such as piña colada. Also, alcohol tends to lower your inhibitions, so you are more likely to take a few extra bites of dessert. In addition to contributing to extra weight, alcohol has been shown to have differing effects on your health. Moderate amounts of red wine (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) have been shown to lower the risk of coronary heart disease. However, research has also shown that alcohol in higher amounts can be a contributor to cancers of the breast, esophagus, stomach, and colon. Use judgment and moderation when fitting alcohol into your meal plan.
Reprinted from: Lean Mom, Fit Family: The 6-Week Plan for a Slimmer You and a Healthier Family by Michael Sena, C.F.S. with Kirsten Straughan, R.D., L.D., and Tom Sattler, Ed.D. (August 2005; $16.95US/$23.95CAN; 1-59486-067-X) © 2005 Michael Sena. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com
Michael Sena, C.F.S., is one of America's most respected personal trainers and fitness experts. His fitness advice has appeared in USA Today and the Washington Post and on CNBC and CNN's Headline News. He was named one of the 100 best trainers in America by Men's Journal in 2005 and is a founding member of Mayor Daley's Fitness Council. He lives in Chicago.
Kirsten Straughan, R.D., L.D., is a registered dietitian who has worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private counseling, nutrition seminars, and fitness and nutrition television news reports.
Tom Sattler, Ed.D., has chaired the graduate specialization in applied exercise physiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Dr. Sattler has also supervised training for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks (1978-1982) and the Chicago Cubs (1982-1988). He is currently the director of education and programming for the Senior FITness division of Alliance Rehab, a Health Resources Alliance company.