A Starbucks frappucino with a “healthy” dollop of whipped cream on top, a Tim Horton’s iced cappuccino with a chocolate swirl, or even a Booster Juice blended berry smoothie with sorbet. How much sugar and how many calories are you drinking up this summer?
The “refreshing” drinks you may be sipping on could be packed with sugar, fat and empty calories, experts warn.
“Sometimes there are enough calories to make a small meal in a drink. And we know calories from drinks don’t fill us up the same way as calories from food,” said Jennifer Sygo, a Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian.
“These drinks are surprisingly high in calories and they don’t contain nutrient-dense calories either. It’s mostly sugar,” warned Katie Jessop, a sports nutritionist at the Canadian Institute of Sport Ontario.
READ MORE: How much sugar should you be eating? How to follow WHO guidelines
The experts list a handful of ways to make sure your summertime drink doesn’t clock in at too many calories.
Watch your portion size: It’s the easiest way to control how many calories you’re drinking. A tall Java Chip Frappucino has 180 calories, but upgrading to a grande comes with another 100 calories. A venti-sized frappucino has 370 calories – that’s more than a medium-sized portion of french fries from McDonald’s.
“If you’re someone who needs caffeine in the morning, double up on the espresso instead of upsizing to a bigger drink. The larger you go, the more calories you’re going to consume,” Jessop explained.
Skip the excess trimmings: Topping your sugary-sweet drink with whipped cream tacks on another 70 calories – about the same amount of calories as an apple, minus the nutrition. A caramel or chocolate drizzle on top adds at least another 30 calories, too.
“Once you start playing around and add toppings and flavour shots to your drink, the calories can get really, really high in the 300 to 400 range,” Sygo said.
Try to control the sugar content: When possible, try to opt for less-sugar syrup or forgo the added sugar altogether. You’re better off adding sugar to your drink yourself so you get to decide how much sweetness to throw in.
The World Health Organization says sugar intake should be just five per cent of total calories. For an average woman who eats about 2,000 calories a day, that’s roughly 25 grams of sugar. Most of these drinks exceed that limitation.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can cut back gradually, Sygo suggests.
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“Our taste buds are used to the taste of sweetness but you can fix it over time. Make your double-double a single for sugar and slowly wean yourself off of the sugar. Then try to add honey – it’ll have more nutrition,” she said.
This applies to your meals, too. If you’re getting oatmeal from your barista, for example, ask for the breakfast sugar-free so you can add sweetener.
Choose your milk carefully: Try not to make your beverages, especially the blended drinks, cream-based. Your better bets include two per cent milk, non-fat milk and even soymilk.
READ MORE: This food will make you feel fuller if you’re trying to lose weight
“That’s going to save you a significant amount of calories right there and it’s something they have readily available,” Jessop said.
Do your homework: Keep in mind, your drink is probably accompanying a meal that could be calorie-dense, too. Factor your drink’s calories into your daily diet.
Make use of online nutritional information so you’re making your choices wisely, Jessop says.