Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't Drink Your Calories! (Part 1)

This topic, "Don't Drink Your Calories" will be the first of many, because quite frankly I think most people are unaware of how many calories they can 'potentially' drink. Today, our supermarket aisles are packed with soda drinks, energy performance drinks, and vitamin enriched waters! And then we have the coffee drinks - the Caffè Lattes, the Coffee Coolattas, the Frappuccinos (with or without a twist, lite or not). Oh, and lets not forget the shakes!

This summer I asked my niece and her three teenage friends if I could get them something from an unnamed coffee establishment. I seriously had to ask the girls to repeat their coffee order 3 times ! This caused my anxiety level to increase, and by the time I ordered their drinks I mixed up the coffee part of the order, but I did remember the whipped cream! I recall thinking, these drinks are more like desserts. I did wonder how teenagers view them - as drinks or desserts?

I'm not saying that all drinks are equally bad and should be completely avoided from ones diet (I'll come back to this in other posts). I recognize that every individual is different, their caloric needs are different, their food preferences are different, and their body weight is different. I think making informed choices about what we drink and eat is a personal decision. But here is where I see the problem (please weigh in on this) - I think most people are clueless as to how many calories they actually consume daily from beverages or ice-cream based drinks. Let me give you an example.

If you were to guess how many calories are in a large Baskin-Robbins Chocolate Oreo shake (which by the way is 32 oz), what would you guess ? (I wasn't even close!)

2,600 calories.

And the saturated fat?
59 grams (and note, this is not total fat)

My husband brought this to my attention when he read about it in last weeks Boston Herald.

And lets be honest - it is shocking!

It raises questions.
If people drink their calories, do they displace other calories from their diet?(in this case avoid eating for the rest of the day!).

Does the average person know how many calories they are drinking?

If the nutrition information is posted - do they care?
Certainly some questions to ponder on ...

So why do I get all fired up about drinking calories? Some facts....
  • The obesity epidemic exists across all age groups in the US - children, adolescents and adults.
  • In 2006, 16% of children and adolescents, aged 2-19 years, were obese (i.e. at or above the 95th percentile on growth charts).
  • In 2005-2006, 33% of adult men and 35% of adult women were obese.
  • Both the portion size and the number of caloric beverages people consume has increased over the years.
  • Excess calories from beverages leads to weight gain.
  • The national costs attributed to both overweight and obesity are in the order of $90+ billion
  • Approximately half of these costs were paid by Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Obesity rates continue to rise in the US.
Topic to be continued...


  1. Hey Dr. Nic, I followed you over from pointy universe and just wanted to say: this is good stuff! I wasn't at all close either--an adult's entire daily calorie intake in ONE CUP? This alone has to explain a significant percentage of the US obesity problem (and by the way, I'm seeing it here in Australia too!).

  2. 59g of saturated fat?!?! unbelievable!! Dare I ask what the total fat content is? Thanks for the info, great post. (dr. g.)

  3. Hi dr.g.
    Hold onto you socks...
    135 g fat and lets throw in sugar and sodium for good measure! A total of 263g sugars and 1,700 mg sodium (sweet and sour at the same time!). I don't like to use the word "BAD" when I refer to food but this is baaaaaaaad !

    You are right Roving Lemon - drinking these types of shakes clearly contribute to the obesity problem! Glad you are enjoying this blog.

  4. Hi Dr. Nic,

    Just wondering what may be a way to talk a teenager off the ledge of drinking these things? are there better store-bought alternative I can suggest?

    I have heard that caffeine for a growing adolescent can stunt their growth. Any truth in that? Perhaps scaring a teen out of Starbucks is another way to go?

    thanks for your insight. really appreciate it.