Never mind the Food you Eat… what you Drink could be Making you Fat

Never mind the Food you Eat… what you Drink could be Making you Fat

Drinks Make Fat

Many people follow a healthy diet and try to watch what they eat, but when it comes to what they drink, they aren’t so careful. Yet the fluids you consume can have as much impact on your health — and your waistline.

A study earlier this year found that having just one can of sugary, fizzy drink a day can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by around a fifth, for example.

Seemingly healthy drinks can be bad for us, too, especially for our teeth. A recent study in the British Dental Journal revealed that some smoothies contain so much acid they are almost twice as harmful to teeth as orange juice. This is down to the combination of juices used, such as highly acidic kiwi and lime juice.

Drinks can also surreptitiously sabotage slimmers’ diets. ‘I see people all the time who say, “I don’t know why I’m not losing weight”,’ says dietitian Lucy Jones, of the British Dietetic Association. ‘But when I look at their diet, it’s clear that although they may not be eating that much, they are drinking ten cups of tea a day with two to three sugars — that’s 300 calories just on the sugar.

‘Many people forget that alcohol has calories, too — a couple of large glasses of red wine can add up to 400 calories, which is nearly a quarter of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake.’

Even seemingly diet-friendly drinks can pile on the pounds. Some small bottles of flavoured water contain more than 100 calories. Fruit juices are also calorific.

Lucy Jones says: ‘Sweet drinks also stimulate thirst, which may be related to the fact that sugar has an effect on brain chemistry, so the more you drink, the more you want.’

However, not drinking enough can lead to weight gain, too. The Department of Health recommends we drink around 1.2 litres of fluid a day. ‘One of the first symptoms of thirst can be feeling peckish,’ says Lucy Jones. ‘So people who don’t drink enough are more likely to eat more.

‘Being dehydrated by just 2  per cent can affect physical and mental performance, too. It’s possible that some “senior moments” in older people could be due to not being properly hydrated.’

Young people need to drink properly as well. A quarter of teenage girls, for example, are deficient in calcium — found in milk — which is vital for strong bones. But they are consuming less milk and more fizzy drinks — 248ml a day on average, according to the Food Standards Agency. This is twice the amount their mothers drank at the same age.

So how do our drinking habits influence our health? We asked volunteers to record everything they drank in a week. The diaries were then analysed by Lucy Jones, who added up the calories and gave her verdict on what effect the drinks could be having on their bodies…


Full-time father Johnny Steyn, 49, is married to charity worker Susie, 37, and has three children.

DRINK DIARY (calories in brackets).

Day 1: 3 coffees with 2 sugars (325); 5 teas with 2 sugars (225); 2 glasses of water (0). Total: 550 calories.

Day 2: 3 coffees with 2 sugars (325); 1 apple juice (150); 1 glass of water (0); tea with 2 sugars (45); 1 glass of water. Total: 520 calories.

Day 3: 3 coffees with 2 sugars (325); 2 teas with 2 sugars (90). Total: 415 calories.

Day 4: 4 coffees with 2 sugars (433); 1 tea with 2 sugars (45); small glass of red wine (85). Total: 563 calories.

Day 5: 3 coffees with 2 sugars (325); 1 tea with 2 sugars (45); glass of water (0). Total: 370 calories.

Day 6: 3 coffees with 2 sugars (325); 2 teas with 2 sugars (90); 2 glasses of water. Total: 415 calories.

Day 7: 2 black coffees with 2 sugars (94); 2 teas with 2 sugars (90). Total: 184 calories.

WEEKLY TOTAL: 3,017 calories.

JOHNNY SAYS: I’ve become slightly overweight over the past year (I am 5ft 9in and 12st 11lb). After looking at this, I wonder whether ditching the sugar could help. I’m at home with the kids, so I drink a lot of tea and coffee, mostly in the morning. I tried to give up tea and coffee a couple of years ago but felt dreadful. Clearly, my body has become ‘wired‘ for caffeine.

EXPERT VERDICT: A man needs around 2,500 calories a day, and Johnny is wasting a fifth of this on sugar in his tea. You want as few calories as possible from drinks. He could try one sugar for four weeks, then cut it out. It takes around four weeks to retrain taste buds, so this should be manageable.

His fluid intake on day seven is too low — less than a litre. Also, he should spread his caffeine intake across the day. Having a lot in a short period of time can raise blood pressure and heart rate.


Schoolgirl Poppy George, 13, lives in Southampton with her parents and two brothers.

DRINK DIARY (calories in brackets).

Day 1: 2 large glasses of water (0); 1 blackcurrant and apple squash (36); 1 apple juice (88); 2 glasses of milk (422). Total: 546 calories.

Day 2: 2 bottles of water (0); large orange juice (193); orange and mango squash (138); apple juice (88). Total: 419 calories.

Day 3: 2 glasses of water; 1 glass of milk (211); large apple juice (188); small orange juice (86). Total: 485 calories.

Day 4: 2 glasses of water; 1 glass of milk (211); guava juice: (234). Total: 445 calories.

Day 5: 2 bottles of water; large orange juice (193). Total: 193 calories.

Day 6: 2 bottles of water; 1 glass of milk (211); large orange juice (193). Total: 404 calories.

Day 7: 2 glasses of water; 1 guava juice (234); 1 apple and blackcurrant squash (36). Total: 270 calories.

WEEKLY TOTAL: 2,762 calories.

POPPY SAYS: I’ve always thought the more fruit juice, the better, as it’s healthy. Mum’s never let me have fizzy drinks, so I don’t have the taste for them — but I do like milk. Most of my friends don’t.

Poppy’s mother, Nicola George, 43, adds: ‘I thought fruit juice was healthy. I don’t let my kids have fizzy drinks because I’m concerned about the additives. I buy full-sugar squash but don’t worry too much because my children don’t eat sweets. But since Poppy has done the diary, we have reduced her fruit juice intake.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Young girls often shun milk, thinking it calorific. In fact, girls need three portions of dairy a day for the calcium. Until the age of 25, you have the ability to improve the strength of your bones. After that, you can only limit the damage to them.

However, while her milk intake is good, Poppy is drinking too much juice, and this is not good for her teeth. One glass of juice a day is enough — ideally an orange juice with breakfast cereal. Most cereals are fortified with iron, which many teenage girls lack, and the vitamin C from the juice will boost iron absorption.


Investment banker Philip Ashley, 22, lives in Wimbledon, London.

DRINK DIARY (calories in brackets).

Day 1: orange juice (107); espresso (1); 2 litres of water (0); banana and strawberry smoothie (265); glass of red wine (148). Total: 521 calories.

Day 2: orange juice (215), 2 espressos (2); 1.5 litres of water (0); 1 pint of Pimm’s and lemonade (185); glass of white wine: (238). Total: 640 calories.

Day 3: double macchiato (20); apple juice (110); 2 litres of water (0). Total: 130 calories.

Day 4: apple juice (110); green tea (0); glass of white wine (175); 1 litre of water. Total: 285 calories.

Day 5: 2 litres of water (0); glass of red wine (212); protein shake (255); espresso (1). Total: 468 calories.

Day 6: double espresso (2); protein shake (255); 1.5 litres of water (0); camomile tea (0). Total: 257 calories.

Day 7: double espresso (2); 2 litres of water; glass of red wine (212); bottle of stout (122); gin and lemon (140). Total: 476 calories.

WEEKLY TOTAL: 2,777 calories.

PHILIP SAYS: My alcohol intake was unusually high — I usually have one drink a week. I like to keep fit, and have protein shakes as a quick way to fill up afterwards.

EXPERT VERDICT: Many people don’t feel like eating straight after exercise, so a small protein shake can be useful as it helps repair muscle and provides energy. But the body can only utilise 30g of protein — the rest is wasted and has to be processed by the kidneys, which could place extra strain on them.

The amount Philip is having is fine, but he shouldn’t have any more.

The alcohol on day seven is high — six units. Strictly speaking, that’s a ‘binge’. Men should have no more than three to four units a day. If Philip was doing this often, it would be a cause for concern. However, the rest of his alcohol intake is not too bad, and he is having two alcohol-free days which helps his liver recover.


Personal assistant Claire Madams, 41, lives in West Malling, Kent, with her husband Gary, 49, a police officer, and has two children.

DRINK DIARY (calories in brackets).

Day 1: 2 glasses of juice (114); green tea (0); rice milk and soya smoothie (310); 2 teas (30); avocado, lime and apple juice (377); glass of water (0). Total: 831 calories.

Day 2: small apple juice (30); large apple and grapefruit juice (240); 2 green teas (0); tea (15); whisky and cola (86). Total: 371 calories.

Day 3: small apple juice (30); tea (15); orange juice (45); soya yoghurt smoothie (250); 3 smoothies (575). Total: 915 calories.

Day 4: small apple juice (30); 2 soya yoghurt smoothies (620); large fruit juice (273); tea (15); Sprite (41); 2 large glasses of red wine (340). Total: 1,319 calories.

Day 5: small apple juice (30); soya yoghurt smoothie (350); large fruit juice (112); whisky and cola (86). Total: 578 calories.

Day 6: tea (15); rice milk smoothie (340); beer (137); small glass of red wine (127). Total: 619 calories.

Day 7: apple juice (30); fruit smoothie (300); tea (15); 2 large glasses of red wine (340). Total: 685 calories.

WEEKLY TOTAL: 5,318 calories.

CLAIRE SAYS: Since Christmas, I’ve been drinking an awful lot of juice to replace meals so I can lose weight. I skip breakfast and lunch, then eat a large dinner, such as a curry, roast or fish and chips.

I have soya and rice milk smoothies as I am lactose intolerant. I’ve lost around three-quarters of a stone (I’m 5ft 6in and 10st 4lb) but get very hungry by the evening. This diary makes me realise I should consider eating properly.

EXPERT VERDICT: I’m not a fan of Claire’s juice diet. People think juicing is a way to counterbalance a poor diet, but you could even end up deficient in certain nutrients, such as B12, zinc, omega   3, essential fatty acids and iron — so diets such as these can leave people very lethargic.

Plus, when you put fruit or vegetables through a juicer you strip out the fibre. And you expose your teeth to an enormous amount of sugar. Claire’s intake may even place her at risk of type 2 diabetes.

On one day, she has five units of wine. Not only is this a ‘binge’ (women should drink no more than three units a day), but gives her more than 300 calories. The stronger the alcohol, the more dehydrating it is, so a shot of spirit is more dehydrating than a beer, for example.

I’m glad she is having lacto-free milk as many people who think they are lactose intolerant often do without milk altogether. But milk contains many vital nutrients.


Charity director Marian Nicholson, 63, is single and lives in West London.

DRINK DIARY (calories in brackets).

Day 1: large coffee (30); 6 teas (90); glass of water (0); decaf coffee (20). Total: 140 calories.

Day 2: large coffee (30); 5 teas (75). Total: 105 calories.

Day 3: large coffee (30); 5 teas (75); half a can of Coke Zero (0); mug of chicken soup (59). Total: 164 calories.

Day 4: large coffee (30); 6 teas (90); glass of water (0); decaf coffee (15). Total: 135 calories.

Day 5: 2 large coffees (60); glass of water (0). Total: 60 calories.

Day 6: large coffee (30); 6 teas (90); one glass of water (0). Total: 120 calories.

Day 7: small coffee (10); cup of soup (55); glass of fruit squash (25). Total: 90 calories.

WEEKLY TOTAL: 814 calories.

MARIAN SAYS: A couple of years ago I was put on thyroxine (which helps control the body’s metabolism) as I have an underactive thyroid gland. Even without this, I can easily put on weight. My BMI is slightly high at 26.5 — it should be between 18 and 25 (I am 5ft 4in and 10st 12lb), so I avoid sugary drinks — but I can’t live without tea and coffee.

EXPERT VERDICT: You want to have as few calories as possible from your drinks, and Marian does that. The only thing she needs to watch is packet soups, as these can be salty. This can be an issue if you’re watching your blood pressure. High salt intake is also linked to gastric cancers.

But she has a good fluid intake. As people get older, especially in their 70s and 80s, their thirst mechanism is not so efficient, so they need to be reminded to keep drinking to avoid dehydration. Otherwise this can lead to confusion and kidney problems. People also become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from food as they get older, so drinks such as fruit juice and milk can be a useful add-on. – Dailymail