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The Best and Worst Sips for Your Hips


Made with wholesome fruit, milk and ice, what's not to love about a healthy smoothie on a hot day? Not so fast—although they may sound innocent enough, these summer sippers could actually be massive calorie bombs in disguise. Many common selections at smoothie chains and fast food restaurants pack two times more sugar than a candy bar and more calories than a burger and fries! Before drinking up, read on for the best and worst picks from popular smoothie establishments across the country. 
Posted 8/14/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 47 comments   38,598 views
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The 9 Healthiest Coffee Drinks and Smoothies


One of the sneakiest places excess calories hide is in beverages--and two of the biggest culprits are coffee drinks and smoothies. Though coffee itself is calorie-free and smoothies are made with fruit, the extras we add to these beverages can tack on hundreds of calories! Thankfully, there are plenty of better choices out there. Here, we've rounded up the nine healthiest smoothies and coffee drinks!


Posted 3/21/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 77 comments   251,068 views
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Food Showdown: Battle of the St. Paddy's Day Brews!


Top o' the morning to ya and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Even if you're not of Irish descent, there are many ways you can still get into the spirit of this fun, heritage-based holiday. You could deck yourself out in green from head to toe, or blast Irish music and jig around your house while you do chores. Or, you could enjoy a frosty mug of Irish beer, green food coloring optional. If you do choose to indulge in a festive drink tonight, which Irish brew will set you back the least amount of calories: a Guinness Draught stout or a Killian's Irish Red lager?
Posted 3/17/2013  10:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 18 comments   11,366 views
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Burn It Off: St. Patrick's Day Beer Edition


St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner. If you're like most Americans looking for a reason to party, this means one of two (or…two of two) things: 1) You're going to down a pint of your favorite Irish beer in celebrate of St. Paddy, or 2) you're going to drink one of your favorite American beers tinted green.

But if you're trying to keep your weight in check—or even lose a few pounds—a beer or two can really throw things off. Alcohol can lead to weight gain, as the body processes it much differently than food. And burning off a few hundreds extra calories for a day or two of bar hopping is no small feat.

To help you decide which beer might make the best fit in your St. Patrick's Day diet (if any), I came up with this great visual guide to show exactly how many calories are in your favorite stouts, ales and draughts, along with how much exercise it'll take to burn off the beer of your choice.
Posted 3/13/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 35 comments   27,660 views
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The Real Dangers of Energy Drinks


Recently my teenage son and I found ourselves killing time at the grocery store while waiting for the pharmacy to fill a prescription.  Surrounded by an array of protein supplements and energy drinks, my typical "tell mom only what is absolutely necessary" son was full of questions and comments.
 
Our discussion about energy drinks was interesting--and somewhat disturbing--on several levels. As any mom knows, it is important to not pass judgment or show signs of shock if you want the conversation to continue. This little discussion led me to the following conclusions:
  • Energy drinks are very popular with teens and young adults (no surprise there)
     
  • It is a generational thing: I have my coffee; they have their energy drinks.
     
  • Shop-lifting the energy shots (the small, concentrated bottles, including 5 Hour Energy, which I've written about in the past) is common. Some stores are placing these under lock and key.
     
  • Savvy marketers have convinced our teens and young adults that energy drinks can provide them with a mental and physical edge.  Therefore they are being used in large quantities both on a daily basis and before academic testing and sporting events. 
All this got me thinking again about the energy drink phenomenon. This fast-growing beverage category now reaches more than $10 billion annuallyBut what is the impact on the health of adults, teens and children? 
Posted 2/15/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 27 comments   16,232 views
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10 Light Beers to Toast with This New Year's Eve


3-2-1, Happy New Year!

When you toast the new year this weekend, pick a drink that 's not going to weigh you down.

Sip one of these light beers if you choose to imbibe.
Posted 12/27/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 84 comments   32,897 views
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10 Cocktails with 150 Calories or Less


If you're planning to ring in the New Year with a drink, watch out: Many popular cocktails contain more calories than a cheeseburger! To celebrate without adding to your weight, try one of these low-calorie cocktails.
Posted 12/26/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 45 comments   348,508 views
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The Cost of a Cocktail: Up to 18 Pounds a Year


The wassailers arrived on stage during the local production of the Boar’s Head Yule Log Festival.  Their voices boomed, yet blended beautifully.

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.


Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

 
Sitting in front of me was a little girl. She turned to the woman sitting next to her: “Mommy, Mommy,” she asked. “What’s a wassailer?”

Back in the day, the Christmas season made the rich a little more generous.  Therefore bands of peasants and beggars would dance and sing their way through the streets of England in hopes of obtaining drinks from the wealthy's wassail bowls, which contained a hearty combination of hot ale, beer, apple slices, and spices.  'Twas a perfect brew to warm a frozen nose and tingling toes, and these singers would head from home to home searching for more.

Since those carolers were walking door-to-door, they probably expended the wassail calories and didn't worry much about packing on the pounds.  Today however, this is probably not the case.  Not only can we blame alcohol for our weight gain, but many of us are drinking our calories instead of reaching for nutrient-dense foods. 

A recently released data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported on the calories consumed from alcoholic beverages by 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007-2010.  This information was obtained from adults, ages 20 and older, using 24-hour dietary recall interviews. The results are shocking!
Posted 12/21/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 29 comments   21,720 views
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Swap the Starbucks: 17 Skinnier Recipes Worth Sipping


The modern coffee house has become the de facto office space for thousands of work-from-home Americans, including yours truly.  When I need to change of scenery or to interact in-person with other human beings, my local java joint is my go-to option.  The people-watching is decent and I will often bump into a friend, which approximates the traditional water-cooler conversation. It’s also a place for nutritional choices and I often find myself struggling to stick to the program. Whether it’s the sweet aromas or the attractive displays, many of the items in the forefront are loaded with calories and easily put me over the top on my daily sugar intake. not to mention how terrible I feel later.  Even worse are the hidden calories in my original favorite drink, the latte. I thought I was being so healthy, because there was no minimal sugar, only to find out how many calories are in the deceptively large servings. I am happy to share, however, that I have learned a lot over the last year to take control of the coffee house menu to make it work for me and my health needs. 
Posted 12/13/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 21 comments   51,586 views
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Choose This Seasonal Drink to Save Over 100 Calories


Now that the Pumpkin Spice Latte craze has passed, Starbucks has rolled out a new set of hot drinks for the winter season. With enticing names like Gingerbread, Eggnog, Caramel Brulee, and Peppermint Mocha, these sweet sips sound like a fun way to kick off the holidays. But not so fast! If you're going to indulge, which one of these drinks should you choose to avoid extra pounds?
Posted 11/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 43 comments   36,468 views
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Infographic: Why Coffee & Tea Are So Good for You


Editor's Note: Coffee, tea and caffeine. Sometimes you hear how horrible they can be for your body. Other times you're told that you're not drinking enough of them. What's the truth?

Today we are excited to share a fun and interesting infographic about the health benefits of coffee and tea from our friends at Greatist.com.
Posted 10/31/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 59 comments   30,916 views
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You Asked: Do Drinks Like Coffee, Tea or Diet Soda Count toward My Daily Water Quota?


A few decades ago, Americans consumed less than 10% of their daily calories in the form of drinks, but today we get 21% of our calories from beverages. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that's 420 calories a day in the form of drinks!
 
When you're trying to lose weight, you have fewer calories in your "budget" each day, which means you need to make all of them count. Those "empty" calories from sugary beverages are an easy place to cut back.
 
That said, one of the most common questions new SparkPeople members have is "Do drinks like coffee, tea or diet soda count toward my daily water quota?"
 
SparkPeople recommends eight to twelve cups of water daily, but for some people, drinking that much water can be difficult. Fruit juices, milk, teas and decaf coffee also count, as do flavored (unsweetened) waters, carbonated water, and water with fruit or herbs. So, yes, you can drink beverages other than water to meet your hydration needs, but there are a few things to consider before you start sipping.
 
Caffeinated beverages can actually increase your need for more water and dehydrate the body (caffeine is a diuretic) so a lot of caffeinated coffee or soda will not quench your thirst.
 
Artificially sweetened drinks, including diet sodas, can also count toward your quota. However, we recommend no more than four servings (32 ounces) of artificially sweetened beverages daily.
 
If you struggle to control your sweet tooth, you might want to avoid diet drinks. Preliminary studies suggest that high intakes of artificial sweeteners might affect appetite control (i.e. by eating more sweet foods—artificially sweetened or not—you crave more of them). Individuals who want to use artificial sweeteners should do so within the context of a sensible weight-management program that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.
 
My personal opinion, particularly for people trying to lose weight, is to drink plain water whenever possible. I feel it helps to cleanse the body when weight loss and fat breakdown is occurring. I also know that it helps to keep the hands and mouth busy, to reduce the urge to snack. This is a form of behavior modification that can help break old habits (such as mindless eating) and replace them with ones (drinking water when boredom hits). Most people report feeling better when they consume at least a few glasses of plain old H2O each day. If you're going to consume caffeinated beverages or diet drinks, consume as much or more water to balance them out.
 
Other caloric beverages, such as juice, sports drinks, and milk, can be part of a healthy diet. SparkPeople uses the guidelines set by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which were developed by the Beverage Guidance Panel in 2006. The experts on that panel stressed that a healthy diet should NOT rely on fluids to provide calorie or nutrient needs, and that water is necessary for metabolism and normal physiological function. In fact, water is the only fluid that the body truly needs.
Posted 8/7/2012  12:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 0 comments   667 views
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Poll: Do You Drink Hot Beverages to Cool Off?


On a hot day, most people like to have a cold beverage to help cool down. However, some like to drink hot tea or other hot beverages to help cool down. Yes, you read that right, they drink hot beverages to cool down, but that seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? Joe Palca from NPR recently looked into this and spoke with neuroscientist, Peter McNaughton, to find out why you might want to drink a hot beverage on a hot day to cool off. The bottom line of what he found is that we have a lot of TRPV1 receptors on our tongue that respond to heat, so when we drink a hot beverage, our brain alerts our body to sweat, therefore cooling the body off.
 
Posted 7/19/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 46 comments   11,586 views
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Smarter Sips: Try These Low-Cal Beverages for Summer


These days you're more likely to buy a powdered mix, gel, or bottle of flavored tea or lemonade, but these classic drinks are easy to make and a great way to stay hydrated in the summer months.
 
And though commercial versions can be loaded with sugar and other sweeteners, these drinks can be quite low in calories.
 
Let's compare some common summer drinks:
Posted 6/4/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 17 comments   18,052 views
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CONTEST CLOSED: Giveaway: Gut-Friendly Probiotic Drinks from GoodBelly


Contest closed! The winner is:

ANYVAR54

Congratulations!


If you suffer from tummy troubles, you may have heard that eating yogurt will help get your digestive system back in shape. However, yogurt isn't the answer for everyone. If you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or just don't like the taste of dairy, you could be missing out on some major gut-friendly probiotic cultures. But don't worry! There is another way to treat your belly right without the dairy: Enter GoodBelly, a dairy-free probiotic juice drink that promotes healthy digestion.
Posted 5/25/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Melinda Hershey : 21 comments   7,553 views
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