If you're trying to lose a few pounds, you're probably focusing on eating healthy foods. But it's easy to forget that everything you ingest — including beverages — can either help or hinder your efforts to slash the number on the scale.
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Here, DJ Blatner, RDN, and author of The Superfood Swap: The 4-Week Plan to Eat What You Crave Without the C.R.A.P., discusses the five most common drink mistakes that may be messing with your weight-loss goals.
Mistake 1: Drinking Diet Soda
Just because a beverage is calorie-free doesn't mean it's healthy.
"Although there are no calories in diet soda, research suggests that drinking it is associated with higher body weights," Blatner says.
Indeed, a July 2013 paper in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism found that people who regularly sip on artificially sweetened beverages may have an increased risk of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
What's more, the authors hypothesize that diet drinks interfere with glucose and energy homeostasis, and as a result, disrupt healthy metabolic functions.
Fix it: Ditch the diet soda and drink water. If you really miss the carbonation, swap in one glass of unsweetened sparkling water for H2O, Blatner says.
Craving caffeine? "Try unsweetened hot or iced tea for a little boost," Blatner suggests.
Mistake 2: Juicing Every Day
While juicing can give your body a blast of nutrients, it may hinder weight loss if you substitute it for one of your meals, Blatner says. That's because juicing strips the fibrous parts of fruits.
Remember, fiber helps keep you full and regulates blood sugar levels, so without it, your stomach won't be satisfied. Similarly, a cup of juice also lacks satiating protein.
Not to mention juice is jam-packed with sugar, especially if you're stuffing the juicer with several fruits simultaneously.
"Even though fruit is extremely good for you, it does have more calories [and sugar] than veggie juices," Blatner says.
And without fiber to slow down the absorption of sugar, your blood sugar will spike and dip, resulting in more cravings for sweets.
Fix it: Drink your juice as part of a balanced meal, not by itself, and limit the number of fruits to one cup or one piece, Blatner suggests.
Also, consider swapping the glass of juice for the whole fruit, so you can reap the health benefits of fiber.
Mistake 3: Not Staying Hydrated
Drinking too little H2O can hamper your weight-loss efforts.
"Water helps every part of your body function better, including your metabolism," Blatner says. Plus, "not staying hydrated can make you feel too tired to exercise (increasing your risk of injury and soreness), and it may lead you to believe you are hungry when in fact you are just thirsty," she adds.
Fix it: Always have a water bottle nearby as a visual reminder to drink more.
"For goal-oriented people, keep a daily tally of how much water you drink (you can even download an app to help you keep track)," Blatner says.
And if it's water's lack of taste turning you off, Blatner suggests tossing fruit in your glass for a speck of natural sweetness and flavor. Or you could stir in some spices like cayenne, which pairs perfectly with lemon water.
Mistake 4: Adding Sweeteners to Coffee
That spoonful of sugar with your morning cup of joe adds up at the end of the week.
"Sweeteners are empty calories which can cause weight gain because they don't provide fullness or nutrients to help your body know when it's time to stop eating," says Blatner.
And it's the same problem even with the more natural sounding stuff like organic raw sugar, coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup, she adds.
But zero-calorie artificial sweeteners may not be the answer either. In fact, sugar substitutes might sabotage your weight-loss journey.
Here's why: Non-nutritive sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, and over time, they can tamper with your taste buds, making other foods (like fruit) taste less sweet, according to Harvard Health Publishing. In other words, frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners can make nutritious foods less enjoyable and increase your cravings for sugary fare.
Fix it: To take the bitter bite out of coffee, try adding cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla or unsweetened cocoa powder, buy a lighter roast or serve with a splash of fat like 2 percent milk, whole milk or unsweetened coconut milk, Blatner recommends.
Just be careful you don't purchase a plant milk packed with sugar. Many plant milks made from coconut, almond or oats are sweetened and harbor sneaky calories, Blatner says.
Mistake 5: Drinking Too Much Alcohol
When it comes to weight loss, alcohol is not your ally.
For one, "the calories add up, especially in cocktails and mixers," Blatner says. To make things worse, booze "lowers inhibitions, which can cause you to overeat or make less-healthy food decisions," she adds.
Fix it: Select smarter spirits.
"Choose alcoholic drinks that don't have extra calories from add-ins or mixers" like a flute of prosecco, five ounces of wine or low-calorie liquors, Blatner says. And if you're thirsty for a cocktail, stir with healthier mixers like sparkling water, citrus, unsweetened hibiscus tea or kombucha, she says.
And, above all, drink in moderation — not just for weight, but for overall health and wellbeing, Blatner says.
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