Watching what you drink a good way to lose weight

Steve Panetta chats with Squires & Stag members about healthy alternatives. Photo by Wayne Tidwell.


Watching what you drink rather than what you eat can be a more effective way to lose weight, Steve Panetta, director of Wellness Activities at Big Canoe, told the Squires & Stags breakfast crowd at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti on September 6.

"Research shows that cutting liquid calories strips weight faster than slashing food calories, Panetta said. "By cutting your drink calories in half you could lose up to 23 pounds of sugar-inflated flab this year alone, without changing a single thing you eat."

Some of the reasons for that is the development of special contents of beverages of virtually every category over the past 130 years by creative scientists and marketers. Panetta provided a list of what he called "the worst moments in beverage history," naming the culprits who have helped create a world of overweight and obese citizens. Here is his list:

In 1886 an Atlanta pharmacist develops the formula for Coca Cola syrup; the basis for a sweet tonic purported to remedy a host of maladies with the stimulating kick of caffeine and cocaine. The cocaine is removed from the formula just after the turn of the century, but coca leaf remains in Coke"s formula to this day—albeit in the form of a non-narcotic extract.

In 1963 Tab, a diet beverage containing the now illegal artificial sweetener cyclamate is introduced nationwide. Cyclamate is banned six years later due to cancer fears, Tab switches to a formula that balances saccharin with a touch of sugar.

In 1971 Dallas restaurant owner Mariano Martinez tweaks an old ice cream maker to invent the world"s first Margarita machine, which can pump out drinks faster than a blender ever could. The device quickly becomes popular, transforming what was once a fresh lime libation into a sugar-loaded slushy for adults.

In1976 7-Eleven introduces the Big Gulp, a gargantuan 32-ounce fountain soda. At the time of its introduction, it costs about 40 cents, the same as a16-ounce bottled soda.

In1985 Dairy Queen blurs the line between beverage and dessert when it introduces the Blizzard. The creation is really an oversized sundae, but because it"s served from a cup, people suck it down with burgers and fries. DQ sells more than 175 million the first year.

Most importantly, in the late 1980s Coca Cola and Pepsi replace sugar with high fructose corn syrup. It"s less costly, allowing retailers to sell a 64-ounce drink for the same price as an 8-ounce drink. It"s addictive and doesn"t tell you when you are full and prevents the body from producing key hormones that regulate energy cycles. It inhibits hunger so that your body cannot tell when it"s full. High fructose corn syrup can only be metabolized by the liver, compared to sugar that can be processed by any cell in the body, which means high fructose corn syrup is turned into a triglyceride and laid down as fat.

In 1995 Starbucks begins selling frappuccinos, creating a new market for 600-calorie coffee-milkshake hybrids, complete with whipped cream topping.

In 2004 A USDA report reveals that 97 percent of high schools now have vending machines, helping to make candy, cookies and soda the three most popular foods among students. Just two years prior, the nationwide obesity rate for children hits 17 percent, roughly three times what it was in the late 1970s. It"s currently at 18.5 percent. The adult obesity rate is at approximately 30 percent.

Choice of drinks important to health

Coffee is an excellent choice. It is loaded with antioxidants and caffeine has been shown to speed up metabolism, according to Panetta.

"Just be careful of the amount of cream," he said. "Milk is a good choice as it provides protein and calcium."

He recommended organic over regular.

Panetta warns that the juice in your fridge may be a glass of sugar water. "Look at the calories per serving," he said. "If the sugar content is in the mid-20s or higher it"s not much better than drinking a glass of soda.

Sodas are the biggest culprits when it comes to washing down lunch, according to Panetta.

"Not only do these syrupy beverages add inches to our waistlines they"re just not working hard enough to keep us hydrated," he said. "If you need something sweet to wash down that turkey sandwich, make sure your drink of choice has less than 100 calories and provides some nutrition in return. Lightly sweetened ice tea and the selection of water-juice hybrids fit the bill."

And apparently, diet sodas are not the answer.

"The thought that diet sodas are good for you since they contain no sugar, calories or fat is a misconception," Panetta said. "There is no nutritional value in a diet soda, the beverage is simply comprised of synthetic chemicals."

Sweet teas served in fast food restaurants are very high in sugar content, according to Panetta.

New and exotic coffee drinks fool many into thinking they are healthy and non-fattening.

"These days, afternoon pick-me-ups have morphed into afternoon "fill-me-outs,"" Panetta said. "Two thirds of Starbucks customers opt for blended drinks over regular brewed coffee. The average calorie impact is an increase of 239 calories, versus 60 to 65 calories in a brewed coffee or tea, even after cream and sugar are added. Starbuck"s Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has 95grams of sugar and 660 calories."

In moderation, alcohol can be very beneficial, according to Panetta. It improves the metabolism, good for HDL cholesterol,

Alcohol is calorie rich with no nutritional content. Just empty calories. Our bodies deal with alcohol in a different manner than other forms of carbohydrates; our bodies utilize the alcohol first as a source of energy before using carbohydrates or fats.

Alcohol in moderation has been shown to raise HDL (good cholesterol), boost blood flow and improve sugar metabolism, according to Panetta.

"A gin and tonic has 15 grams of sugar and 171 calories," he said. "So one gin and tonic is fine. Two, three or four is trouble."

Beer ranges in calories from 96 calories in a Miller Lite to 330 calories in a Sierra Nevada Big Foot, according to Panetta. Red wine has 165 calories per 6 oz glass and white has 125 calories.

"Nothing beats a glass of ice-cold water," Panetta said. "And to keep from overeating, consume a large glass of water 30 minutes prior to your meal."

Panetta reminded the group that the human body is about 60 percent water; blood is 90 percent water. He said water lubricates the joints, helps cure heartburn, helps prevent back pain, can help a migraine, helps prevent high blood pressure, prevents and helps cure adult-onset diabetes, helps lower blood cholesterol, and helps digestion. He said carbonated water drinks are "fantastic alternatives" to sodas.

Squires & Stags meets in the Mountains Grille at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti the first Friday of the month. Coffee is ready at 7:45 a.m. followed by a buffet breakfast served at 8 a.m. Big Canoe residents and guests are invited to attend the meeting. The price of breakfast is $13 payable on your POA account or by cash at the door. Reservations are required and must be received by noon on Thursday before the Friday morning meeting. You may also call (706) 268-3346 to make reservations.