Friday, April 24, 2009

Drinking Your Calories

Don’t eat sugar. Spread peanut butter on an apple for a protein-carb snack. Always start dinner with a broth soup or undressed salad. Pack a protein bar in your purse. (Just don’t mistakenly pull out a wrapped tampon on accident instead. Not that I’ve done that. You know, in public, or anything.) Chew gum after a meal. Brush your teeth after eating. There are some “diet tips” that are so ubiquitous that these days I just skim over them when I happen across them in articles or on websites. Which is pretty much daily. But my favorite of these oft-repeated tips is the “Don’t drink your calories” one. I guarantee you that you will find it in some permutation in any health & fitness publication you pick up this month.

“I lost 78 pounds by eliminating soda from my diet!” (How much soda were you drinking, lady?!) “Have just one adult beverage when you go out with friends and stay away from sugar-bomb cocktails.” (Plus it cuts your risk of getting roofied by, what, at least a third?) “Swap out sugary drinks for water. If you miss the taste of juice, just add a splash to your water!” (Anyone ever drank warm tap water with “just a splash” of fruit juice? That would be my daily toddler cocktail and I’m here to tell you it’s nasty. Although it might help if I’d remember to rinse out their cups before using them myself. Yes, I am that gross.) In fact, I’d challenge you to make a drinking game out of it but then, well, that would ruin the point wouldn’t it?

And my point is that, being the good little follower I am, I internalized these tips and it’s been years - seriously - since I drank anything but water or unsweetened herbal teas. I’ll add a lemon to my water if I’m dining out and am feeling extravagent with my enamel. It’s gotten to the point where I’m so locked into my water-only habit that I have let homemade smoothies melt on the table in front of me rather than… wait for it… drink my calories.

I have, however, gone through phases of drinking various artificially flavored non-caloric beverages. I chalk this up to the fact that the tap water in Minnesota tastes like - and I am not making this up - raw garlic. It’s awful stuff. Here’s my dilemma: I’m too cheap to buy a filter and thanks to Jillian Michael’s Master Your Metabolism, I’m now terrified of artificial sweeteners. (Plus, you’ve read all the research of late that shows you actually eat more calories when you use Splenda and the like, right?) Good thing I have a random research fairy godmother who serendipitously brought the following two things to my attention:

1. New research (FROM MINNESOTA!) shows that

“compared with non-consumers of juice, 100 percent juice consumers had lower mean body mass index, smaller waist circumference and lower insulin resistance.

Based on the analysis, risk for obesity was 22 percent lower among 100 percent juice drinkers, while risk for metabolic syndrome was 15 percent lower compared with non-consumers.”

Now, I don’t know if these so-called “non-consumers of juice” that were being analyzed were also people who don’t consume fruit or vegetables in any form, as every mag tip will tell you to “swap fruit juice for the actual fruit - you get more fiber and less calories!” But I still like this research because - shhh, don’t tell any nearby nutritionists or magazine editors - but I really really like juice. I’m a born sucker for all those organic green blends in the recycled bottles that boast such health claims that even Lindsay Lohan would sit up and string a coherent sentence together. (I won’t add that they always sell for like $6 a pop.)

2. I discovered Zola juice. It’s a juice-lover’s dream come true. Not only is it all organic (a-HA Jillian!) but they are also packed with “Brazilian superfruits.” They’ve got the ones you’ve already heard of and drooled over like acai but also a whole bunch of antioxidant-loaded nature goodies like acerola, caja, cupuacu (no, I don’t know how to say that. took me 3 tries just to spell it.) and graviola. There is no added anythings. It’s all 100% juice. So they meet even my stringent “health food” requirements. Plus they taste awesome. I even got my kids to drink the “superfood supergreens smoothie” (okay, after I told them it was Incredible Hulk juice to get them past the pea-soup coloring) and they drank it all up and begged for more.

So it’s almost as if the universe bopped me on the head and said, “Charlotte, it’s okay, drink juice! Just remember to recycle the bottles when you’re done because heaven knows you’ve done enough damage to me with all the disposable diapers you use!” But then… I had to do it. You know I turned over the bottle and checked out the nutritional info. The Zola juices range from 100 to 130 calories a serving. And there’s 2.5 servings in a bottle. Drink a whole bottle - and who wouldn’t? - there’s 325 calories right there. That’s a whole meal. A yummy meal, yes. But seeing as there is no fat or protein in there to slow down the mad rush of simple carbs to your stomach, probably not a very satisfying meal. So here we are full circle. Calories - to drink or not drink, that is the question.

How do you feel about liquid calories? Are you so enamored of your H2O that your pee runs so clear that Bear Grylls would drink it without even being trapped in a desert? Do you imbibe but feel guilty about it? Or do you embrace juice with an open heart?

Give me all your juicy details in a comment and you’ll be entered to win a Zola gift basket complete with 4 smoothies, 3 juices, project Zola bracelet made from acai seeds and a mini cooler!