Health Message 8: The hidden calories in drinks

“I just don’t understand why I’m not losing weight/gaining weight. I really don’t eat that much.”

How many times have you heard people say this? It’s possible that they are consuming ‘hidden’ calories in the beverages they drink during the course of the day. Let’s take a look at where this might be happening.

Fruit juices

They’re good for you, right? Full of vitamins! Well, while that’s true, they are also full of sugar; sometimes even more than sugar-sweetened beverages. They also lack the fibre that whole fruit contains and, it is this fibre which slows down the absorption of the fructose – the sugar found in fruit – and makes us feel more full. The British Dental Association have confirmed a link between fruit juice consumption and dental caries.

The recommendation is to limit fruit juice consumption to 150 ml per day and, regardless of how much fruit juice you drink in a day, remember it only ever counts as one of your five-a-day.

Posh coffee

Research shows that 20% of us visit a coffee shop daily. Of the 131 options analysed in a recent study1 98% of them contained as much as 27g of sugar per 100g – meaning more than a quarter of the content is sugar. In a supermarket, products with such a high sugar content would be labelled red using the traffic light system. Over one third of the flavoured hot drinks, such as hot mulled fruit – grape with chai, orange and cinnamon, and, chai latte, contain as much, or more, sugar than a can of Coca Cola or seven chocolate digestive biscuits.

Add to that the invitation from the sales staff to order a snack like a muffin or an over-sized cookie to eat alongside the hot beverage and it’s easy to see how the extra sugar – and calories – can really add up.

Energy drinks

These beverages contain, on average, three times the recommended daily sugar intake for adults. The problem is that few of us are doing the exercise to warrant  drinking any of these drinks and although they are sold to us as a good and rapid source of energy – unless we’re doing long endurance activities, such as marathons etc., we get sufficient energy from the food we eat not to need anything else.

In addition to the sugars these drinks contain, which in their own right can contribute to dental caries and obesity, they also contain caffeine and stimulants, which, presumably, the parents of the teenagers to whom these are marketed would not want their children to consume on a regular basis.


We read in the press that moderate amounts of alcohol aren’t bad for us, and even that there may be health benefits, so let’s look at the facts:

First of all, alcohol contains almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein, but calories derived from alcohol are known as “empty calories” as they serve no nutritional function. In addition, alcohol not only reduces the amount of fat we burn for energy, but alcohol consumption is thought to stimulate food intake and, may inhibit the restraint we normally show in our food choices and portions.

Whether it is energy drinks, coffee, fruit juice or alcohol, remember, drinks are not always what they seem, so as the health advice says; drink responsibly!


1-Action on Sugar: Shocking amount of sugar found in many hot flavoured drinks


Article published January 2018

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