McGrody: Liquid calories pack on solid weight

Columnist Brianna McGrody advises students to be wary of tempting coffeehouse beverages that are high in sugar and fat.

Brianna McGrody

Brianna McGrodyWhen was the last time you considered how many calories were in the drink you were consuming? So many of us have the inclination to hit up our favorite coffee shop before heading to class,  getting anything to help us stay awake for the duration of the day.

Many of us, however, don’t realize what actually goes in the drinks we consume or how unhealthy they can be for us. I’m not trying to convince anyone to go without his or her daily dose of caffeine or favorite pick-me-up, but rather to pay attention to liquid calories that are easily consumed.

The average female, age 19 to 30, should have around 2,000 calories per day depending on how active the person is, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the average male, age 19 to 30, should have around 2,400 calories again depending on his activity level, according to the USDA. Most of these calories should be concentrated on actual food and getting the proper nutrition we need. Unfortunately, many drinks, whether hot or cold, tend to have a lot of calories we would be better off without.

Take the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks for instance. The latte that everyone is raving about contains 310 calories and six grams of fat, in a 16-ounce, or grande-sized, cup. The average piece of pizza also contains around 300 calories. If you’re someone who likes to count their calories or really watch what they eat, you should also watch what you drink.

Typically lattes are around 80 to 100 calories depending on what type of milk you choose. While that might not seem like too much, it is the special flavored lattes or drinks that add up calories. Saxbys Coffee specialty lattes range from 200 to 500 calories depending on size and milk.

Even though the weather is getting colder, everyone still loves to get their favorite frozen drink. But frozen drinks with  whipped cream on top are the worst kind of drinks you could order if you are concerned about what you are eating. A Frolatte from Saxbys averages around 570 calories for a small. If you decided to get a large you would be downing more than 1000 liquid calories. That could be close to almost half of the calories you should be consuming in a single day.

The problem with consuming liquid calories is that they are completely empty. Drinking a 300 to 500 calorie coffee drink isn’t going to give you any nutritional value. It won’t fill you up either. Instead it will feel as if you are just having a normal drink, and you’ll still feel hungry and the need to eat an actual meal. If you pair your latte with food, you could be eating a breakfast extremely high in calories and low in what you actually need to pick you up in the morning. And, if you go for the frozen Frappuccino, you would most likely go over your calories for the day.

A regular cup of coffee or an iced coffee is the better choice. In fact, some studies show that coffee actually has some health benefits. Plain coffee is extremely low in calories. Just be wary of adding in a ton of sugar, milk and coffee creamer — that’s when it becomes a not-so-healthy drink.

The average female should only have about six teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. The average male should have about nine teaspoons. I don’t think anyone actually adds that much sugar to their coffee, but I am sure the majority adds about one or two. That might not seem like a lot or a problem, but considering how much sugar is in the other food we eat all day it, it could easily add up. The same goes for coffee creamers. Coffee creamers are high in calories and fat. If you add in cream and sugar you are creating a high-calorie, high-sugar drink. Milk can also contribute to how many calories are in a drink. If you are conscious of what you are drinking, consider low-fat milk, steer away from creamers and go easy on the sugar.

Nobody is going to give up their precious coffee in the morning, but it is beneficial to know what we are drinking and the amount of sugar and calories we consume by just sipping on something. Next time you stop by a store to order your favorite drink, be conscious of what actually goes in there and what you add in yourself.

Brianna McGrody can be reached at

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