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Sip of sugar: Summer's empty calories

Friday - 6/29/2012, 1:20pm  ET

coffee.jpg
Frozen coffees are a popular pick when the temperatures spike, but they pack a ton of calories. Duncan Donuts' medium Frozen Caramel Coffee with cream has 800 calories and 40 grams of sugar. (Courtesy kanpak.us)

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - On hot summer days, the idea of a frosty beverage may sound good, but nutrition experts warn that most cold-blended drinks pack a ton of calories and sugar.

Having a sugary drink every once in a while is OK, but it is addictive, says Anura Desai, a health and wellness coach in Bethesda.

"On a mental and emotional level, when we're drinking these sugary drinks, the more we drink, the more we want. It's another vicious cycle."

For example, the McDonalds Berry Smoothie contains 220 calories, and the Organic Apple Acai smoothie at Smoothie King has 353 calories, as well as five grams of fat and 58 grams of sugar.

The sugar content of the smoothie is more than double a 20-ounce bottle of soda. 26 grams of sugar is equal to nearly three two-ounce chocolate candy bars or 22 packets of table sugar.

Desai says ingesting this amount of sugar shocks your system and gives the body more energy to burn than it needs.

"It's a part of your day that your body doesn't even want," she says.

A Starbucks grande Strawberries and Creme Frappacino with whipped cream boasts 450 calories and 15 grams of fat. A Mocha Frapp is 270 and three grams of fat, but add the whipped cream, and it skyrockets to 391 calories and 14 grams of fat. McDonald's Frappe Mocha has 560 calories, 24 grams of fat and a whopping 70 grams of sugar.

"It looks good, it tastes good, but once it converts into your body, the body is like 'I don't even want this. This is too much for me,'" she says. "How it shows up - it's weight gain, agitation, laziness ... because you don't know what else to do, you grab for another drink."

Public health experts are focusing on the effect of sugary drinks on the obesity rate. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on the sale of large-size sodas and other sugary drinks in mid-June. Though many are criticizing the campaign for leaving out restaurants that sell sugary drinks like Dunkin Donuts.

The best bet, Desai says, is to make a smoothie at home. That way, you know what's in it. And you can add veggies that you likely won't taste into the mix.

"They're super easy. You get a blender, you throw in a couple of fruits and vegetables. Those are the natural sugars the body is craving for. And it doesn't even need that much. That's the magic to it."

The other thing to consider is sugary alcoholic drinks.

Here are the calories for a few popular summertime drinks:

  • 10 oz Margarita - 550 Calories (4 oz. tequila, 4 oz. margarita/sour mix, 2 oz. triple sec, lime juice, 1 tsp. sugar)
  • 9 oz. Mai Tai - 620 Calories (3 oz. Light Rum, 2 oz. Dark Rum, 1 oz. Crème de Almond, 1 oz. Triple Sec, 1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix, 1 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 12 oz. Piña Colada - 586 Calories (3 oz. Rum, 3 oz. Coconut Cream, 6 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 6 oz. Mud Slide - 556 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz. Kahlua, 1.5 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream, 1.5 oz. Half-and-Half)
  • 10 oz. Long Island Ice Tea - 543 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz. Rum, 1.5 oz. Tequila, 1.5 oz. Gin, 1.5 oz. Triple Sec, 2 oz. Sweet and Sour, 0.5 oz. Cola)

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