If you want to lose weight, it's easy to focus on what you're eating but not pay much attention to what you drink. From a frothy specialty coffee to drinks after work with friends, the calories can add up more quickly than you think.
What you drink can help you reach your goals or torpedo your diet with empty calories. You can use some beverages to help fill you up and ward off hunger, but others will put you in a situation where you'll be "drinking your calories" and still eating full meals.
"Sugar-sweetened beverages such as juice and soda offer empty calories – they contain calories but will not keep you feeling full for longer periods of time like solid foods will," Kristen Smith, bariatric surgery dietitian at WellStar Atlanta Medical Center said in an e-mail.
These are the best drinks for weight loss, according to Atlanta dietitians:
Any calorie-free (or nearly calorie-free) beverage
The first strategy if you're looking to lose weight is to replace a sugar-based beverage with a calorie-free one, registered dietitian Rachel Brandeis said in an e-mail.
"The key is to choose a beverage with less than 10 calories per serving," Smith said.
If you'd like something a little sweeter, look for something that has a low-calorie sweetener like Splenda or Truvia, Brandeis said.
Water is the best drink for weight loss, Rahaf Al Bochi, registered dietitian and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC, said in an e-mail.
"It's sugar free and calorie free and keeps our body hydrated," she explained. "Many times we may think that we are hungry but in fact we are thirsty and just need to drink some water instead of grabbing that snack."
If you get bored with the taste of plain water, you can try adding low-calorie water flavorings in the form of powders or drops, Smith said.
Brandeis also suggested trying a naturally flavored sparkling water such as La Croix for a boost of flavor and fizz.
A plain cup of brewed coffee has only two calories. If you need to add something to it, Smith suggested a low-calorie sweetener or dairy or non-dairy milks (like soy), which add protein.
Unsweetened tea may seem sacrilegious in the South, but it provides some health benefits in addition to having only about two calories per cup. Lemon or fresh herbs can also be added to enhance its flavor.
Tea provides hydration as well as antioxidants from the flavonoids in the tea, Brandeis pointed out.
To make sure you stay hydrated and don't reach for a calorie-laden beverage, Smith recommended that people carry a water bottle or refillable beverage container with them at all times.
"Don't leave home without a low-calorie beverage in hand," she said.