Do you prefer fries with your diet soda? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. And you may not be “saving” as many calories as you think, drinking those diet beverages.
University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An found that diet beverage drinkers compensate by eating a greater percentage of unhealthy foods. The study examined the dietary habits of more than 22,000 adults and found that diet drink consumers compensate for the absence of calories by eating foods high in fats, cholesterol and calories.
According to the press release, “An compiled a 661-item list of discretionary foods, which includes foods that do not belong to the major food groups and are not required by the human body but may add variety to a person’s diet. These energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods include products such as cookies, ice cream, chocolate, fries and pastries.”
Over 90 percent of those who drink diet drinks consumed the unhealthy foods on a daily basis, adding about 482 calories to their diet.
“If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories, rather than drink them,” An said. “We’d recommend that people carefully document their caloric intake from both beverages and discretionary foods because both of these add calories – and possibly weight – to the body.”
As recommended from the study, people are encouraged to look at their health in a holistic way and to assess their beverage consumption in the context of their overall dietary behavior.