Did you know that beverages are the biggest source of added sugar in American diets?
This includes soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, commercially made smoothies, energy drinks, sweetened flavored waters, and sweetened coffee & tea beverages. Even though these drinks contain calories, your body doesn’t recognize them as well as it recognizes the calories in food. This means you can consume just as many calories from a sugary drink as you would in a meal or snack, but you won’t feel as full! Calories from beverages can add up and contribute to health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, & gout.
Want to kick your sugary beverage habit, but don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas to try:
Trying to slash calories but bored with plain old water? Fruit and herb infused waters are both delicious and hydrating. Simply add any combination of fruit, berries, cucumbers, mint leaves or basil leaves to a pitcher of water and store in the fridge. Want more flavor inspiration? Click here for 10 infused water recipes.
Sparkling water is another great beverage option that’s available in unflavored versions, but also fruit flavors like Passionfruit, Berry, Lemon, and Mango. La Croix brand even has a “cola” flavor! And the best part about most sparkling water is that they’re zero calories, zero sugar, and zero sodium. If you’ve tried sparkling water in the past and feel like it’s too bland, try it with a splash of 100% cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime to liven up the flavor.
Love drinking bottled iced teas? It’s easy and affordable to brew your own. There are several different ways to prepare iced tea:
1. Pour boiling water over the tea, allow to steep for a few minutes then remove the tea bag(s). Store in the refrigerator for later!
2. Cold brew tea is easy prep ahead of time for sunny days when you just don’t want to turn on the stove.
3. Want a flavored ice tea? Check out these tasty recipes, including a blackberry mint tea!
Try something new
Ever heard of switchel? Switchel is a drink traditionally made with vinegar, ginger, and molasses and was used to help farmers stay hydrated when working out in the fields. Next time when you want to reach for a Gatorade, why not try switchel? Here is a recipe for bubbly and refreshing Ginger Switchel. *Be mindful of how much honey, maple syrup, or molasses you’re using – 1 tablespoon is 17g carbohydrates.
Brew your own brew
Whether made by your favorite barista or you prepare it at home, what you add to your morning coffee can really ramp up the calories. Plain black coffee is only 5 calories per cup. A medium Mocha Frappuchino is almost 400 calories and has 52 grams of sugar! Can’t stomach the thought of drinking your coffee black? Consider asking your barista for non-dairy milk, half the sweetener, and to hold the whip cream. These requests slash calories from your order. When brewing at home, try adding vanilla and cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing to add a spicy sweetness to your morning java. Also consider adding unsweetened non-dairy creamer to coffee in place of full fat creamer.
What about diet drinks?
While a diet drink here and there is unlikely to have much effect on overall health, the type and amount of artificial or no-calorie sweetener used can matter. Studies do not agree whether or not diet drinks help people lose or maintain their weight, and other studies show that diet drinks may harm the microbiome (the microbes that live in and on us), which is an important part of overall health and wellness. We recommend limiting or skipping diet beverages when possible, and replacing them with low or no-calorie drinks, like described above.
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN
on June 10, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.