When thirst hits, toss the pop and reach for these beverages.
Americans continue to guzzle extra calories through sugary drinks like soda. And teens may be among the biggest offenders: Roughly one-third of high school students in the U.S. drink two or more sodas, sports drinks, or other sugary beverages per day, according to the results of a national survey released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The health dangers of soda are not new. Soda consumption has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes, as well as to rising rates of obesity. Recent research from the University of Bangor and Bristol suggests that drinking soda can actually trigger sweet cravings by dulling your sensitivity to sweet tastes, sparking a vicious cycle of eating sweet foods and drinks.
Isn’t it about time you and your family kicked the soda habit? Get started with one of these healthier low-calorie thirst-quenchers, sure to still satisfy your taste buds.
Spruce Up Water
Flavored waters have been popping up all over the place, but many still contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. A healthier choice is natural flavoring: Just add slices of your favorite fruits and veggies — lemons, oranges, watermelon, cucumber, mint, or limes — to a pitcher of ice-cold water for a refreshing and flavorful drink. Another great option is to put chopped-up fruit in an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze. Place these colorful fruit cubes in your beverage for instant flavor and color!
Go Natural With Green Tea
Studies of green tea have shown that it may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, kidney stones, and possibly even cavities. In addition to this, green tea is calorie-free (if you have it without milk or sugar) and naturally high in antioxidants. You can pick any flavor you enjoy, because green tea is available in many varieties. It can be drunk hot or iced, and if you want a little sweetening, a few drops of honey will serve you well — though most people enjoy it au naturel.
Juice + Seltzer = Jeltzer!
There’s no need to purchase sugary sodas or pricey vitamin-enhanced waters, which also pack calories. Mixing 100 percent juice with seltzer yields a tastier, healthier, and less expensive drink. A thick, tart juice, such as cranberry, pomegranate, or grape, makes for a great jeltzer base in addition to supplying health benefits. Studies have shown that cranberry juice might protect against urinary tract infections and kidney stones; pomegranate juice is a great source of vitamins C and B; and grape juice has antioxidants that may help protect your brain and blood vessels. Mix one part juice with three parts seltzer to create this light and bubbly concoction.
Stir in Some Sweet Stevia
Stevia is an herb with a very sweet taste, but it has no carbs or calories. Research has also found it to be beneficial in managing obesity and glucose intolerance. Once banned in the United States because of limited research, stevia is now growing in popularity among holistic and organic food markets as a dietary supplement. It can’t as yet be sold as a sweetener, though. Available in powder form, flavored stevia is inexpensive, sweet, and easily dissolves in cold water for a delicious drink that will help you forget about soda.
Tonic and Lime…Minus the Gin
Traditionally used as a mixer for alcoholic drinks, tonic has a distinct taste that makes it such a popular base. But you don’t need the alcohol to enjoy tonic — simply add a few slices of lemon or lime (or both) and a sprig of fresh mint for a unique and delicious beverage. Many tonic brands contain high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars, so opt for a diet tonic, if possible.
Drink Your Vegetables!
Vegetable juice offers a quick, low-calorie way to get all the benefits of veggies. It also contains much less natural sugar than fruit juices. But vegetable juice can be high in sodium, so opt for a low-sodium version whenever possible. Better yet, make your own fresh juice easily at home with a juicer. Simply add your favorite veggies, and even a few slices of fruit if you want to sweeten your drink, to the juicer — no chopping required! If you prefer a little kick, add some black pepper and a drop of hot sauce.
Move Over, Milk — Time for Soy
Soy beverages are naturally sweet and are now offered in a variety of flavors, including almond and vanilla. They are a great alternative to milk for those who are lactose intolerant or those who don’t consume dairy. Studies on soy’s benefits show that soy milk may reduce your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. Look for low-fat, unsweetened soy beverages to reduce calories while enjoying a healthy, great-tasting beverage! Also, pick soy milk that has been fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, especially if you’re drinking it as a substitute for milk.
More and more evidence is showing that coffee in moderation can be a healthy part of your diet. Without cream or sugar, coffee contains zero fat and only a couple of calories. What’s more, coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. And — as if you didn’t know it already — coffee’s caffeine can help with mental alertness and physical performance, as long as you don’t overdo it. Too much caffeine can leave you jittery and anxious, so dietitians generally recommend that you drink no more than three cups a day (depending on the way it’s prepared). That said, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant may want to avoid it, though research on this is mixed.