Refresh without the calories

August 28, 2012|Lynn Little

Sipping an iced or chilled drink can help abate the heat of hot summer and early fall days, but those cool liquid calories can add up faster than you might imagine.

While it's important to stay hydrated, beverages brimming with extra calories add up to extra pounds.

For those calorie-laden drinks, compensate to avoid piling on the pounds with these strategies:

 Drink plain water more often. It's calorie-free, healthful and readily available. Many flavored waters are loaded with sugar, and if you're not sharing that 12-ounce bottle, it is two servings instead of one with twice the calories.

 Make your own infused flavored water minus the calories. Add fresh citrus slices from oranges, lemons and limes or crushed fresh mint. For those who like fizzy, go for sparkling water and step it up with a splash of juice.

 Is your fruit juice 100-percent juice or is it filled with sweeteners? If the front of the container doesn't state 100-percent juice, it has added sweeteners such as sugar, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose and honey. If you choose a fruit drink, fruit punch, fruit cocktail, fruitade or other fruit beverage, you might be consuming as little as 10 percent of juice and a lot of added sugar and natural flavor, which gives it the taste of fruit.

While 100-percent juice provides healthful nutrients, it can be too much of a good thing. Don't fill up on juice in place of other healthful foods and try diluting juice with water if you prefer a flavored beverage.

Coffee drinkers often switch to the iced varieties in hot weather. The ice does not dilute extra sugar calories from flavored syrups and the fat calories in whipped cream toppings. Try drinks with fat-free or low-fat milk, or just plain iced coffee. Though plain iced coffee might not be as much fun, it's a better choice even if you add a spoonful of sugar.

 Tea can be a calorie-free beverage. Black or green, caffeinated or decaf and herbal teas offer variety.

Most bottled teas are high in calories but home-brewed iced tea is easy to make. To decrease your caffeine consumption combine regular and decaf or herbal teas. Teas that are fruit-flavored or have added cinnamon, vanilla or other spices taste sweet with few or no calories. For extra zip add citrus zest. If you want the beverage sweeter adding a teaspoon of sugar or honey only adds about 15 calories or use a calorie-free sweetener. Black and green teas also are high in antioxidants and flavonoids.

Enjoy your favorite beverages during our remaining summer days, and take advantage of the beautiful outdoors to compensate for those extra calories. Having fun in the sun, hiking, biking, and/or walking, helps burn off those calories, and gives you another reason to look forward to liquid refreshment.

Choose beverages more often that have the fewest calories and the most nutritional advantages. For more guidance on healthy food and beverage choices visit 

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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