Rethink Your Drink

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When we rethink our health, the first things that pop into mind are everyday food choices, while we forget to consider the beverages we drink. Many drinks are loaded with sugar, high in calories and don’t add any nutritional value.

Have you ever noticed when you drink a sugary beverage you don’t feel full like when you eat solid food? Here’s why - the body doesn’t register liquid calories as well as calories coming from whole foods. This leads to over consuming and quickly packs on the pounds. Beyond the impact on your weight, sweetened drinks contribute to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, gout, decreased bone density, and risk of early death. It’s critical to be aware of what you are drinking and choose wisely.

Drinks to Avoid or Limit:

  • Soda

  • Coffee drinks (like flavored lattes, coffee creamers)

  • Energy drinks (like Redbull)

  • Sports drinks (like Gatorade)

  • Sweet tea drinks (most include added sugar)

  • Sweetened enhanced water drinks (like Vitamin Water)

  • Juice (yes, even 100% fruit juice)

Many of us have been brought up to think that 100% fruit juice is healthy. But as it turns out, even 100% fruit juice has as much sugar as soda. Although it may have some vitamins and minerals, most or all of that incredibly important fiber has been removed. Both soda and fruit juice are primarily made of the same ingredients - sugar and water - and our body handles it the same way. Recent research shows that drinking more sugary beverages, even naturally sweet fruit juices, is linked to a higher risk of early death. So, if you choose to drink juice, limit it to 8 ounces or less per day. Better yet, eat fruit, which has vitamins and minerals, plus the intact fiber. So, it will satisfy not only your sweet tooth, but your hunger pangs as well.

Expert Tip: Transition off of fruit juice by mixing it with sparkling water (make sure it’s unsweetened, but flavored water is okay). Start with 75% juice and 25% water and work your way down to mostly water with just a splash of juice.

Switching to diet or sugar-free beverages may feel like a step in the right direction. However, research about the safety of these drinks is inconclusive and ongoing. And when moving toward eating more whole plant foods, it’s helpful to start cutting back on these heavily processed drinks.

Many people find as they avoid sugar and artificially sweetened items, their taste buds adjust. So when they do drink them they find them too sweet. Imagine that!

Drink Do’s:

  • Plain water: This is really all your body needs for hydration and health.

  • Carbonated water: If you miss the carbonation of soda, carbonated water can quench that fizzy thirst.

  • Naturally flavored sparkling water: Look for flavored options sweetened with fruit instead of sugar or chemicals. (like La Croix, Spindrift, Waterloo and Bubly)

  • Spa water: This may sound fancy, but is very simple. Just combine water with fruit and/or herbs. Follow specific recipes or just experiment with whatever fruit or herb you have in your fridge.

  • Herbal teas: Chamomile and mint make great hot teas. There are many fruity herbal teas that work well iced, like berry hibiscus and lemon ginger. In addition to tasting great, herbal teas may have other health benefits such as aiding digestion or encouraging relaxation.

  • Black, green and white teas: These teas have lots of flavor and some caffeine, so they can be a good choice to transition away from caffeinated sodas. For iced teas, Tejava is a bottled unsweetened black tea with a freshly brewed taste. Trader Joe’s unsweetened white and green tea with mint are available in a gallon container. Purchased or home made, these are very refreshing options to keep on hand in the fridge.

  • Coffee: Black coffee is a good option. Just avoid sugary syrups and creamers.

Tips for Drinking Well:

  1. Carry a water bottle with you when you leave the house.

  2. Make a pitcher of spa water or unsweetened iced tea to keep in your fridge for the week.

  3. Order plain coffee at your local coffee shop (or brew your own at home), then drink it black (give it a shot!), or add a splash of unsweetened soy or almond milk. On your transition to consuming less sweet drinks, skip the creamer (full of junk ingredients) and stir in a bit of honey or maple syrup, gradually adding less over time until you no longer need it.

  4. Keep herbal tea bags in your handbag, backpack, or in your work space so you can just add hot water when you want a warm beverage.

Your Challenge:

  1. Take a minute to think about the beverages you drink. Identify the ones that are sugar sweetened.

  2. Choose a healthier option that you might like to try.

  3. Start swapping out those sugary drinks for your low/no sugar option.  

EATNicole Landberg