In several posts we’ve shared information about the downfall of consuming too many sugary drinks, including fruit juice. An increased risk of cancers, disruption to your gut microbiome, higher risk of all-cause mortality- all of it is linked to consuming too much sugar. On top of the long-term risks that can occur from consuming too much sugar or sugar substitutes, excessive sugar intake can also lead to underestimating calories, which can lead to weight gain. Sugary drinks do not support our best health. But not everybody enjoys plain ol’ water all day long. Instead of dreading the endeavor of staying hydrated, here are 5 ideas to keep your body nourished, keep sugar and calories at bay, and make it an enjoyable experience.
Smoothies are one of our favorite ways to get one or more servings of fruits and vegetables while also avoiding excess sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. You can start with some of our smoothie suggestions and then tweak the ingredients to your taste. If you make too much, freeze the remainder in ice trays and enjoy it later! For any recipe you use, avoid sweetened non-dairy milk because many are loaded with sugar, defeating the purpose of trying to make a healthy drink. You can add protein powder or use plain Greek yogurt for a protein boost that will also add creaminess. This recipe also contains flax seed which supports digestive health and has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Sometimes a little fizz in your drink is enough to make it interesting and enjoyable. You can add seltzer to any fruit infused drink you’ve put together or even invest in a carbonation machine that can add fizz to any drink you make. One source shared that the average American drinks 45 gallons of soda every year! As a nation, that’s about $40B annually on packaged soda. Just imagine the sugar that we consume from our bubbly drinks alone. SodaStream, for example, allows people to make their own varieties of carbonated drinks at home- and it doesn’t have to be just sparkling water. Skip the drink flavoring that often comes with the machines as they’re often loaded with sugar substitutes that cause their own health issues, but instead add fruit, herbs, and more (see our next idea!). The recipe below is the perfect dupe for LaCroix sparkling water.
Fruit and herb infused water
When it comes to how best to hydrate, there’s no way around it- water is best. But we can all agree that a little bit of variety doesn’t hurt. Adding in slices of fresh fruit and herbs can make a huge difference in whether you keep reaching for your water throughout the day, helping your body function at its best. Some ideas include:
- watermelon, ginger, and lime
- cranberry, orange, and cardamom
- lavender and mint
- basil, lime, and peppermint
- strawberries and orange
This recipe from The Free Range Life includes citrus and berries- and you can tweak whatever you include based on the season or your personal preference. The possibilities are endless!
Milk does a body good. The tag line from the long-gone milk campaigns of the 90’s says it all. Milk contains a variety of nutrients that help support our health including calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, potassium and vitamin D. It’s also an excellent source of protein. Drinking milk and dairy products may prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also shown that drinking a glass of low fat or skim milk daily can help lower blood pressure. Some people may be lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, and there are a variety of milk alternatives that still provide nutrients and protein. Next week we’ll dive into the details about the many milk options available today.
Fruit and herbal tea
Fruit and herbal teas are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy them hot or cold and they are incredibly easy to make at home (see our link below for ideas), or try store-bought packets. Many homemade fruit tea recipes include quite a bit of sugar. A good rule of thumb is to cut the sugar in half- or even try it without the sugar first, and adjust from there. Remember it’s not meant to be overly sweet, just a boost of flavor. Use a sweetener like honey or unrefined sugar to avoid issues linked to sugar substitutes or refined sugar. While the majority of teas are safe, be aware that some herbal teas may interact with medications- for example patients on anticoagulant drugs should avoid herbal teas containing coumarin. Speak to your provider to double check about any risks.
Cocktails are a significant source of sugar, apart from the additional calories that they contain. Consuming alcohol also has its own health risks, including higher risk of certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, pancreatitis, accidental death or injury, and more. To meet the market demand for calorie-friendly drinks, many companies have also turned to using sugar substitutes, which have recently been shown to have their own health concerns too (read here about the studies on erythritol and sucralose). Homemade mocktails allow us to have the experience of a nice drink without the downsides. People of all ages can enjoy these, making it a fun activity to put together as a group. Some of our favorite choices, including a tasty orange cranberry apple spritzer, are shared below.
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