There’s nothing better on a hot, summer day than a cold, refreshing drink. But many popular drinks are loaded with sugar—something we don’t want too much of in our diet. So does that mean we should only drink water this summer? Are there other options that are still good for us? The short answer: yes, there are! Keep reading to find out how to tell what drinks align with your healthy eating goals this summer and to learn about yummy drinks you can easily make at home.
Soft Drinks: Loaded With Sugar
Many popular soft drinks, such as soda, iced tea, lemonade, and sports drinks, are loaded with added sugar. The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that less than 10% of our daily calories come from added sugar. Too much sugar in our diet leads to chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes and overall has a negative impact on our health.
So what’s “added” sugar? Well, some foods and drinks have naturally occurring sugar in them. Fruit, for example, has natural sugars that make it taste sweet. This sugar does not have negative health effects. The sugar that food manufacturers add to food and drinks, however, does. That’s the kind of sugar we want to avoid.
Read the Label!
How do you know how much sugar in drinks is natural and how much is added? You can tell by looking at the nutrition label. While the old version of the nutrition label did not distinguish between natural and added sugars, the new version does. Look for the words “total sugars” on the label. Underneath that, there is a line that indicates how many grams of the total sugar are added sugars. Remember, less than 10% of our daily calories should come from added sugar.
Not Just Water! Some Delicious Summer Drink Ideas
If you’re trying to avoid processed drinks, don’t think that water is your only option! Try these three refreshing, summer drinks that have no added sugar!
Cut up your favorite fruits, add them to ice water, and stir. If serving at a party, add the fruit in advance to allow flavors to become stronger. Try adding fruits like lemons, limes, watermelon, oranges, or cucumber. Don’t be afraid to mix and match fruits, too! Want to add a little something extra? If you have fresh herbs such as rosemary or mint, add those to your water as well.
Fill a pitcher halfway with seltzer water. Fill the other half with 100% juice—whatever kind you like. But make sure you are using 100% juice (read the label!) to avoid added sugars in your drink. Juice that isn’t 100% juice often has added sugar in it. Stir and enjoy! Try adding fruit to these drinks as well!
Smoothies are both refreshing and filling—and they can be different every time! So get creative and try different flavor combinations. Add whatever kind of fruit—fresh or frozen—you have on hand to a blender. Make sure to cut it up first if it’s not already in small pieces (e.g. berries). If you use fresh fruit, add some ice to the blender to ensure that the smoothie is cold. Then, add some liquid, such as 100% juice or water. This will help the fruit blend well. If you’d like, add greens (spinach or kale) or low-fat yogurt. Blend it up and enjoy! If the smoothie is still too thick, add more liquid. If you’re looking for a smoothie recipe to get you started, check out the Kitchen’s Super Smoothie recipe.
Get the Kids Involved!
It’s easy to get kids involved in making these drinks! Have them help choose which fruit or fruit juice they’d like to use. They can also help cut up fruit for fruit-infused water or add the ingredients to the blender for a smoothie. If you have extra smoothie, turn it into popsicles by pouring it into paper cups. Add a popsicle stick to each cup and put them in the freezer to harden. These are delicious and nutritious frozen treats for kids while they're home during the summer!