Perryman column: Cool Tips for Summer Drinks

Note to Editors: The following nutrition column is written by Shirley Perryman, a Colorado State University Extension specialist in the College of Applied Human Sciences.

There’s nothing better than a cool drink on a hot summer day to feel refreshed. Recently my husband and I were on vacation and the local dairy made icy milk shake concoctions which hit the spot. I splurged and enjoyed every last calorie. When at home, my personal daily favorite in the summer is homemade unsweetened iced tea flavored with crushed mint from my herb garden.  

You can enjoy summer drinks from an abundance of options which look incredibly tantalizing. But remember that some can derail a day’s calorie intake in no time.  

– Energy drinks. Think twice before swigging one of these for a cool kick-start to your day. One energy drink that is heavily advertised is Red Bull which has a lot of sugar (two tablespoons) and caffeine (three times the amount in a can of cola).  These drinks also are acidic, so the price you may pay for cooling off could be dental erosion. A recent study showed that Red Bull may cause more harm to tooth enamel than soda, Gatorade or a coffee drink. With these energy drinks it’s recommended that you use a straw to reduce contact of the liquid with your teeth or rinse your mouth with water after finishing the drink.  

– Sweet tea and other sugary drinks. These can contribute 200 to 300 calories a day. The calories in soda can range from zero for a diet soda, to 140 for a 12-ounce can, to 550 for a large movie theatre soda. In addition to extra calories, they don’t have much nutritious punch. Of particular concern are children who may be drinking these less nutritious beverages at their expense instead of milk, which helps build strong bones and teeth and is a source of protein for growing kids.  

– Fruit drinks. If it’s fruit, it must be good for you, right?  If it’s 100 percent fruit juice, the juice’s calories come with nutrients. If it’s fruitade, fruit punch or fruit drink, it’s more likely fruit-flavored sugar water with few nutrients. It pays to read the label to be sure you’re getting what you think you are. Snapple kiwi strawberry juice drink and Tropicana 100 percent orange juice both provide 220 calories in 16 ounces. The difference between them is the nutrient content.

– Frozen drinks. These are tempting on a hot day but some can make a major dent in an entire day’s calorie allowance. A 16-ounce Starbucks’ Caffe` Vanilla Frappuccino blended coffee is 430 calories. An extra-extra large 40-ounce 7-11 Slurpee is 325 calories. You’ll spend a whopping 950 calories to enjoy a 15.5-ounce Dairy Queen chocolate chip cookie dough Blizzard or 1,110 calories on a 32-ounce McDonald’s triple thick shake. Go online to your favorite vendor and check out the calorie-count in advance. Consider sharing with someone so you can enjoy a tasty treat and spare your waistline.

– Enhanced bottled water. Flavored, bottled water typically comes with extra calories.  Vitamin Water has 125 calories in a 20-ounce bottle. Be sure to read the label and do the math if the label suggests the bottle contains two or more servings.  You can add your own flavoring to water with a fresh squeezed lemon or lime for a calorie-free drink. It’s also worth checking the label for other additives, such as caffeine found in Propel Invigorating Water (50 mg) and Fruit 20 Energy Water (120 mg).

The best beverage choice to keep cool and hydrated is plain, unflavored water. It’s calorie-free and if it comes from the tap, it’s a "greener" choice than bottled drinks or water.  

Although it’s typical to think of a cold drink on a hot day, you can drink water at the temperature you prefer. If you are exercising in these hot temperatures, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests drinking water cooler than air temperature because exercisers will likely drink more. That boosts rehydration.

The best thing about water compared to other calorie-laden beverages is that it is usually readily available and can quench your thirst without compromising your calorie intake or your food budget.