Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Sipping an iced or chilled drink can help abate the heat of these summer 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.
With a little planning you can enjoy those cooling beverages without seeing later regret on the scale. Choose beverages more often that have the fewest calories and the most nutritional advantages.
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 labels can be deceptive if you don’t do the math. If you’re not sharing that 12 ounce bottle it is two servings instead of one — and twice the calories. If water isn’t your first choice alternate caloric drinks with plain water.
• 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, regardless of the pictures on the front of the label. Read the fine print. If you choose a fruit drink, fruit punch, fruit cocktail, fruitade or other fruit beverage, you may be consuming as little as 10 percent juice and a lot of added sugar and natural flavor which gives it the taste of fruit.
A word to the wise: While 100 percent juice provides healthy nutrients it can be too much of a good thing. Don’t fill up on juice in place of other healthy 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 fat calories in whipped cream toppings. Try drinks with fat free or low fat milk, or just plain iced coffee. Though plain iced coffee may not be as much fun, it’s a better choice even if you add our own 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 to no calories. For extra zip add citrus zest, and a teaspoon of sugar or honey only adds about 15 calories or try calorie-free sweeteners. Black and green teas also are high in antioxidants and flavonoids.
• What about those alcoholic beverages? Microbreweries flourish in Colorado and many enjoy the locally made wines, but those extra alcohol calories can result in a “beer belly.” To reduce calories, make your wine a spritzer or your beer a shandy. Mix wine half and half with sparkling water for a spritzer. To concoct a shandy, mix your beer in equal amounts with a low-calorie carbonated citrus beverage. A spritzer or a shandy allows you to have two drinks for about the calorie cost of one alcoholic drink.
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—biking, hiking, walking– burns them off, and gives you another reason to look forward to liquid refreshment.