Healthier beverage choices: 5 ways to be a savvier sipper
If eating healthier or losing weight is your goal, it’s a good idea to look at what you’re drinking. Lisa Akly, RD, offered some tips on what to look for when it comes to selecting healthier beverage choices.
“The calories contained in beverages such as regular, non-diet soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweet tea, and sweetened coffee drinks can certainly add up throughout the course of the day,” she said.
According to the American Heart Association, some major sources of added sugar in the American diet include regular soft drinks and fruit drinks.
What does “added sugar” mean?
“Added sugars include any sugars (or sweeteners that contain calories) added to foods or beverages during preparation and processing,” Akly said.
One example would be adding sugar to your coffee or tea in the morning. Another example is the sugar contained in soft drinks. Just 8 ounces of a regular soft drink can contain approximately 7 teaspoons of added sugar.
“While sugars are not harmful in small amounts, they contribute additional calories and have no nutritional value,” Akly said. “It’s important to pay attention.”
How can I make healthier beverage choices?
Akly offered five ways to help you decrease empty calories and added sugars.
- Read labels and ingredients. Don’t let the size of the container fool you. Always remember to check serving sizes and the servings per container. Glance at those ingredients. Names for added sugars are plentiful. Words like “syrup,” “sweetener,” or most words ending in “ose” usually indicate an added sugar ingredient. An example would be high fructose corn syrup. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance. The higher up on the list an ingredient is located, the more the product will contain. Don’t forget about ingredients such as molasses, honey and agave nectar.
- Make water the convenient choice. Water helps you stay hydrated without adding calories and sugar to your diet. Carry a refillable water bottle with you. If you’re looking for a touch of flavor, try a citrus wedge or slice such as lemon, lime or orange. For a fun twist with a home meal or dining out, try seltzer, club soda or sparkling water.
- Go for the whole fruit. An 8-ounce glass of fruit punch contains 60 calories and zero grams of dietary fiber. Meanwhile, a small orange has approximately 45 calories and a little over 2 grams of dietary fiber. Including dietary fiber in your meal plan may help you improve your cholesterol levels. While 100% juice can be a great source of many nutrients, the calories can add up if you’re not paying attention to serving sizes.
- Coffee and tea – let’s not get fancy. One cup of plain black coffee contains only two calories. If you must go fancy, be mindful. Asking for a smaller size and lighter ingredients such as non-fat or soy milk instead of whole milk will result in lower calories and less added sugar. You can save close to 150 calories and 5 teaspoons of sugar by drinking your 16-ounce glass of tea without added sugar.
- Make your smoothie at home. A 24-ounce smoothie on the go could possibly contain up to 800 calories. You can make your smoothie at home using whole fruit, low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt and use spices such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger, clove and/or nutmeg to provide the extra sweetness you crave without added sugar.
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