The question “What do you want to drink?” used to consist of a few different choices, but the options and variations now spread far and wide. They could include low-calorie, energy-boosting, sugar-sweetened, caffeine-free, carbonated, protein-centered, natural, diet, etc. What you choose to drink may be based on convenience, mood, availability, or what is typical for your eating habits. Just like your meal choices, what you choose to drink matters. Health claims on beverage packaging can be misleading and have hidden sugars we may not be aware of. There are two types of sugars; natural and added. Natural sugars are just as they sound. They are naturally there as part of the food, and they are not added during processing. Examples of natural sugar are in cows’ milk and fruit. Added sugars are added when a food is processed or put together.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that those aged two years and older have 10% or less of calories each day coming from added sugars. Those under two years of age should not have any added sugars, so the calories and focus remain on nutrient-rich foods. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened coffees and teas contribute to 40% of daily added sugars. They can be anything sweetened with brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, cane sugar, and molasses. It is essential to read the food label to know what ingredients are included and look out for these added sugars. They are listed by weight, and the first 3-5 are mostly what that beverage is made of. Towards the center of the food label, the carbohydrates and sugars are listed, and below that are added sugars. Compare the beverage choices you are making and try to choose less added sugars. Don’t forget to check the serving size up at the top. If the serving size is more than 1, you must adjust each category for the serving you choose. Added sugars can affect your health by packing on the pounds, contributing to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Various health claims used on the packaging can be confusing to distinguish between. Sugar-Free does not mean zero sugar. It means there is .05 grams or less of sugar per serving. Next, reduced sugar or less sugar is at least 25% less sugar in a serving than the regular product. Another you may see is no sugar added or without added sugars. This means no sugars or sugar-containing ingredients such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing.
So, what is the best thing to drink if we want to stay away from added sugars? Water! Water acts as a form of transportation. It brings nutrients from the healthy foods we eat to our cells throughout our body and then helps to remove waste from our body. It converts food into energy, helps to keep our body temperature on track, and protects our organs. Adequate water will keep our bodies hydrated to be able to do the daily activities we enjoy. If we do not drink enough water, we are putting our bodies at risk for dehydration. Some of the effects dehydration can have on you are difficulty swallowing, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, dry eyes, muscle cramps, and kidney stones. Bring a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day.
If you are not a fan of the taste of plain water, don’t worry, you can give different flavors a try. You can try lemon or lime slices or kick it up a notch with flavoring with other fresh fruits and herbs. The table below lists a few different flavor combinations to place in 2 quarts of water about 12-24 hours in advance in your refrigerator.
|2 orange slices||3 springs of fresh thyme|
|¼ cup fresh pineapple||3 sprigs of fresh mint|
|¼ cup fresh blackberries||3 sprigs of fresh sage|
|1 cup fresh cranberries, ½ orange sliced||3 cardamom pods|
Take a few minutes to think about the drinks you typically choose as part of your eating habits. It’s a great time to rethink your drink!