Now that the heat of the summer is here, what can be more refreshing than an iced coffee, a frosty smoothie, or a cool fruit drink? Without even realizing it, many of us consume 300 or more calories daily from sugar sweetened beverages including soda, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened teas and coffee. Unfortunately, as delicious and as thirst quenching these beverages can be, these frozen drinks can be loaded in sugar and calories. In addition, many of these beverages come in 16 and 32 oz. containers providing up to 4 times as many calories as a standard 8 oz. serving. Even worse, most of these calories are “empty” calories, devoid of any nutritional value.
Firstly, always remember that you can’t go wrong with a chilled glass of “zero” calorie water. If, however, you are looking for something a bit more exotic, a little knowledge about how these beverages are prepared, will enable you to make better choices when selecting your favorite, iced drink.
Let’s consider iced coffees. Coffee alone has 0 calories, however by adding whole milk, whipped cream, and syrups, we turn our beverage into more of a decadent dessert. For example, a large coffee Coolata can contain 480 calories and 101 grams of carbohydrates. What’s shocking is that if this same drink is prepared with cream rather than milk, the calories will increase to 800!
These simple steps will help you to significantly reduce the calories and sugar in your coffee beverages:
- Skip the whipped cream
- Use 1% or skim milk rather than whole or 2% milk
- Watch the sugar content. Ask for sugar free syrups, add non caloric sweeteners instead of sugar, or don’t sweeten at all.
- Watch the serving size. A large (32 oz.) iced coffee prepared with nonfat milk and Splenda will contain 60 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrates where as a small (16 oz.) of the same beverage will contain 30 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates. Compare this to a large (32 oz.) iced coffee prepared with cream and sugar which provides 250 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates.*
What is the bottom line? Try substituting a plain or iced coffee or tea or even a Latte prepared with nonfat milk rather than a “fancy” beverage such as a Coolata or a Frappuccino. An iced coffee with noncaloric sweeteners and nonfat milk will always be your best choice.
What about Smoothies? For some reason, most of us consider “smoothies” to be a healthful, low calorie beverage. The truth is, smoothies are often prepared with high calorie, high sugar ingredients, such as fruit juices (which are loaded in sugar), whole milk, ice cream, and syrups. Always inquire as to what ingredients are used to prepare the smoothie, never assuming that it is that much healthier than its high caloric cousin the “milkshake”. *Fast Food Nutrition Facts, Shapefit.com
Are juices, flavored waters, or teas good for your health? “Juicing” fruits and vegetables is all the rage lately. Keep in mind that during juicing, the fiber containing pulp is usually left behind, greatly decreasing the nutritional benefit. Also keep in mind that although fruits and vegetables are very good for your health, providing vitamins and fiber, juicing the fruits or vegetables does not mean that it’s a low calorie or low sugar beverage. An 8 oz. serving may provide 200 calories. Also beware of hidden sugars in the ingredient list. Aside from sugar, ingredients such as juice concentrate, nectar, fructose, sucrose, agave, honey, or cane extract all mean sugar and are ingredients you want to avoid.
Be careful of high calorie vitamin and flavored waters. There are alternatives though. Flavored waters such as Dasani, Hint, or Vitamin Water Zero are great options for keeping you hydrated without the added sugar. There are also many options for ice cold teas. Plain teas such as Diet Snapple or Tazo could be very refreshing without any of the added sugar or calories.
Whether it’s energy drinks, coffee, or tea, remember the last thing you want to do is drink those extra calories. There are many choices out there and let’s not forget that refreshing, cold water is the best option of all for providing the hydration you need on those hot summer days.