Plain water is the best calorie-free beverage—and when it comes from the tap, it costs a fraction of a penny per glass. But for some people, plain old water may be just too plain. Here are some ideas for low and no-sugar beverages that you can prepare at home:
- Infused water (spa water)
- Sparkling water with a splash of juice
- Fresh fruit coolers
- Low-sodium broth or miso
You can find fancy flavored waters in the grocery store, including some that are free of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Spas also serve water that has been flavored with herbs, fruits, even vegetables. But you can easily make your own naturally-infused spa water at home. Try adding any of the following to a cold glass or pitcher of water:
|• Sliced citrus fruits or zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)|
|• Crushed fresh mint or other herbs|
|• Peeled, sliced fresh ginger or sliced cucumber|
Black or green, caffeinated or decaf, leaf or herbal, hot or cold, tea is an excellent choice for a calorie free beverage. Adding a teaspoon of sugar or honey only adds about 15 calories to the cup. Some teas taste sweet to the palate even without adding any sugar: Try Japanese roasted barley tea (Mugi Cha), fruit-flavored herbal teas (mango, blueberry), or teas that feature cinnamon, vanilla, or other “sweet” spices. Black and green teas are also rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and other biologically active substances that may be good for health.
Coffee is calorie free, as long as you don’t load it up with cream and sugar. Take a pass on the coffeehouse confections that are topped with whipped cream and drizzled with sugar syrup, since those can have upwards of 300 to 400 calories per extra-large cup. If you want to add one teaspoon of sugar to a plain cup of coffee, that’s no problem.
Sparkling juices that are sold ready-made are often heavy on the juice, and may have almost as many calories as sugary soda pop. Instead, make your own sparkling juice at home with 12 ounces of sparkling water and just an ounce or two of juice. For a flavor twist, add sliced citrus or fresh herbs.
Store-bought or cafe smoothies are marketed as “health” foods, but they are often loaded with sugar and high in calories—some have upwards of 300 calories in a 12 ounce serving. Try making a refreshing fresh fruit cooler instead. There’s no added sugar, and just a small amount of fruit, so this drink is only about 18 calories for each 12-ounce glass.
|• 1/2 cup of ice|
|• 3/4 cup of sugar-free sparkling water|
|• 1/3 cup of melon or berries|
|• Chopped mint leaves or citrus slices (optional)|
|Place ice, sparkling water, and fruit in a blender. Blend until slushy, pour into a glass and garnish with mint or citrus slices. Serves 1.|
6. Low-sodium broth or miso
There’s no rule that says we must satisfy our thirst with something sweet. Low-sodium broth can give your body the fluid it needs, and can be a savory and satisfying alternative to a sweet drink. The healthiest choice: Look for a broth that has less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving. Miso, the Japanese fermented soybean paste, can be quite salty, so look for lower-sodium varieties and use it sparingly.