Rethink your summer drinks

Your guide to healthy thirst quenchers

There is nothing like a long, cool drink of something cold on a hot summer day.

That’s only natural. As the temperatures rise in summer, so does our need to be cooled and hydrated. Chances are, if you are feeling sluggish on a hot summer day, it’s because your body is low on fluid, which is needed to help carry nutrients, digest food, and act as a cushion for organs and joints.

There is, of course, no shortage of sweet, tangy or tart drink choices to help shake your thirst. Specialty iced coffees, slushy ice drinks, pop, lemonades, juices and fancy cocktails are just a few of the options on the market today.

The problem is that these drinks are not always the best choice. Indeed, many of them are so laden with sugar, they are really nothing more than liquid candy. Moreover, these sweetened drinks are being marketed in ever-increasing portion sizes to kids and adults alike. The result: We’re all drinking way too much sugar.

The calories in these drinks are known as “empty calories” because they contain no nutritional punch. Even worse, the empty calories you consume can often fill you up to the point where you don’t feel like consuming healthy foods and drinks. Each time you reach for the liquid candy, you miss the opportunity to eat fruits, vegetables and other foods that keep you healthy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian eats about 92 grams (23 teaspoons) of added sugar each day, with soft drinks as the leading source. That’s a lot of sugar, considering the American Heart Association recently recommended that women consume no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) of added, processed sugar a day, while men should aim for less than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) of added sugar a day.

In addition to containing heaping teaspoons of sugar, these drinks also contain acids, which can cause tooth decay. Drinks that contain natural or added acids are: pop (regular and diet), flavoured waters, sports drinks, energy drinks, all fruit drinks and fruit juices. If you have too many of these drinks, your teeth will be exposed to acid over and over again, which can result in an attack on your teeth’s enamel.

Even fruit juices can be a challenge. Although 100 per cent unsweetened fruit juice contains naturally occurring sugars, the total sugar content is similar to pop and other fruit drinks. It is best to try to limit fruit juice and instead try to eat more whole fruits and vegetables, as they contain fibre and are more satisfying.

Now, none of this is meant to suggest that you can’t enjoy a nice cool drink this summer. It just means that the next time you need to quench your thirst, you might want to try a healthier refreshment. Water is a great choice any time, but especially in summer. In addition to cooling your body and replenishing your fluid losses from sweat, water is calorie-free, inexpensive, and readily available!

Milk and soy beverages are also good choices. They’re refreshing drinks that are packed with nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Enjoy milk or soy beverages as a thirst quencher and consider the flavoured options on ice for a cool treat.

As for specialty iced coffees, energy drinks, sports drinks, ice slushes, and pop – try drinking them less often.


Super summertime thirst quenchers:

  • Keep a pitcher of cold water in your fridge at all times.
  • Fill your water bottle with water and ice cubes – carry it with you when going out in the heat.
  • Consider adding lemon, lime or orange slices to your water – or, be creative and try adding melon balls, cucumber slices, frozen berries or any other summer fruit you love.
  • Sip on a refreshing, cold glass of milk or soy beverage – plain or flavoured.
  • Try an iced latte made with low-fat milk instead of an iced slushy coffee.
  • Mix club soda with higher-sugar drinks to reduce the total sugar and calories.
  • Enjoy a slice of juicy watermelon.
  • Eat a handful of fresh berries.
  • Crunch on crisp cucumber slices and celery sticks.
  • Pop a few fresh cherry tomatoes in your mouth.
  • Snack on a bunch of fresh or frozen grapes.
  • Enjoy some tangy citrus fruit.
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