Sipping an ice cold drink can help reduce the effects of the heat of these summer days, but those cool liquid calories can add up faster than you might imagine. While it’s important to stay hydrated, beverages loaded with extra calories add up to extra pounds.

With a little planning, you can enjoy cool beverages without seeing later regret on the scale. Choose beverages more often that have the fewest calories and the most nutritional advantages.

For those calorie laden drinks, compensate to avoid piling on the pounds with these strategies:

Drink plain water more often. It’s calorie-free, healthful and readily available. Many flavored waters are loaded with sugar, and labels can be deceptive if you don’t do the math. If you’re not sharing that 12 ounce bottle it is two servings instead of one — and twice the calories. If water isn’t your first choice, alternate caloric drinks with plain water.

Make your own infused flavored water minus the calories. Add fresh citrus slices from oranges, lemons and limes or crushed fresh mint. For those who like fizzy, go for sparkling water and step it up with a splash of juice.

Is your fruit juice 100 percent juice or is it filled with sweeteners? If the front of the container doesn’t state 100 percent juice, it contains added sweeteners such as sugar, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose and honey. Read the fine print. If you choose a fruit drink, fruit punch, fruit cocktail, fruitade or other fruit beverage, you may be consuming as little as 10 percent juice and a lot of added sugar and natural flavor which gives it the taste of fruit.

A word to the wise: While 100 percent juice provides healthy nutrients it can be too much of a good thing. Don’t fill up on juice in place of other healthy foods and try diluting juice with water if you prefer a flavored beverage.

Coffee drinkers often switch to the iced varieties in hot weather. The ice does not dilute extra sugar calories from flavored syrups and fat calories in whipped cream toppings. Try drinks with fat free or low fat milk, or just plain iced coffee. Though plain iced coffee may not be as much fun, it’s a better choice even if you add a spoonful of sugar.

Tea can be a calorie-free beverage. Black or green, caffeinated or decaf and herbal teas offer variety. Most bottled teas are high in calories but home-brewed iced tea is easy to make. To decrease your caffeine consumption, combine regular and decaf or herbal teas. Teas that are fruit-flavored or have added cinnamon, vanilla or other spices taste sweet with few added calories. For extra zip, add citrus zest, and a teaspoon of sugar or honey. This only adds about 15 calories. Black and green teas also are high in antioxidants and flavonoids.

Enjoy your favorite beverages during our remaining summer days, and take advantage of the beautiful outdoors to compensate for those extra calories. Having fun in the sun—biking, hiking, walking— burns them off, and gives you another reason to look forward to liquid refreshment.

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension


Raspberry Sweet Tea

4 quarts water, divided

Sugar substitute, equal to 1 cup sugar

10 individual tea bags

1 package (12 ounces) frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed and undrained

3 tablespoons lime juice

In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in sugar substitute until dissolved. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for 5 – 8 minutes.

In another saucepan, bring raspberries and remaining 2 quarts of water to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes.

Strain and discard pulp. Add raspberry juice and lime juice to the tea. Transfer to a large pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director.
Stay hydrated but watch your calories