We all know that sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks significantly contribute to health complications. Drinking one or more sugary drink per day (such as soda, juice and flavored teas) doubles the risk of diabetes and dental cavities and can result in a minimum of 25lbs of weight gain every year.[i] Drinking more than one of these sugary drinks per month increases risk of death for men by 29% and for women by 63%![ii] Even more surprising is new research showing that artificial sweeteners don’t actually improve these health complications. The risk of death by heart disease or diabetes remains just as elevated when more than one artificially sweetened drink is consumed per month as well! The good news here is that there are SO MANY delicious drinks to enjoy that are not loaded with sugar or fake sugars and that are incredibly easy to find or make! Here are my top suggestions for replacing your favorite liquid sugar fix and drastically improving your health with just this one change!
- Sayonara Soda
Most sodas have 27g of sugar per serving. That’s 7 teaspoons of rapidly absorbed liquid sugar! Ladies, we only get 6tsp. per day and men get 9tsp. Is that soda really worth spending your daily sugar allowance when you know it won’t fill you up or keep you satisfied? Try these instead:
- Naturally flavored canned sparkly water. I personally love Spindrift and Trader Joe’s Seltzer with a Splash because these are flavored with just a small splash of real juice (less than 1g/serving).
- Sparkly Tea. Simply make a big batch of your favorite tea (my personal faves are Tazo Passion and Pukka Lemon Ginger Honey) , let cool and chill in the refrigerator. When you are ready to enjoy, just add your preferred amount of carbonated water in a fancy glass, add colorful straw and pretend you are on vacation! You can make your own carbonated water with tools like the SodaStream, or buy it already done for you with brands like Mountain Valley , Perrier or Acqua Panna.
- Make your own flavor combinations of fizzy drinks! Add a splash of cranberry or pomegranate juice or add herbs like mint and basil leaves and muddle !
- Give kombucha a try. But watch the sugar! These probiotic bubbly beverages have become popular over the past couple years so many companies add much more sugar than is needed in order to gain more public interest. Keep to less than 7g sugar per serving and read the label for how many servings are in that bottle you grabbed. You can also try making your own if this is a favorite for you.
- So Long Sports & Energy Drinks
Many of us toss these back thinking we are hydrating our bodies, when really we are delivering a fast dose of 16-20g of sugar! This can actually be DEHYDRATING! Not to mention all the icky food coloring and artificial flavors that usually go along with these. Hydrate with these instead:
- Lemon & Salt Water. Add 3-4oz lemon juice + ¼ tsp. sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt + 1 tsp. honey or coconut nectar to an 8oz glass of water. THIS will deliver yummy, hydrating electrolytes to those beautiful cells of yours!
- Coconut Water. Aka nature’s Gatorade! Coconut water is full of electrolytes and its natural sugar delivers an lasting, non-jittery energy boost that no Red Bull can match!
- Green Tea. Or white or matcha for that matter. All of these teas have natural caffeine sources that can give you a burst of energy without the added sugar calories of an energy drink.
- Ummm…water. Yes the pure, simple, clean and natural version of plain old water can do wonders for hydrating the body and energizing the cells. All. On. Its. Own.
- Toss the Sweet Teas
Tea companies have really good marketing teams. They have made us all believe that teas are a much healthier drink option than sodas, but if you’re not careful, you can easily take in the same amount of sugar in a bottled tea as in a can of pop. Snapple Lemon Tea, for instance, offers 31g of sugar (ie: 7.5 tsp) and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid and caramel coloring…similar to Coke. If you’re a fan of iced teas, try these instead:
- Grab the unsweetened varieties. Pure Leaf and Trader Joe’s both have yummy unsweetened versions. Be sure to ask your barista for unsweetened tea at your local coffee and tea shop to prevent a sugary surprise sip after ordering!
- Make your own! Brew your favorite tea with 1 bag per 6oz of water and once cool, simply chill for iced tea at the ready! You can also boil fresh herbs and spices in water for a truly fresh tea. My all-time favorite is a modification of this Goji Ginger Tea. I quadruple the recipe in a large stockpot and add 1-2 cinnamon sticks. The aroma is heavenly and I have a sweet and delicious tea to enjoy all week!
- Reduce the Juice
Did you know it takes 4-6 oranges to make a full glass of OJ? So even though juice offers natural sugar, it offers a whole heck of a lot of it! Skip the full glass and go for these swaps instead:
- Stick to just a 3-4oz glass for a shot of juice instead of a glass.
- Dilute ½ of your juice with water or sparkling water.
- Drink lemon water. Add juice of ½ lemon or lime to your glass of water for a fruity, less sugary beverage.
- Eat your fruit instead of drinking it! If you’re in the mood for OJ, grab a fresh orange, peel and munch away!
- Banish Bottled Milk Drinks
This is a large category. I’m not talking about a glass of white cow’s milk here. I’m talking chocolate milk, strawberry milk, banana milk (who came up with that!?), Frappuccinos and the milky bottled beverages sold as meal replacements, such as protein shakes and SlimFast. These creamy drinks can be anywhere from 26g to 50 GRAMS of sugar per serving! And many of these are advertised to young kids or consumed mindlessly by teens while cramming for exams. Unacceptable. Go for these:
- Chocolate milk: add 1-2 tsp. cocoa or cacao powder to your favorite unsweetened milk or milk alternative. If you REALLY need it to be sweeter, try adding ½ -1 tsp. coconut nectar.
- Strawberry milk: blend 4 strawberries with 6-8oz of your favorite milk. Done.
- Vanilla milk: simply stir 1 tsp. vanilla extract into your glass of milk. I personally like to add a couple dashes of cinnamon to this too. Great for coffee or tea lattes!
- Latte: use an electric frother to whisk the cinnamon or vanilla milk above into a foam and pour into your coffee or favorite tea.
- Frappuccino: pour the latte mix above into a blender with ice!
- Protein shakes: follow the formula of ½ cup fruit + 1 portion unsweetened protein powder + 8oz favorite milk, then add your favorite flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, almond butter…
- Here are some fun recipes to try: Mocha Frapp, Easy Chai Latte, Chocolate Milkshake