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Extension service news: Make better drink choices

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By Judy Hetterman

Most of us realize the importance of keeping sugars and fats to a minimum in our diets, but often we only apply that to the foods we eat.
The types of drinks we are consuming could be adding empty calories and causing us to gain extra pounds. Consider this: a medium full-fat mocha adds 400 calories to your diet while a 20-ounce soda, on average, contains has 250 calories and a fruit drink adds 230 calories. Many times, these are extra calories we haven’t accounted for, and as a result, they could easily push us over our daily calorie limit and cause us to gain weight.
Consuming large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to obesity, a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol, an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and gout. While many of us equate sugar-sweetened beverages with soda, many more drinks fall into this category, including sports drinks, lemonade and fruit drinks, sweet tea, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks and sweetened bottled water.
Water should be your go-to beverage, as it quenches your thirst without adding calories. Substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with water could help you lose of maintain weight.
Some people don’t like the blandness of water or get tired of drinking the same thing all time. If you are one of those, adding fresh fruits or herbs to your water can produce interesting flavors without adding too much sugar and too many calories. Some examples of fresh fruits and herbs that are good flavoring options are: citrus fruits, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, berries, mint, rosemary or basil. Get creative. Add combinations of fruits, herbs, and flavoring such as berries, mint and cardamom.

If you’re still not wild about water, you can make healthier drink choices nonetheless. Here are some tips.
• Practice portion control with your drinks.
• Drink fat-free milk.
• Order plain or non-fat coffee drinks over full-fat options.
• Leave off whipped toppings.
• Use sugar-free sweeteners to sweeten your drinks.
• Drink diet soda instead of regular.
• Limit fruit juice intake to no more than 6 ounces a day.
• Only consume alcohol in moderation, and if you do drink, choose lower-calorie options.