Looking for healthy drinks besides water? Expert tips for making healthy, low-calorie beverage choices

  • 3 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

When trying to limit calories and added sugar, tune into your beverage choices to make sure you’re not drinking additional calories. There are many low-calorie, healthy drinks besides water out there to get that extra flavor or fizz.

Healthy drinks besides water

Drinking calories, especially sugar calories, does not satisfy. You simply add calories to the calories you eat. This makes weight control more difficult. Drinking water is the most obvious and direct way to hydrate, but sometimes we just want something different. What do we choose if we hope to curb calories, yet still get some flavor or pizzazz?

Swaps and best healthy drinks besides water

Seltzer water

Have your fizz without the calories! Seltzer water can be a nice alternative to plain water and great for those of us who love the fizz but don’t want the overpowering sweeteners in diet drinks. Pour plain or naturally flavored seltzer water over ice for a refreshing, healthy beverage. Vary the flavors by adding a slice of fresh lemon, lime, orange, melon, or cucumber. Keep fruit or veggie slices in an airtight container for quick seltzer additions. Or try a sprig of fresh mint or lavender from your herb garden for a flavor boost. You could also use 1/4 cup of 100% juice (about 25 calories) in a larger glass of seltzer water to get a flavored beverage with very few calories. Prefer savory over sweet? Consider vegetable juice with seltzer water instead.

Sparkling natural mineral water

Do you prefer a more natural beverage? Consider plain sparkling mineral water as a light and refreshing choice. The carbonation in sparkling mineral water comes from naturally occurring minerals like salts and sulfur compounds found in the water's natural spring or well-water source. Be mindful of calories in the bottled mineral waters with juice or sugar added. The calories can really add up. Add some of your own fresh low-calorie flavors mentioned above to plain mineral water or enjoy it simply in a tall glass on the rocks.

Warm or Iced Tea

Warm or iced tea can be soothing, refreshing, and hydrating. Why pay for expensive bottled tea when you can make it yourself for pennies? For a mild energy boost, try hot or iced black or green tea for a calorie-free, antioxidant-packed treat. If you prefer a gentler caffeine buzz, then go for green tea. If you prefer no caffeine at all, then go for herbal or decaffeinated teas. Many herbal teas have a naturally sweet or savory taste without the added sugars. Look for mint, ginger, and spicy herbal tea blends. They may just hit your sweet spot after a meal while you skip the unwanted calories from a high-calorie sweet!

Hot or Iced Coffee

Like tea, coffee by itself is calorie-free and high in antioxidants. The caffeine content is quite a bit higher than tea. If you want to tame the coffee flavor, consider adding skim milk, light or unsweetened rice milk, or unsweetened almond milk. If you buy coffee at a restaurant or coffee house, you can enjoy the robust coffee flavor on its own without additions. If you do add milk or creamer, go "skinny" and order the smallest size offered. Getting an 8-oz instead of 16-oz cuts calories in half. Skipping the “whip" saves another 70 calories. Save the coffee "dessert drinks" for your birthday or a special occasion.

For a calorie eye-opener, check out Starbucks' nutrition information.

Low-calorie alcoholic drinks in a can or bottle

Alcohol can be dehydrating and high in calories (7 calories per gram of alcohol). But sometimes a cold, alcoholic drink hits the spot, so it is good to have lower-calorie options. Mixed drinks made with calorie-free mixers like club soda and only one shot of alcohol will be fewer calories than those made with sugary, high-calorie mixers and multiple shots of alcohol. Spiked sparkling waters are very refreshing at usually 90-100 calories per 12-oz can. For a cheaper alternative, spike your own sparkling water or club soda. Adding club soda or seltzer water to white wine can also be a low-calorie option. For beer lovers, low carb beers are better for the waistline at about 80-100 calories per 12-oz serving.

Be sure to match your intake of alcoholic beverages with equal amounts of water to avoid dehydration, especially on a hot summer day.

Tips for making healthy beverage choices

Are sports drinks healthy beverage choices?

Do you need a sports drink to hydrate? Most of us do just fine drinking water to hydrate and relying on consuming foods to replenish electrolytes and carbs. Save your money and calories–leave sports drinks for heavy labor jobs and cardio-endurance athletics, when one is sweating profusely for over an hour at a time.

Check out the calories and sugar content on beverage labels out there, so you don’t get duped!

Be careful when buying bottled or canned beverages that appear healthy. Clever marketing makes a beverage sound super healthy by using words like natural, vitamins, juice, coconut, fruit, and vegetables when, in fact, it might just contain extra sugar and calories. Look at the serving size and servings per container. You could be shocked to find 2-3 servings in one bottle that you drink in one sitting! Also, check out the ingredient list to see what is actually in the beverage. Ingredients are listed in order of amount. You might find fruit or vegetable juice far down on the list. Examine it closely first, so you don’t get duped thinking you are buying a low-calorie, healthy beverage.

With these swaps and tips, you'll be ready to face any restaurant, bar, party, or gathering with multiple choices of healthy drinks besides water.

Related content

Brew up some health benefits from different types of tea

Does water give you energy? How water can be as effective as caffeine

How to figure out how much water you should drink plus an easy way to track it

Adapted from original content by Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDCES

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Alcohol & Other Beverages->Coffee & Tea Alcohol & Other Beverages->Pop & Soda Weight Loss->Sugars & Sweeteners
Apr 12, 2024
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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