When it’s hot out, nothing beats the heat better than a cold drink, complete with clinking ice cubes and condensation dripping slowly down the glass. Sure, water is a tried and true hydration bet, sometimes you want something with a bit more flavor and pizzazz.
While classics like lemonade have enduring appeal, one 8-ounce serving from a brand such as Simply Lemonade contains 28 grams of “added sugar” — the evil type we’re all supposed to avoid. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit for women of 25 grams of added sugar … who wants to exceed that with one measly glass?
Here is the low-down on which drinks only seem healthy with a caveat, and which ones are the real deal and not full of empty calories.
Are you sick of La Croix yet? Maybe not: New flavors seem to crop up as often as the Marvel Universe expands with a new movie.
Still, they’re not the only cans on the block. In a recent taste test by Cooking Light of nine berry-flavored sparkling waters, La Croix came in dead last for flavor, beaten out by berry offerings from other brands including Bubly, Simply Balanced, Poland Spring and Perrier, with the top rating going to Dasani Sparkling Berry. What we’re saying: Even if you love La Croix (and we don’t blame you), summer deserves more than the same old drink, day after day. Try something new.
Some people call them “drinking vinegars” but the main thing to know about these vinegar and fruit-based infusions — more commonly known as shrubs — is how fast they pump up the flavor of plain sparkling water without a high dose of carbs. While awesome flavors like quince, grapefruit, peach and Meyer lemon are not zero calorie, shrubs have modest amounts of sugar. The strawberry flavor from Shrub & Co contains just 9 grams of sugar per fluid ounce, and you won’t need even that much to make sparkling water pop with flavor. This and other store-bought brands like INNA or Element Shrub aren’t cheap but go a long way; and if you become a convert, try your hand at making homemade shrub.
This cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen that comes out of a tap, has a velvety, satisfying mouthfeel and Guinness-like richness, yet contains only 5 calories and 0 grams of sugar. Skip the “float” of sweetened cream sometimes offered as a topper because this flavorful drink doesn’t need it. The only rub is it costs as much as a latte, so you’ll want to start a new nitro coffee savings account if it becomes a daily habit.
If you’re trying to avoid sugar, tread carefully in the iced tea section. Only buy bottles labeled with the word “unsweetened” and check the nutrition label before grabbing any fruity flavor. The “unsweetened” Pure Leaf tea by Nestle has zero sugar, but the brand’s other varieties like pomegranate and raspberry have more than 40 grams of sugar per bottle. Whoa! This is true across brands. For example, while the “unsweet lemon” flavor by Honest Tea contains zero grams of sugar, the brand’s peach flavor contains 25 grams. If you don’t have time to read labels, stick with Tejava, whose line is entirely unsweetened.
Compared to soda or fruit juice, these non-water waters are fairly low-calorie. Widely available coconut water brands like Vita Coco, Naked or Zico Natural clock in at less than 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar or less. Maple water boasts similar profile, with major brand DrinkMaple clocking in with 7 grams of sugar. Still it pays to read labels, as the carb load from these drinks can vary — and the healthy claims aren’t a massively convincing reason to imbibe them constantly. While it’s true coconut water is rich in potassium, most of us have enough in our diet already; and health claims that maple water is extra-hydrating or good for bone health are unproven.
When it comes to zero sugar, zero calories and refreshing hydration, there’s still always the option of a tall glass of ice water.