We all know drinking water is essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, many people feel plain water is too bland. Manufacturers have figured this out and responded with lots of flavored waters and healthful sounding additives. But, did you know that some drinks labeled as water are actually loaded with added sugar and empty calories?
Here’s what to look for when choosing a flavored water drink.
Check the calories. If it has calories, where are they coming from? Most likely it is from added sugar.
Check the serving sizes because one bottled drink might list two or more servings. If that’s the case, you’ll need to multiply the calories if you drink the whole thing. Water drinks with calories are really no different than soda.
Check the sugar. If the drink is just water, there should be zero grams of carbohydrates and zero grams of sugar. Added sugars should be kept to less than 6 grams per day for women, less than 9 grams per day for men. Drinks that have a lot of sugar actually work to dehydrate you, rather than rehydrate.
Check the ingredients. Even if the water has no calories, it might have artificial sweeteners. Although these aren’t necessarily bad for you, it’s a good idea to wean yourself off of all sweet drinks.
But it has added vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein etc. … Manufacturers add these things for one reason — to trick you into thinking you are buying something healthy. Your nutrients should come from real foods, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, not from a chemically altered beverage.
What about the added electrolytes in sports drinks? You’ve been exercising and sweating, so you need to replace those electrolytes, right? Wrong. In most cases, you are not exercising long enough or hard enough that your body can’t keep up with your electrolytes. Plain water is generally sufficient for rehydration. Plus, you don’t want to negate the benefits of working out by swallowing a 200-plus calorie drink.
Is bottled water better? Most bottled water is just water filled from a municipal city water supply, despite their claims of being a purer source.
In addition, water sold or stored in plastic bottles may contain the toxin Bisphenol-A (BPA) from the plastics. Stick with your own tap water and purchase a glass or stainless steel BPA-free container to carry it with you.
How much water do you need? Conventional advice is about eight glasses a day, but this may be more or less for you.
In general, drink according to thirst to stay hydrated. Remember, sometimes when you think you might be hungry, you may just need a drink of water.
Page 2 of 2 - Is it clear? Why would you choose to drink artificial colors in your water?
Does it have caffeine? Drinks containing caffeine are actually dehydrating, which defeats the purpose of drinking water.
Just can’t drink plain water? Experiment with making your own flavored waters at home with fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables and herbs. You can add sliced citrus fruits or any fruit to jazz up your water. Or, get creative by combining flavors.
Muddle the fruit in the bottom of the pitcher to release some of the juices, but don’t pulverize it. Crush the herbs before adding.
Add ice and water and store in the refrigerator. You can use club soda or sparkling water to give it a fizz.
Try these combinations:
Cucumber + lemon
Strawberry + basil
Ginger, blackberry and lime
Orange slices + vanilla bean
Lemon, lime and orange
Cherries + lime
Unsweetened cranberry juice (just a couple tablespoons in a pitcher)
It’s OK to get a little sugar from your drinks once in awhile, or to drink artificially flavored beverages sometimes. But, plain water should be your main drink every day.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.