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Howard's Inc.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thinking Your Drink By Karen Schmidt MS RD LDN, Penn State Extension Nutrition Educator

As we approach warmer weather, most people are aware of the need to stay hydrated whether they are mowing the lawn, playing ball, riding a bicycle or just sweating in a recliner during a humid PA summer day. But have you thought about how to make beverage choices to get the most nutrition bang for your buck? Drinking your calories can lead to excessive weight gain and excess caffeine. Alcoholic beverages can be dehydrating in their own right. Please read on for some sensible hydration tips.

How much fluid should a person have? The exact answer, of course, depends on your size, age, heat exposure, amount of physical activity and even the type of food you eat (because some foods are much higher in water than others (think watermelon or cucumbers vs. a piece of bread or bowl of cornflakes). In general, adults need a minimum of 8-12 cups (64 -96 ounces) of fluids but it does not all need to be water.

We generally tell people to pay attention to their thirst cue to know when to drink, but this may not always be accurate for those who are doing heavy physical exertion or are in hot environments. Also, as we age, our thirst cue diminishes so older adults may have difficulty assessing their thirst level. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to the color of your urine throughout the day. The first urine of the day may be slightly darker due to overnight fasting, but straw or lemonade-colored urine is a sign that you are getting enough fluids.

Sources of liquid calories we may not think about:

• Sports drinks seem to be the go-to for many people who like flavor. Due to high sugar and salt content, it is recommended that sports drinks are only needed by those who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity for more than an hour per day.

• Milk: Whole milk (3.8% milkfat) is recommended for children under the age of 2 years for proper brain development. However, children after the age of two, teens and adults are advised to convert to low fat or fat free milk (skim, ½% or 1%). This milk has the same amount of calcium, protein, Vitamins A and D as whole milk, but without all the excess calories and saturated fat that comes in whole milk.

• 100% fruit juice has more vitamins and minerals than pop, but it still has the same amount of calories. Recommendations are to limit juice for children to no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) per day. To make that 4 ounces of juice go further, dilute the juice by adding 4 or more ounces of plain or sparkling water to the juice to get more fluid without the excess juice sugars.

• If drinking regular soft drinks (pop), consider diluting with seltzer or sparkling water. You can also consider switching to non-caloric “diet” pop if you prefer the taste of the non-caloric sweeteners. The regular vs. diet pop controversy could be an entire news article in itself so just remember that whichever type you choose, soft drinks are not a good source of vitamins or minerals. At 150 calories per 12 ounces of regular pop, you will want to limit intake.

• Alcohol contains significant calories, not to mention the calories of the juices, sodas or other mixers that may go in a mixed drink. For overall health, women are advised to consume no more than one drink per day and men no more than 2 drinks. One drink = 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine or 1.5 ounces liquor.

• There may be “hidden” fat or sugar in other beverages; for example a K- cup of cappuccino may have 70-80 calories per serving while a plain cup of coffee is only 0-5 calories. Coffee drinks can run as high as 300 calories for a 12- ounce Frappuccino. If you love visiting the coffee shop, consider a “skinny” which may substitute non-fat for the whole milk and may use a sugar-free syrup or no syrup at all. Skip the cream or downsize to a smaller serving for a healthier alternative.

• Sweet teas also contain about 10 calories per ounce- consider unsweetened bottled tea or brewing your own (with or without caffeine) and adding mint or lemon for a refreshing, calorie-free beverage.

In summary, choose water over alcohol or sugary drinks whenever possible to save on calories and get the most fluid per ounce. Not crazy about plain water all the time? Here are a few fun flavor tips:

• put a few slices of fruit or vegetable such as orange, lemon, kiwi, strawberries or cucumber into a jar or thermos and chill the water.

• purchase a box of fruit-based herbal (non-caffeine) tea bags such as peach, cherry or berry; place a few bags in a jug of water, refrigerate, and in a few hours, you will have a sweet-tasting, very low cost, fruity water beverage with no calories, caffeine, or sodium.

• add non-caloric powdered flavor crystals to water.

For more ideas on beverages or other nutrition topics, contact me at or 814-776-5331. You can also check out various nutrition and health topics at the Penn State Extension site .

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I mix my 100% Juice drinks 50/50 with water. They go twice as far and taste a lot better.