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Making Better Beverage Choices

August 2016

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

What you drink each day is as important as what you eat or your physical activity. Many beverages contain added sugars and offer little or no nutrients while others may provide too much fat and calories. Below are ten small steps to stay hydrated and make healthier beverage choices:

  1. Drink Water - Choose water over sugary drinks such as regular soda, energy, or sports drinks. Limit drinks with added sugar such as lemonade or ice tea.
  2. Stay Hydrated - Hydration is one of the most important parts of healthy physical activity. Making sure that you are drinking the right amount of fluids before, during, and after physical activity is essential to allowing your body to perform properly. A good rule of thumb is to aim to is drinking half of your body weight in ounces daily (e.g., a 100 lb. person would need 50 ounces of water daily).
  3. Save Money - Water is the thrifty beverage option and you can save money by drinking enough water from the tap at home or when eating out. A previous SSHW message has additional information about saving money on beverages.
  4. Manage Your Calories - Drink water with and between your meals. Adults and children drink about 400 calories a day so drinking water can help you manage those calories.
  5. Drink Mindfully - Enjoy alternative beverages when water just won’t do. Remember to check the serving size and the number of servings in the can, bottle, or container to stay within your calorie needs. Select smaller cans, cups, and glasses instead of large or supersized options.
  6. Be a Weather Watcher - Both exercise and warm weather can increase your body temperature. Your body cools itself by sweating, but it can become harder to stay cool during humid weather because moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly from your skin. Your heart rate rises as your body works harder to remain cool. Drinking water, rather than pouring it over your head, is the only way to rehydrate and cool your body from the inside out.
  7. Watch Your Water Weight - You may lose a few pounds of water weight through sweating. Try to weigh yourself before and after each workout, and replace each pound of weight loss with 3 cups of water. Stay hydrated by sipping small amounts of water throughout the day; avoid chugging down fluids right before exercising to avoid stomach discomfort and bloating.
  8. Scout Your Sports Drinks - Sports drinks may look appealing, but they can contain added sugar. Consider your performance goals before you select a drink. For the average workout of 60 minutes or less, your body usually won’t need anything other than water. If you are sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, it is likely that you’ve lost a lot of electrolytes, including sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. For these types of long workouts, a low-calorie beverage that contains electrolytes may help you to rehydrate more efficiently.
  9. Do a Bathroom Check - If you are sufficiently hydrated, your urine will be the color of straw or lemonade. If it is clear, you may be drinking too much. If your urine is a dark color, such as the color of apple juice, it is a sign of potential dehydration.
  10. Drink Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy Beverages - Each type of milk offers the same key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D. and potassium but the number of calories is very different. Adults need 3 cups of milk (yogurt and cheese could be used as substitutes) per day while children age 4-8 need 2 ½ cups per day and children age 2-3 need 2 cups per day.

Make your beverage choice the “easy” choice and consume plenty of water daily. Take small steps to drink more water as your main beverage and drink fewer high-fat and high-sugar beverages. You will lose some weight and feel better!