6 No Added Sugar Drinks That Are Perfect If You're Sick of Water
When you’re parched, chugging water is the perfect thirst-quencher. It has no calories, and it hydrates you. The only problem? Plain old water can be boring when you’re craving some flavor and excitement, especially after a hard workout. Fortunately, sugar-loaded drinks are not your only alternative to standard-issue H2O. Here are some sugar-free and no-added sugar options that are easy to find — even in your office’s soda machine or local Starbucks.
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1. Sparkling Water
“It’s important to remember that you want to eat your calories, not drink them as a general rule,” explains Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, nutrition manager at Openfit. Sparkling water is like water’s more exciting, bubbly sister. The effervescent quality makes it more fun to drink, while the flavor essence makes it more interesting for your taste buds. Just be sure to read nutrition labels to make sure there is no added sugar. LaCroix is one option that is free of sugars, calories, sodium, and artificial ingredients.
2. Infused Water
There are tons of infused water products. The tricky part is choosing one without hidden sugar. Hint is flavor-infused water that offers all the benefits of agua without sugar or sweeteners. For a sweeter (slightly caffeinated) option, Bai is antioxidant-infused water sweetened with stevia leaf extract.
“You can drink unsweetened tea,” says Giancoli. “Or you can sweeten it with stevia, which has no calories. People get nervous about artificial sweeteners, but research has found they’re all perfectly fine. Stevia comes from a plant, which makes people feel better about it, but it is highly processed to make it a sweetener.”
Research has found natural, no-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, to be safe and can be a healthy part of a balanced diet in moderation.
Black, green, and herbal teas have antioxidants. Matcha has become a trendy green tea because it has a unique growing process to boost its health benefits. On its own, matcha green tea powder has very few calories and no sugar, but once you start turning it into lattes and other beverages, that changes. Lots of sugar and calories may be hiding out in those yummy matcha drinks.
“Black coffee on its own has some beneficial properties,” says Giancoli. However, when it comes to your daily Starbucks habit, three pumps of vanilla syrup in a latte add a whopping 31 grams of sugar. (That’s well over the 25 grams recommended per day.) A safer bet is sticking to black coffee or cold brew without added sugar. “People worry about the diuretic effect of caffeine, but coffee is mostly water and can be hydrating.” Caffeine can be dehydrating in large quantities, so be sure to offset those effects by drinking water or another caffeine-free beverage.
6. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are designed to help replenish electrolytes and support hydration during intense exercise, but many of them contain lots of added sugar. A new generation of sports drinks, like Openfit Fuel, have flipped the sugar-heavy formula by adding sweetness with stevia, or other no-calorie sweeteners.
Don’t Be Fooled by Juice
“We should think about fruit juice as nourishing our body instead of quenching our thirst,” says Giancoli. “Fruits have naturally occurring sugar, but many ‘juice’ drinks add sugar or have very little real fruit in them.”
Green, fresh-squeezed and organic juices have higher concentrations of natural sugars than you might expect. Adding to that, when you drink juice, you miss out on some of the benefits of eating whole fruits and veggies, such as fiber.
What About Alcohol?
Don’t be fooled by hard seltzers that boast their low sugar content. When you consume these beverages, you’re just trading calories from sugar for those from alcohol.
“Alcohol is its own macro that contains its own calories (7 calories per gram!),” Giancoli says. “These drinks may be low in or contain no added sugar, but you’re still adding to your daily calorie intake.”