Sugar sweetened beverages are often a popular choice compared to low-fat milk and water. When we stop at a convenience store or eat at a restaurant, we may often pair our meals or snacks with our favorite soft drink, soda, or flavored tea. In so doing, we unwittingly add up the calories and miss out on vital nutrients needed to maintain health.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a delicious diet soda every once in a while, and, while I don’t consume much fruit juice, eight ounces of OJ make a great post-exercise carbohydrate and electrolyte replenisher. The occasional soda, sweetened tea, or glass of juice won’t necessarily destroy an otherwise healthy, balanced diet, but there’s a fine line between reasonable moderation and over-consumption.
The most important caveat is to keep in mind that you should never feel guilty regarding your food and beverage choices. A healthy relationship with food is one that allows you to enjoy a wide variety of foods while emphasizing higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean proteins, and plenty of water. Minimize your intake of calorically dense food items such as cookies, candy, and sugar sweetened beverages, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself every so often.
The following steps will help you choose appropriate and healthy beverages so that you can get the most out of your drink.
- Drink water when thirsty and jazz it up by adding a twist of lemon, lime or other fruit, cucumber or mint. Try seltzer or bubbly water if you prefer the carbonation of soda.
- Drink milk or milk substitutes fortified with calcium and vitamin D such as soy, almond or rice milk.
- Drink 100% juices in moderation, ½ cup a day for young children (1 to 6 years) and ¾ cup a day for older children (7 to 18 years) and adults. These portions take advantage of the vitamins and minerals provided by 100% juice and help avoid over-consumption of calories from juice.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice to get the fiber that is eliminated when a fruit is juiced.
- Limit sugar sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonade, juice drinks or cocktails and sweetened iced teas. Keep in mind that sports drinks were designed for high intensity athletes, not for most active youth and adults.
- Drink artificially sweetened beverages in moderation. Though these beverages have zero calories they crowd out healthier beverage choices and increase desire for sweet tastes.
What is the difference between choosing cola or fat-free milk for lunch? The cola has 17 teaspoons of sugar (20 oz. bottle), 240 calories and no nutrients. However, milk (8 oz.) contributes 30% of your daily need for calcium and 25% of your daily need for vitamin D, packaged in only 90 calories.
The difference between choosing a sports drink or water when thirsty is significant too. While 20 oz. of a sports drink has eight teaspoons of sugar and 165 calories, water has zero calories and does a better job of quenching thirst.
The other portion of a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle is to be sure you fit plenty of physical activity into your day-to-day routine. A daily 20-minute brisk walk is a great example of activity most of us can do on a regular basis. Being active doesn’t mean you have to lift a ton of heavy weight or intensely run hundreds of miles each week. A healthy lifestyle is one that incorporates balance in all aspects of life. A generally healthy lifestyle will do no good, nor is it sustainable, if the focus is on restriction and extreme exercise. Place value in your health and have fun while you do it.
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*Adapted from an article by Cornell Cooperative Extension
Nutrition & Family Finance News
By: Aaron C. Swank, Harvey County Extension Agent, Nutrition & Family Finance