Most store-bought versions are made from the same sweeteners used in soda, combined with preservatives and artificial color. At 100 calories per cup, and with the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar and zero nutrients, you're essentially drinking liquid candy. Definitely not refreshing.
|BEST: Infused water
Nothing beats plain water for health and hydration. But if you find plain H2O a bit blah, reach for a flavor-enhanced version. Just make sure it's made without artificial sweeteners, which can actually stoke your sweet tooth. The ingredients list should contain only water, and natural flavors. Nothing else.
|WORST: Fancy frozen drinks
When it comes to cocktails, the mixers are the real calorie culprits. Case in point: According to the USDA, a 16-ounce pina colada can clock in at a whopping 880 calories, that's more than 8 times the amount in a shot of rum.
|BEST: Light beer
A recent study found that beer, including light versions, contains natural ingredients that help deposit calcium and other minerals into bone. The alcohol in beer also provides protection against heart disease and stroke, and a 12-ounce bottle of light brew will only cost you about 100 calories.
|WORST: Whipped coffee drinks
When made with 2% milk, a large icy cup of Joe can contain up to 800 calories and a third of the maximum recommended intake for artery-clogging saturated fat. And there's a reason why it tastes so sweet: At 170 grams of sugar in a typical drink, you get more of a sugar shock than a caffeine buzz.
|BEST: Chilled green tea
It's calorie free and loaded with antioxidants that bring health and beauty benefits, including protection against heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and overall aging. One study found that the cells of regular tea drinkers have a younger biological age than those of non-drinkers. If you're not crazy about the taste, freeze 100% fruit juice in ice cube trays and toss them in. They'll add color and flavor as they melt.
|WORST: A giant fruit smoothie
Yes fruit is good for you, but this is serious overkill. A 32-ounce blend can pack as many as 700 calories with fewer than 2 grams of protein thanks to the high sugar content. That's like eating a whole pineapple, entire mango and 1 cup each of blueberries and strawberries in a single sitting. Why that's bad: Calories from any food get socked away in your fat cells if you eat more than you can burn.
For far fewer calories—about 120 per cup and a healthy balance of carbs, protein and fat—pour yourself a cup of kefir. In addition to the 10 grams of satiating protein and 5 grams of filling fiber, kefir contains friendly probiotic bacteria—about 10 different strains compared to 2-3 in yogurt. These good bugs have been shown to help improve digestive health, boost immunity and control body weight. And animal studies have shown that kefir is a potent cancer-fighting food.
Love sitting back with a cocktail? Keep reading for the best low calorie alcoholic drinks. >>