Healthy Drink Swaps to Help You Cut Back On Sugar
Your Specialty Coffee
You have a busy day ahead and you need some mega-caffeine, pronto. Stress is at an all-time high so you go for something on the sweeter side. The problem? Your venti white chocolate mocha has 18 teaspoons of sugar—the same as two cans of soda! Even your vanilla latte has more than 8 teaspoons of sugar. If you wouldn't start your day with a soda, it's time to rethink your fancy morning coffee.
The Swap: Order a skinny or make your own
Skip the sugary syrup in your latte and sprinkle it with some cinnamon instead. You'll benefit from a boost of flavor and potential blood sugar stabilizing benefits. Or make your own Low-Sugar Café Mocha with this dietitian-approved recipe.
Your "Rise and Shine" Fruit Drink
Are you sure your juice is the real thing? You may want to check the label again because you could be drinking fruit "beverage" or "drink" instead of fruit juice. While these names sound similar, fruit beverage or drink means each sip might contain only a small amount of fruit and nutritional benefits—along with plenty of added sugar.
The Swap: Choose 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar
Check the ingredients list. If your juice has any added sugar or words ending in "-ose," ditch it. Go for 100 percent orange juice to ensure you're getting your daily dose of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system. You can also get juice with additional health-boosting ingredients (such as Uncle Matt's Organics Orange Turmeric Juice). Not only does their orange juice have no added sugar, this one also has 500mg of anti-inflammatory turmeric and probiotics for a healthy digestive system and immune function. Blends with benefits, anyone?
Your Store-Bought Smoothie
You're trying to make a healthy choice by getting a smoothie for breakfast. It's packed with fruit and you're even taking it to the next level by getting the one with kale. Gold star for you, right? Hate to burst your bubble, but check out how your smoothie is made. Some of the most popular juice bars add frozen yogurt and sherbet to your sip. The result? You could be taking in over 600 calories and 120 grams of sugar in a large smoothie!
The Swap: Order smart or make your own
Get your smoothie customized for less added sugar and calories. Ask for water or almond milk as your base, opt for no frozen yogurt or sherbet, and look for at least 1 cup of fruit and plenty of leafy greens. Treat yourself to a decent blender and make your own smoothies or smoothie bowls at home. Try this green smoothie bowl with avocado and coconut water or this pomegranate matcha superfood smoothie bowl to get plenty of protein and fiber for fewer calories. (But first, this must-read: How to Make the Ultimate Smoothie Bowl.)
Your Mid-Morning "Vitamin" Water
So you're trying to get some extra vitamins into your day and you figure, "Why not perk up with a vitamin water?" Here's why: Get the regular version and you're taking in 19 grams of sugar. As the Center for Science in the Public Interest has put it, "vitamins + water + sugar + hype = soda - bubbles." Even if you choose the zero-calorie vitamin water, you're taking in sweeteners that can make sugar cravings worse. Plus, the vitamins you're getting from most types of vitamin water are ones you're probably already getting enough of, like B vitamins.
The Swap: Try kombucha
Kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years and has health benefits that go beyond vitamins you're probably already getting. Most of us aren't getting enough healthy bacteria in our diets, unless you're chowing down on only kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Kombucha is a naturally fermented tea that is loaded with potential health benefits thanks to its high probiotic count. Getting more probiotics into your day can help improve your digestion, boost your immune system, and even improve your mood. Another bonus: Kombucha is high in a compound called glucaric acid, which may help prevent cancer.
Your Lunchtime Diet Soda
So you're going for the meal deal at your favorite lunch spot and it comes with a free drink. You figure picking diet soda is a win since it's totally free of calories and tastes great. The issue: Taking in too much artificial sweetener and regularly drinking diet soda has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Your body deserves better.
The Swap: Switch to sparkling water
Elevate your lunch with some sparkling water or low-sodium club soda. Ask for a slice of lemon or lime to give your bubbles some tasty tanginess. (Let's be honest, ditching the diet drink habit can be easier said than done. Here's how to break your diet soda addiction for good.)
Flavored Drops or Powders for Your Water
You've set a goal to get more fluids into your day to help you lose weight and prevent sluggishness caused by dehydration. You find plain old water super tasteless and boring, so you've loaded up your desk drawer with flavor drops or powders to make your water more interesting. Good for you for getting more water—but you're also introducing more artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors into your day. Artificial sweeteners can mess with your metabolism and are best avoided.
The Swap: Make you own DIY spa water.
Make your own fruit- and herb-infused water and get the benefits of natural antioxidants, fiber, and flavor you can feel good about. Check out these fruit-infused spa water recipes for ideas, then upgrade your H2O with these infused water recipes.
Your Afternoon Cold-Pressed Vegetable Juice
Having some fresh vegetable juice to boost your intake of phytochemicals can be a good thing, but not if you're thinking that juice can replace whole vegetables. You'll be missing out on fiber, which keeps you full, stabilizes your blood sugar levels, and helps you manage your weight. (So are green juices healthy or just hype?)
The Swap: Keep the fiber
Sure, have your fresh vegetable juice on occasion, but even better, enjoy a generous serving of brightly colored vegetables at every meal whether they're in a salad or lightly steamed. You can also go for your leafy greens in smoothies (blending keeps the fiber) if you'd rather drink your veggies.
Your Workout Sports Drink
After being on the treadmill for 45 minutes or taking an intense hot yoga class, you might break out a sports drink because, hey, you're working hard and you've more than broken a sweat. The issue? Your workouts are doing your body good, but you aren't sweating enough to replace electrolytes. Typically, you'd only need a sports drink after very intense exercise or for workouts that last an hour or more. The truth is, most people just need to replace fluids—a.k.a. drink water.
Sports drinks are great for endurance athletes or for those who do intense spurts of activity, as they need the sugar to get through long or intense workouts. If you don't fit into that box, down a 32-ounce sports drink and you could be taking in 14 grams of extra sugar you certainly don't need.
The Swap: Water. Just water
It's nature's perfect beverage. Think of it like you think of your cell phone: by your side at all times. (Stay hydrated with these BPA-free water bottles.)
Your Post-Workout Protein Shake
You've hit the gym hard and it's time to refuel those muscles with a Choco Banana Peanut Butter Coconut Protein Shake. What? It's full of protein...
Get the nutrition information for your post-workout drink and make sure it's not undoing all your hard work in the gym. A large protein shake can tip the scales at more than 750 calories and 65 grams of sugar.
The Swap: Design your own or make it at home
Make your own post-workout protein shake so you can control what goes into it. Make sure your protein powder doesn't contain any added sugars and get your carbs from healthy ingredients like frozen fruit. Try this recipe for a post-workout blueberry cashew smoothie. (Looking for vegan options? These high-protein, soy-free smoothie recipes will help you out.)
Your "Skinny" Vodka Cooler at Happy Hour
You've had a long day and you're meeting your besties for some overdue gossip. There's a new vodka cooler in a sparkly pink bottle and you've been dying to try it. They called it "skinny," so it has to be healthy, right?
The issue: Creative packaging and calling something "skinny" doesn't necessarily make it healthy. One sweet alcoholic beverage can easily lead to two... and the calories and sugar add up fast. The average vodka cooler has about 300 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar, making it more of a dessert than a drink.
The Swap: Try vodka soda with a splash of cranberry juice
Enjoy a less sweet sip that still looks fun and girly thanks to the pink hue from a splash of cranberry juice. You'll save about 200 calories and slash the sugar by at least half. (Next up, try these low-alcohol cocktails for a healthy buzz.)