Discover the Low-Calorie Drinks You Never Knew You Needed
If you’re a soda-drinker trying to kick the habit or just interested in making healthier beverage decisions, check out this article to discover all the low-calorie drinks you never knew you needed. We’ll go through some basic information on calories, then dive into all our favorite, low-calorie non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
The Scoop on Calories
Calories are often talked about in the health food world and tend to have a negative connotation, but what actually are calories? Calories are actually a unit of measurement, just like pounds or feet. However, unlike those measurements, calories don’t measure weight or length. They measure energy. Saying that something has 100 calories is a way of conveying how much energy your body could potentially get from eating or drinking the item. Calories in food are found in three macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Are Calories Really Bad For You?
The short answer is no. Calories are not actually bad for you. In fact, calories are necessary because your body needs energy to function, just like how a car needs gas to run. Similar to a car that uses gas, as you go through your day, you burn calories.
However, you only need so many calories to fuel you every day. In general, if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. For this reason, being aware of your calorie intake is an important step towards a healthy, balanced diet, especially if you’re interested in losing weight.
Good Vs. Bad Calories
Given that you need calories to function, it’s good to be mindful about where your calories come from because there are “good” and “bad” calories. Although, yes, there’s the same amount of energy in 100 calories of almonds vs. 100 calories of gummy bears, there’s more to a food than just its caloric value. When you eat almonds, along with calories, you’re consuming vital nutrients that will positively affect your body’s functioning. The calories in gummy bears, on the other hand, are “empty” because they are providing your body with energy but come with no other nutrients.
High Calorie Drinks
Usually, when people think about regulating their caloric intake, their mind immediately jumps to food. However, liquid calories in drinks are absolutely real and can have a large impact on your daily calorie intake. For example, the calorie count for eight ounces of notably high-calorie drinks are as follows:
- Soda, 105 calories
- Store-bought fruit smoothies, 135 calories
- Orange juice, 115 calories
- Energy drinks, 116 calories
- Sweet white wine and red wine, 250 calories
- Beer, 100 calories
- Sugary cocktails, 235 calories
Now that you know all the high-calorie drinks to avoid, let’s take a look at some tasty, nutritious, low-calorie beverage alternatives!
If you brew your own tea at home, it has almost no calories and is a great low-calorie drink option. The only time to be wary of tea is what it’s sold as a ready-to-drink beverage because it is sometimes loaded with added sugars and fats.
Black tea is made from the leaves, buds, or stems of the Camellia Sinensis plant, also known as the tea plant. Tea from this plant has been made for thousands of years for both its taste and medicinal properties. In an 8-ounce cup of black tea, there are around two calories. Compare that to the number of calories in any of the drinks listed above, and you’ll see why tea is such an alluring, low-calorie option.
Unsweetened Iced Tea
Oftentimes iced tea is considered just as bad as soda in terms of calorie count. However, unlike soda, you can make low-calorie iced tea at home. In order to make your iced tea low-calorie, you just need to be conscious of the amount of sugar you put in to sweeten it. The healthiest way to drink iced tea at home is to drink it unsweetened. If you do want to add a little flavor to your iced tea, try adding honey, lemon juice, or mint leaves as opposed to plain sugar.
If you love the carbonation of soda but want a low-calorie option, tepache might be the drink for you. This traditional Mexican beverage is made from fermented pineapple and flavored with various fruits and spices. The fermentation process gives it the delicious, bubbly texture of soda. However, unlike soda, tepache is low-calorie, low in sugar, and has several health benefits because it is a natural probiotic and rich in vitamin C and D.
Infused or Sparkling Water
Arguably the healthiest low-calorie drink out there if you’re aiming for hydration only is water. However, water can get a little boring, especially when you’re craving the sugary flavor of soda or juice. For this reason, you can try making your own infused water at home.
All you have to do is slice up fruits or vegetables (berries, lemon, and cucumber work especially well) and leave the water in the fridge to infuse. If you’re looking for even more flavor, you can add herbs like mint or rosemary to the mix as well. If you find yourself missing the carbonated fizz of soda, try making your infused water with sparkling water.
You might be wondering if maple water is the same as its sticky, sugary cousin maple syrup. It’s not! Maple water is made using unprocessed maple tree sap and is almost entirely water. The maple gives it a subtle, sweet flavor that makes this water delicious. The best part? There are only 15 calories in an eight-ounce glass of maple water, so you can enjoy this tasty drink without having to worry about high-calorie intake.
Another great substitute for drinks like soda or juice is coconut water. There are only about 45 calories in eight ounces of coconut water because it has less sugar and carbohydrates than most juice. In addition to being low-calorie, coconut water is also high in minerals like sodium and potassium, and electrolytes. Athletes tend to love coconut water because it is super hydrating and replenishes body fluids as well as a sports drink like Gatorade.
Vegetable Juice or Smoothies
Store-bought smoothies usually contain lots of sugar because they are made primarily from fruit, meaning their fructose sugar content is incredibly high. In order to get the delicious taste and nutritional benefits of a smoothie without all the sugar found in store-bought smoothies, try making your own at home.
That being said, in order to make your homemade smoothies low-calorie, make sure you’re using vegetables such as cucumber, baby spinach, kale, or celery as your base. All of these are delicious vegetables without all the sugar found in fruits.
Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks
Another source of liquid calories that people often forget about is alcoholic beverages. If you’re out ordering a mixed drink or cocktail, make sure to avoid the following ingredients because they are full of empty calories:
- Simple syrup and sugar
- Fruit juice
- Maraschino cherries
The best way to make low-calorie drinks is to rely on things like herbs to add flavor. Ginger, mint, basil, and rosemary all are delicious, flavorful additions to cocktails that keep the calorie count low.
Some low-calorie alcoholic beverages you can order next time you’re out are:
- Tequila with fresh lime juice
- Vodka soda with lemon
- Mojito without the syrup
- Light beer
- Diet G&T
- Kombucha with vodka
It’s not hard to limit your liquid calorie intake if you know what drinks to avoid and which ones to choose. In general, try to avoid really sugary drinks like soda and juice. Instead, pick up a can of tepache or a cup of tea, and you’re set!
Empty Calories: Definition, Food List, and Examples | Healthline
The Hidden Health Benefits of Tea | Penn Medicine
Sugary Drinks | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health