When the summer heat comes knocking, many people reach for soft drinks and artificially flavored beverages. While this may temporarily cool you down while satisfying your sweet tooth, you're actually doing your body a disservice by dumping so many empty calories into your system. Additionally, many of these drink options actually dehydrate you further, prompting you to drink more of them sooner. Here are five easy alternatives to reaching for a can of pop, or a bottle of "enhanced electrolyte-infused super sports drink"....Whatever that is.
1. Juice on Juice - Do you make your ice cubes with trays in your freezer? If you do, try swapping out the water with juice! You can have a glass of OJ with OJ ice cubes. As they melt, they won't water down your juice of choice. If you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own fruit juice combinations with matching juice cubes. If you have a blender, you can make your own fruit slushies in a flash. It's a pretty simple way to enjoy something flavorful, and you can feel better knowing that you aren't putting large amounts of empty calories into your system. If you are craving something a little sweeter, why not try mixing in a little Stevia? While relatively new to the US market, this wonder sweetener has been used for centuries by people in other countries. Boasting a sweetening capability 300 times that of sugar, stevia has also been shown to have a negligible effect on blood glucose levels, making this sweetener relatively safe for people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
2. Cucumber Water - This is a relatively new concept to hit the mainstream, but it has been around for a long time. Cucumbers are a perfect summer food...They contain vitamin C and caffeic acid, two antioxidant nutrients that can help protect the skin from the sun's damaging rays. Vitamin C boosts collagen and elastin, which helps keep skin looking vibrant. Caffeic acid protects skin cells from UV radiation. Cucumbers also help to prevent water retention, which will keep you feeling light and refreshed all day.
There are a few different methods to make cucumber water, but I'll give the easiest here....Chop up a whole cucumber, throw it in a pitcher of water, and let it soak in the fridge overnight. In the morning, drain the pieces of cucumber out, pour yourself a big glass of it over ice, throw a few slices of cucumber in as a garnish, and voila. You have cucumber water. Yes....It's that simple. And you'll be pleasantly surprised how refreshing this new angle on water is.
Raspberry Mint water - This is similar to the cucumber water, except that there's no overnight soaking required. All you need is a water bottle, crushed ice, some fresh mint, and raspberries. Throw five or six raspberries, a few mint leaves, and a small handful of crushed ice into a water bottle. Shake well. The ice will agitate the mint and raspberries. Then, fill the bottle to the top with water, and shake again. Goodbye, Crystal Light.
Soda Water and Juice - If you find yourself craving the zip of bubbles in your beverage, try mixing plain soda water with citrus juices. Two parts juice, one part soda water, and some ice is all you'll need to beat a soda craving. Try mixing tangerine and grapefruit juice first, then move on to other juices.
Iced Chai Tea - Chai has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine, but has come to be one of the world's most beloved teas. Chai is a mixture of black teas and aromatic Indian spices. Initially brought over to the west a few centuries ago, it has become a fixture in many coffeehouses and cupboards all across the United States, and can be purchased in your local grocery store. If you like Iced tea, then take a chance on Iced Chai. You won't regret it.
Bring four cups of water to a boil, and add one chai bag per cup. Steep for five to seven minutes, and transfer to a pitcher. Allow the Chai to cool completely, and serve over ice. You can add a bit of milk and sugar if you so desire, but the natural blend of Indian spice makes this tea flavorful all on its own.
Here's to a healthy summer!