LHI Tip of the Week – Skip the sugar, not the flavor!

Throughout the “Burst Your Thirst Challenge” blog series, you’ve learned why hydration is important for our body systems to function, to fuel exercise, to fight fatigue and what foods will provide you with hydrating benefits – along with some fun ways to get moving with water. Now that we have reached the last week of the 6-week challenge, we hope you have learned enough to continue sipping H2O and we would like to send you on your way with a few more reasons not to stray (too often) from your new bestie, water!

Sugar sweetened beverages, such as sodas, juices, specialty coffee drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas (and the list goes on) surround us in the flavorful world we live in.  There is nothing wrong with drinking a beverage that ignites your taste buds, but it is important to know what to avoid and natural, healthy choices to Burst Your Thirst without sacrificing flavor.

soda sugar

“Sugar” comes in many disguises including high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, syrup (again, the list goes on). Calories in sugary beverages essentially lack nutritional value and also do not give us that same “full” feeling we get when consuming solid foods – leading us to drink more in addition to the calories we consume from our meal or snack. One sugar-loaded beverage per day can lead to a 25 pound weight gain over the course of a year, leading to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Not exactly ideal but lucky for us, we live in a world of seemingly endless options which means there are healthier alternatives everywhere!

spa-waterThe most natural, calorie-free (and easy!) way to give your water a little zing is to add some fruit, veggies and/or fresh herbs. Drop a slice of lemon and lime in your water bottle in the morning and fill with water – keep the slices in there when you refill and the flavor will last all day! You can concoct some fun water “cocktails” by filling up a pitcher with water and adding sliced cucumber and mint, cranberries and oranges, strawberries and lime (the possibilities are endless). Let the pitcher sit in the refrigerator overnight and you will have a cool, delicious (not to mention, pretty!) beverage to keep you hydrated.

Now, we understand, sometimes you just don’t want to drink water. Luckily, there are almost always alternatives to avoid sugar (or lots of it) in your beverages. At the coffee shop, opt for black coffee and add a splash of unsweetened soy, almond or low-fat milk and a packet of Stevia. At restaurants, choose unsweetened iced tea with lemon or ask for water with a splash of lemonade, cranberry juice or grape juice – emphasis on just a splash, it goes a long way, really! If you long for that fizzy sensation once in a while, flavor soda water with any of these suggestions. 

Many times we get asked “what about diet or sugar free sodas, energy drinks, etc?” Well, without opening a can of worms; beverages labeled “sugar-free” often are filled with fake sugar substitutes. These substitutes won’t curb that craving your brain has for the sugar it really wants and will lead you to drink more and more trying to fulfill it. These beverages are also very acidic, leading to cavities and tooth decay, among other negative health effects!

We hope you have enjoyed Live Healthy Iowa’s Burst Your Thirst Challenge and blog series. Don’t worry – we’re not going to leave you hanging! Next in our 2013 challenge line up is ‘The Next Step Challenge’ September 9 – October 18. In this 6-week pedometer based challenge, participants will report their step count in an effort to move their team to the top of the challenge leaderboard. For $10, each participant will receive a pedometer, weekly emails, personal tracking page, unlimited access to online resources and opportunities to win incentives and prizes. Registration opens August 5th at http://www.livehealthyiowa.org!

**Disclaimer: Participants in the “Burst Your Thirst Challenge” should continue to track water only on their Live Healthy Iowa dashboard throughout the remainder of the challenge.

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About Iowa Sports Foundation

The Iowa Sports Foundation mission is to provide sports, recreation, health and wellness opportunities for Iowans of all abilities.
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