Column Reprint: Cool Summer Beverages

A long, cool drink isn’t just one of the pleasures of summer, it’s a necessity! But the average American takes in a frightening amount of sugar in beverages. There’s nearly 1/4 cup of sugar in a 12 ounce can of soda, and even more, albeit natural, sugar in many fruit juices.

Long before I went low carb, I established a rule that has served me well: I don’t drink anything with calories to quench thirst. This meant that I didn’t drink anything with carbs in it, either, of cours, so even when I was living on whole grains, I was spared the sugar in soda and juice. I shudder to think how much bigger I would have become had I been drinking carbs as well as eating them.

Here are some choices for low carb rehydration:

Water –– Water has become vastly more popular in the past decade, and I can’t think of a more encouraging nutritional trend. Keep chilled water in the fridge, either in bottles, or in one of those filter pitchers. Even if you’re not a big water drinker, remember that there’s nothing better for quenching actual thirst. If you’re parched, have a big glass of water before you grab a soda or some other sweetened beverage.

Diet Soda –– Diet soda is probably the most popular beverage among low carbers, but many low carb dieters report that diet soda stalls their weight loss. The reason for this is unclear. Dr. Atkins asserted that aspartame interfered with fat burning, while others blame citric acid, which interferes with ketosis. Diet soda can also act as a “trigger,” causing hunger and carb cravings. If you like diet soda, but not aspartame, it’s good to know that Diet Rite brand sodas are sucralose sweetened. Just recently, too, Zevia and Blue Sky Free, two erythritol-and-stevia sweetened soda, have hit the market. Look for them at health food stores.

Sparkling Water –– Sparkling water is a staple in my fridge. I enjoy the crispness of the carbonation, without the sweetness of soda, or any artificial stuff. I drink La Croix, but any brand should be fine. At bars I drink club soda with a squeeze of lime. No carbs, no calories, no citric acid.

Crystal Light –– With aspartame and citric acid, Crystal Light is another beverage that can stall weight loss for some low carbers. If you’ve always been a fruit juice drinker, Crystal Light will fill some of those cravings without the sugar. There are also sugar free lemonade mixes on the market similar to Crystal Light. The label on Crystal Light says <1 g carb per 8 ounce serving –– that can mean as much as 0.9 grams –– worth counting.

Kool Aid –– Kool Aid has unsophisticated flavors compared to Crystal Light, and it contains citric acid, but it has two advantages: It’s cheap, and you can use the sweetener of your choice. If you choose Splenda, remember that it has 24 grams of carbohydrate per cup. Liquid sucralose gets around this problem; I likeEZ Sweetz. You could use stevia, if you like the flavor, though if you insist on all-natural, you won’t be drinking Kool Aid in the first place, now will you?

Fruit 2-0 –– Say “fruit two-oh”, as in water with fruit flavor added. Available nationwide, Fruit 2-0 is non-sparkling water with a touch of natural fruit flavor and Splenda added. I like this much better than soda or Crystal Light. No carbs, no calories. Find Fruit 2-0 in the water aisle. Aldi, the discount grocery chain, now has a version of this called “Frut.” My husband, a Fruit 2-0 fan, likes this fine, and it’s cheaper than the name brand.

Iced Tea –– Iced tea has many advantages: It’s loaded with antioxidants, it’s a mild thermogenic (speeds metabolism), it’s cheap, and –– assuming it’s unsugared –– it has no carbs and no calories. One cup of Splenda to 1 1/2 quarts strong tea is about right for “sweet tea,” Southern style. If you do this, count 4 grams of carb per 8 ounce glass. Or use 24 drops of EZ Sweetz, for about the same sweetness. Read the labels on bottled teas carefully to avoid sugar.

Herb tea –– No reason not to ice your favorite herb tea. Brew it extra strong, to make up for dilution from ice.

Here’s a fruity beverage you can make at home, with no carbs, no calories, a pretty color, and a flavor that will please both adults and children. For those of you who don’t like artificial sweeteners, I’ve used Stevia Plus, available in health food stores, in this recipe. Feel free to make this with the artificial sweetener of your choice, instead –– start with sweetener to equal 1/2 cup sugar, then go by taste.

Berry Lemon Cooler

6 tea bags Celestial Seasonings Wild Berry Zinger (or other berry herb tea)
1 quart boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon flavored add-your-own-sugar Kool-Aid
1 quart cold water
2 1/2 –– 3 teaspoons Stevia Plus (or other stevia/FOS blend)

Put the tea bags in a half-gallon pitcher or jug that can take heat. Pour the boiling water over the tea bags, and let sit until cooled. Fish out the tea bags, and use clean hands to squeeze them out, then discard them. Add all the other ingredients, and stir well. Chill, and serve over ice.

Note: Stevia Plus is available in a shaker or in packets; I made this with the stuff in the shaker. I have tried this with plain stevia extract, and found the results bitter. I think the Stevia/FOS blend is far superior in flavor.

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