You already know how important it is to stay hydrated and drink enough water throughout the day. But sometimes, plain H2O isn't enough to motivate you to keep sipping and reaching for your water bottle.
Sure, water is refreshing and the purest form of hydration, but let's be honest, it can get pretty boring.
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So how can you get the refreshing flavor you crave without accidentally loading up on too much inflammation-causing sugar? With soda, sugary fruit juices and sweetened teas out of the question, it can be a little challenging to choose a hydrating drink that won't blow the daily limit for added sugar intake.
The good news is that there are plenty of low-sugar drinks out there to help you get your sweet fix without going overboard.
"I like putting fresh fruit and vegetables into water, like berries, cucumber and mint. Fruit-infused seltzers and maple water are also good choices," Alana Kessler, RDN and founder of Be Well. But if you want to shop for healthier, low-sugar drink options, here are some key things to look for.
What to Look for in a Low-Sugar Drink
- Choose drinks that are sourced from whole foods with natural sugars, like fruit and vegetables, Kessler says. Many fruit-infused seltzers and mineral waters will extract the natural essence oils from fruit.
These natural flavors are derived from real plants, spices and foods, but they don't contribute to your daily overall fiber, vitamin and mineral needs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes natural flavors as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), so there isn't any evidence to believe that consuming them comes with health risks.
- Aim for less than 5 grams of sugar per drink. While there aren't FDA nutrition guidelines for what constitutes a low-sugar drink, Lauren Manaker, RDN, CLEC, a dietitian based in Charleston, South Carolina, considers any drink with under 5 grams of sugar per serving to be low-sugar.
Remember, the American Heart Association recommends women stick to less than six teaspoons, or 25 grams, of added sugar per day, and men no more than nine teaspoons, or 36 grams. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines also advises that less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from added sugars. "A low-sugar drink would also have under 15 grams of carbs," Kessler adds.
- Consider drinks with adaptogens, such as rhodiloa, ginseng and maca. "Adaptogens, in general, are great for stress management and helping to metabolize the hormones and respond to the inflammatory response," Kessler says.
Just be wary that you need a certain dosage to reap their benefits, and you need to consistently drink them to see their effects. So drinking them once in a while in your seltzer or iced tea might not be enough to make a difference.
What to Watch Out For
- Limit sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, Kessler says. "These additives trigger insulin release and over time, when insulin gets released too often, it can lead to lifestyle-acquired disease like type 2 diabetes and obesity," she says.
- Limit additives: Kessler also recommends avoiding sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate is a salt preservative that's added to many drinks for its antimicrobial properties. The FDA also recognizes sodium benzoate as GRAS, with the safe level being 0.1 percent in food. The concern with sodium benzoate is when it's combined with ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. Together, they form a chemical called benzene, which is a carcinogen that can cause cancer, according to the FDA.
Manaker also says that some people may choose to avoid drinks with artificial colors and artificial sweeteners, like acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and aspartame, due to health concerns, allergies or taste preference. "I like to see if there are other nutritional benefits offered by the drink. For example, a beverage may contain antioxidants or fiber," she says.
Now that you know what to look for when shopping for low-sugar drinks, here are some of Kessler and Manaker's top picks under 50 calories per serving.
11 Low-Sugar Drinks Under 50 Calories to Try
1. Minna Tropical Green Sparkling Tea
Per 1-can serving of Green Sparkling Tea: 0 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
If you grew up drinking sweetened iced tea and are doing your best to kick your sugar habit, Minna's sparkling teas are your answer. Each can also packs 45 milligrams of caffeine — about the amount in a half cup of coffee — so it's a great afternoon pick-me-up if you need a boost.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $28 per pack of 12
Per 1-can serving of Vitality: 25 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated fat), 35 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrates (4 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
Elements has a drink for everyone — whether you're looking to wake up feeling more energized or make falling alseep a bit easier, thanks to adaptofens. The line comes in four formulas: Calm, Sleep, Vitality and Focus and featuring flavors such as Vanilla Apple Cider and Blueberry Lemon.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $41.88 per 12-pack
Per serving of Calamansi: 0 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 1 gram carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein
Founded by Sandro Roco, a Filipino-American born in Queens, New York, Sanzo sparkling waters bring the flavors of Asian fruits to your fizzy drinks. Choose from Calamansi, a tart Philippine fruit that's similar to lime, as well as Lychee and Mango. All of Sanzo's sparkling waters include real fruit puree for a touch of sweetness.
Buy it: DrinkSanzo.com; Buy it: $34.99 per pack of 12
Per 1-can serving of Raspberry Lime: 9 calories, 0 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates (1 gram sugar), 0 grams protein
Kessler likes Spindrift because it includes real fruit purees in their carbonated drinks. Whether you're craving something light and crisp like Cucumber, or want to satisfy your taste buds with a sweet and fruity juice like Raspberry Lime, Spindrift comes in 11 great flavors.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $17.97 per pack of 24
5. Wtrmln SportWtr
Per serving of Lemon Lime: 15 calories, 0 grams fat, 18 milligrams sodium, 3 grams carbohydrates (1 gram fiber, 2 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
A great sports drink option, WTRMLN's SportWtr takes their original watermelon juice and infuses it with vitamin C and l-citrulline, an amino acid that aids in muscle recovery. The founders of WTRMLN created the beverage with the idea of rescuing discarded melons, so you're not only getting a great low-sugar drink but helping prevent food waste.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $32.99 per pack of 12
6. Wave Soda
Per 1 can-serving of Tangerine: 25 calories, 0 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates (5 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
For a healthy alternative to soda — under 50 calories a can — grab Wave Soda. The brand uses coffee cherry for a bit of caffeination and comes in refreshing flavors such as Tangerine, Grapefruit, Blueberry and Mango, among others.
Each can of Wave is made up of 85 percent bubbly water and 15 percent real fruit juice.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $17.38 per 12-pack
7. Drink Simple Maple Water
Per serving: 30 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
"Although it contains a touch more sugar than what I generally recommend, it contains natural antioxidants and prebiotics. One serving contains more manganese than a serving of kale! It is also super hydrating and satisfies a sweet tooth," Manaker says.
If you never heard of maple water, it actually comes from the sap of maple trees (yup, just like the syrup). Maple water looks and feels just like plain H2O, but maple water is usually harvested during the spring because that's when maple trees usually pull water from the ground and filter it through their roots, according to Drink Simple.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $34.03 per pack of 12
8. VitaCoco Sparkling
Per serving of Grapefruit: 25 calories, 0 grams fat 85 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein
If you want to kick your coconut water habit up a notch, try the sparkling version. VitaCoco's sparkling coconut water line comes in four flavors: Grapefruit, Lemon Ginger, Raspberry Lime and Pineapple Passionfruit. Made with carbonated water, coconut water fron concentrate, fruit juice from concentrate and natural flavors, this sparkling water satisfies sweet cravings and provides electrolytes.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $17.88 per pack of 12
9. VitaminWater Zero
Per serving of Fruit Punch: 0 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein
If you're looking for a sports drink packed with electrolytes and zero sugar, Kessler likes VitaminWater's Zero Sugar line. Sweetened with stevia and erythritol, you'll still get that satisfying sweet taste. VitaminWater's Zero Sugar waters provide excellent levels of C and B vitamins and potassium, as well as calcium and magnesium. Sip on this stuff throughout your workout to help you stay hydrated and replenish your energy stores.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $29 per pack of 6
Per serving of Vintage Cola: 35 calories, 0 grams fat, 25 milligrams sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates (9 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar), 0 grams protein
Try Olipop's vintage cola, which is a new and improved version of the soda you grew up with. It's not only low in calories and sugar, but it provides a dose of fiber and even some caffeine, thanks to the green tea.
Olipop is sweetened with stevia and cassava root syrup and has hints of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon flavors. You'll also appreciate that it's free of artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors and flavors.
Buy it: DrinkOlipop.com; Price: $35.99 per pack of 12
11. Health-Ade Booch Pop
Per 1-can serving of Ginger Fizz: 40 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates (8 grams sugar, 6 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein
The perfect combo of kombucha and cold-pressed juice, Health-Ade's new Booch Pop satisfies the sweet fizz that former soda lovers crave. While this drink is a little higher in sugar than what's usually recommended, its sugar is mostly used in fermentation.
It has gut-loving prebiotics as well as calcium and magnesium. Pop open a can and enjoy it on its own, or use it as a delicious mixer for cocktails.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $19.99 per pack of 8
- Food and Drug Administration: "CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sugar Is Too Much?"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Food and Drug Administration: "Questions and Answers on the Occurrence of Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages"
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda, and More"