Some of the best not-so-sugary drinks

Nothing says summer like a frosty glass of lemonade or iced tea

So here are some summery drinks that don’t top 10 calories or 1 gram of sugar. Some are unsweetened; others use safer sweeteners (monk fruit or stevia extract) and no aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame potassium (see chemicalcuisine.org).

Cheers!


At-home seltzer flavor drops

LaCroix, Bubly, Polar, AHA—you name it. Flavored unsweetened seltzer is easy to find in cans or bottles.

But now anyone with a SodaStream or other fizzy-water maker can join the calorie-free party. To avoid overfizzing, wait until after your liter of water has been carbonated before you add the ¾ teaspoon of Bubly Drops “unsweetened natural flavor essence” (aka natural flavor).

Lime, Grapefruit, Orange, Peach, Mango…the list goes on. To find your fave, try sodastream.com or amazon.com.


Iced tea brewing pouches

If you’re an iced-tea devotee, brewing your own beats buying bottled. You can lose the sugar…and spare the planet some plastic.

Quart-size brew pouches like The Republic of Tea’s make it easy. The tea bags are made without plastic, says the company. Try unsweetened Iced Teas like Ginger Peach or herbal Hibiscus Sangria, or Sweet Tea, which gets its subtle sweetness from monk fruit. Not at your supermarket? Try republicoftea.com.

Another option: Use a metal infuser to brew your favorite loose-leaf tea.


Soda sweetened with stevia, not sugar

Want a “zero sugar” or “diet” Coke, Cherry Coke, Barq’s, Dr Pepper, Mtn Dew, or Orange Fanta, but without their aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or sucralose? Stevia-sweetened Zevia serves up each of those flavors…plus Ginger Ale, Grapefruit Citrus, Cream Soda, Black Cherry, Grape, Strawberry, and Lemon Lime Twist. Pick from 15 in all.

What’s missing? Pour one, and it’ll be clear. No. Really clear. There are no food dyes or caramel color. And Zevia’s calories? What calories?


Unsweetened cold brew coffee

Cold brewing—soaking ground coffee in cold water for hours—is hot. It yields a smooth brew that tastes great iced. Nearly every brand, from Starbucks to La Colombe, now sells it by the bottle and without sugar.

New to unsweetened joe? Try mild-tasting Chobani Pure Black over ice or with milk. Just keep in mind that a 12 oz. serving has as much caffeine (120 mg) as, well, 12 oz. of coffee.


Sparkling water plus a little fruit juice

Spindrift’s new line of lightly fizzy Unsweetened Lemonade gets its mouth-puckering flavor from a dash of lemon and lime juices, plus strawberry purée (in the Strawberry Lemonade) or cherry and raspberry juices (in the Pink Lemonade). Yum!

Another can’t-miss Spindrift variety: the Half Tea & Half Lemon.

Look for them all at Target.


Lemonade with only 1 gram of sugar

Each True Lemon Original Lemonade Drink Mix packet adds just 10 calories to your 16 oz. glass of water. And it’s plenty sweet, mostly from stevia, not its smidgen (1 gram) of sugar.

And just think about the options: You can carry a packet for your water bottle on the go. You can add extra water if you like less sweet. You can mix it with unsweetened iced tea (hello, Arnold Palmer).

Bonus: You don’t have to lug home a heavy plastic bottle that may never get recycled.

Want to “add the delicious taste of fresh squeezed fruit to your water” (when there’s no real citrus around)? Keep zero-calorie packets of the company’s unsweetened True Lemon or Lime or Grapefruit on hand.

Photos: Bubly (Bubly), Zevia (Zevia), Lindsay Moyer/CSPI (all others).

Nutrition Action doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government donations. Any products recommended by Nutrition Action have been vetted by our staff and are not advertisements by the manufacturers. The information in this post first appeared in the June 2021 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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