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Healthy Beverage Mixes... When You Have a Sweet Tooth

Updated on June 23, 2013

I find it easier to get plenty of fluids if I have beverages on hand besides plain old water. I don't drink soda pop because it burns my mouth, but I do like fruity, sugary beverages. They can come with their share of problems, though: the plastics, the sweeteners, the additives.

I am skinny, but I have reason to avoid a lot of sugar in beverage form. For one thing, I am trying to stave off dental work. I also have some genetic risk of diabetes. I avoid bloodwork, but try to be moderate with the sugar. Gone are the days of Tang or frozen limeade. Gone, too, are the days of buying just any old sugar-free beverage because it was cheap. I am more aware of the effects that some sweeteners and additives have on me.

I don't drink things with aspertame (Nutrasweet, Equal). I have been drinking sucralose beverages since sucralose came out and have never noticed any problems -- but I figure it's good to limit the quantity. I've become a bit of a connoisseur of powdered beverages: the ingredients even moreso than the taste. One of my favorites is only available at Trader Joe's. It's the one that I like to add aloe vera to. The other beverages are more widely available.

Images by the author of this page

And the Winners Are...

Don't Knock It Just Because You're Not a Toddler!

I first selected the Ultima drink mix when it was on sale at Whole Foods because it was a low salt, low sugar electrolyte option. I mean, I know sodium is an electrolyte, but I figure I usually get enough of it! The fact is sometimes I drink an electrolyte beverage when I don't really need it. There are times I do need rehydration, but it's probably different than if I had just been running a marathon.

This beverage has a little bit of a lot of minerals. Different flavors have different formulas. I drink the raspberry. I've had the adult version and the toddler version, and I prefer the one for toddlers. The raspberry formula has cranberry extract. It's in both the adult and kids' versions, but it's higher in the kids' one. More than twice as much in 8 ounces!

The cranberry is a plus for me and probably is for some portion of the general population. I've taken, or drank, cranberry at different points over the years. It hasn't been with dental health in mind, but I recently learned that it is good for teeth.

The toddler version seems a little sweeter when mixed according to directions. I may be able to stretch my money a little by buying it. It is a tad lower on some minerals. With some, there's no difference.

There are 10 calories in six ounces of the toddler version, 15 calories in 8 ounces of the adult. It appears that the calories come primarily from the maltodextrin (rice maltodextrin in the children's formula). That means that, yes, there is a little sugar. I still think it's probably not a problem for most people, even the moderately cavity-prone... especially considering that it has some healthful ingredients.

Obviously the maltodextrin is not the primary source of sweetness. Ultima contains stevia and Luo Han Guo extact. The coloring comes from beets.

The taste? Basically pink and sweet and pleasant. It's not as sweet as some powdered beverages. It reminds me a bit of the Super C energy drink mix.

Some Ultima Formulas

The cheapest is the 90 serving canister, and I don't see that in the toddler formula.

A Treat from Trader Joe's - Cherry Pomegranate Flavor Sticks

Trader Joe's flavor sticks are for those who like Kool-Aid, but think they better not consume it! Actually, I think the product suits a grownup palate better than Kool-Aid does. And for kids? Oh,yes! I figure it's for almost anyone who likes cherry-sweet beverages.

Stevia is the primary sweetener. This is actually the product that taught meet that stevia can have a pleasant, sugary taste. Sometimes stevia has a strong aftertaste -- even stronger than saccharin -- but I haven't noticed any aftertaste at all here. I've learned that stevia is a product with highly variable taste.

There is a little sugar in this product. Based on the calorie information, it looks like about a teaspoon in 16 ounces. Like most powdered beverages and juices, it contains some acid. I am not aware of any ingredients in the product that are strongly pro-dental. (Some people say stevia is anti-plaque, but this is controversial.) There is the option of washing it down with a bit of chamomile or green tea.

I wouldn't get scared off by the hot pink tones -- it's colored with hibiscus and extract of purple and black carrots.

How About Some Aloe Vera Juice with That?

Make Those Flavor Sticks More Nutritious

I have sometimes added aloe vera to the Trader Joe's cherry pomegranate drink. Years ago, I had a bottled drink called Aloe Bursts. It didn't have a lot of aloe vera in it (maybe a couple ounces) but I figure a little aloe vera is better than none. And, hmm, the stuff was rather tasty!

I decided it would be a good idea to put a couple ounces of aloe vera in a water bottle before adding the water and other goodies. I think the cherry pomegranate drink mix goes very nicely with a bit of aloe vera. It's not only healthy, but has a rather pleasant tang.

You can mix it to taste (or tolerance). You could even try adding a bit to your kids' beverages...

The cheapest aloe vera I've seen, incidentally, is at Trader Joe's... a gallon jug for $7.99. It keeps a long time.

Super C Powdered Beverage Mix - Caffeine, Hydration... and a Surprise

Now here's one for grownups. Unfortunately Super C mix isn't usually in stock at places I shop. I really stock up when it shows up at the Grocery Outlet. I've been drinking it for years. I have a particular affinity for the product. I actually learned something from it.

A lot of people have atypical responses to caffeine and find that it is calming. It happens more with people who have ADHD. I should have recognized my own caffeine response years earlier, but it's hard to recognize something that goes so against what you've always been taught!

It might have been five years ago that I first tried the Super C energy drink. My brain really liked it. I wondered what was in it. It turns out it has quite a bit of caffeine! A light bulb went off. I did some searching on the internet, and realized I was not alone on the caffeine response.

Caffeine is a significant player in this powdered beverage. It also has a little theanine. (On the strength of the beverage, I was motivated to seek that product out elsewhere.)

What else is in here? There is a mixture of nutrients and electrolytes. It is sucralose sweetened... no aspertame.

I've tried some of the other formulas. None of their supplemental beverages fizz! (Carbonated drinks don't have as strong of a mouth-on-fire effect on me as they did when I was little, but I didn't fully outgrow it.)

I can't drink Super C sleep (another learning experience, that!) but I like the others.

Tools of the Trade

Powdered drinks are of course more environmentally friendly than bottled ones. And filtered water is more environmental than bottled. Here's my water pitcher and my new fold-up water bottle.

FRS? Why, Yes! - Although...

I've had FRS in canned and bottled versions -- on those rare occasions when it showed up at the Grocery Outlet. I preferred the canned product. After looking at the ingredient list, I think I would like the powder even better. It's too expensive, though, for me to buy from a regular store.

I don't get that atypical reaction to all energy drinks -- it depends on the ingredients. Usually caffeine needs to be a signature ingredient. In the case of the FRS, I'm not sure what I am reacting to. It doesn't quite make me sleepy, but it doesn't rev me up... more the opposite. Nice!

I don't know what the caffeine content is in the different products. The first formula I tried had green tea extract, but did not list caffeine as a separate ingredient. I think some of my reaction was to the quercetin itself. People seek out quercetin for various reasons. It's considered to be an antihistamine.

The powdered product does list caffeine. It's another sucralose-sweetened option.

The marketing (and the price tag) of FRS are geared toward athletes. I'm not sure what they'd think of my assessment:

That really hit the spot... Goodnight.

Are You Thirsty?

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