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What Are the Healthy Alternatives to Fatty, High-Calorie Nonalcoholic Beverages?

Updated on May 27, 2012

There's nothing as refreshing as your favorite cold drinks on any day - hot or cold, snowy or sunny. They range from the liquid (like teas) to the frozen (like virgin strawberry margaritas), and they can be fizzy or flat. They come in all different kinds of colors - from the vivid neons to the translucent browns.

Sometimes, people can put creamy ingredients inside or on top of their drinks. Examples of such include milk and ice cream in a milkshake, creamer in coffee, or whipped cream on iced coffee.

But the worst parts of most of the drinks are the dreaded calories that can make you gain weight - in fat. Does that mean that you should give up the joyous delights of cold, tasty beverages (I'm talking about nonalcoholic beverages here) you really enjoy? I think not!

Why Those Drinks Fatten You Up

The primary reason why those drinks make you gain fat is simply because they are high in calories. You might be asking the following:

  • How does guzzling a can of my favorite soda give me a fatty butt?
  • How does my coffee make me gain inches on my midsection?
  • Does that fruit-ade give me flabby, fatty arms?

To answer the above questions, I believe that those drinks will increase your body fat.

The root of the beverage calories is sugar - and not just any sugar. A majority of drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which dissolves better than just table sugar. Other sweeteners that sweeten drinks include maltose, dextrose, honey, and cane syrup.

Excessive consumption, in conjunction with (lousy) diet and (almost no) exercise, can lead to heart problems, diabetes, tooth decay, and other health issues. For nursing women, they will have obese children if they breastfeed their babies when regularly drinking them, as one study suggests.

That's one question you really should know: what are the healthy alternatives?

Beverages of Bad Sports

We have seen all the advertisements of sports drinks - the athletes guzzle them while effortlessly dribbling a basketball, swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball or playing tennis. They promote it on the sports fields, schools, and just about anywhere the general public can see them. But despite giving you electrolytes, all that sugar (the HFCS, primarily) fattens you up.

Healthy Alternative

One of the best ways to replace that sugary athlete drink is to mix a packet of unsweetened or no-sugar drink mix and add a pinch of salt to water.

If you want to go raw, buy young coconuts, (look for an Asian or whole foods store near you) drain the water from them, store it in a bottle for later use, and mix a portion of it with plain water. The coconut water has as much electrolytes and potassium as the sugary counterpart.

Another Milkshake Alternative

Blend low-or-no sugar protein powder with 1% or skim milk. Optionally, add ice.
Blend low-or-no sugar protein powder with 1% or skim milk. Optionally, add ice. | Source

What Brings Sugar and Fat To the Yard?

Milkshakes are a delicious concoction of syrup, milk, and ice cream - a symbol of American culture made universal thanks to the globalization of food chains. Unfortunately, they harbor all the sugar and fat that really makes you fat. The latter comes from the ice cream and the (whole) milk, and most of it is artery-plugging saturated fat that raises cholesterol levels. Add the whipped cream on top and you'll add more calories that way.

Healthy Alternative:

There's no need to refrain from enjoying this creamy drink - all you need are some substitutes for those fatty, sugary ingredients. One way is to blend frozen Greek yogurt with some skim milk, frozen fruits, and no-calorie sweetener. If you want to go simple, just blend lowfat, no-sugar frozen yogurt and skim milk and you'll have a guiltless shake in no time.

A Great Coffeehouse Drink Alternative (Protein Optional)

Coffee and (Fatty) Cream

There's nothing quite as wonderful as a cup of coffee, but iced coffee drinks refresh you as you enjoy this wonderful brown liquid. But they are often blended with full-fat milk, cream, and sugar - creating a fattening cocktail of hordes of calories from artery-clogging saturated fat and sugar.

The whipped cream on top adds another number of fat and calories. No wonder why nutrition groups and dietitians compare most of them to the most popular (and high-caloric) burgers from fast food chains.

Healthy Alternative

Nutritionists urge people to just skip the whipped cream and order coffee with skim milk and sugar-free syrup. Well, here's my take on that health advice if you miss the creaminess: blend instant coffee with skim milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, ice, and no-calorie sweetener. If you want some natural sweetness, add a semi-frozen banana to add fiber and potassium.

If you really miss the whipped cream topping, top it with a dollop of homemade or commercial nonfat whipped topping. Even better, top your glass with nonfat Greek yogurt for added calcium and protein. You'll save fat and calories while satisfying your chilled coffee craving.


A Not-So-Sweet Deal

Sweet tea is a commonplace beverage in the southern United States. Sometimes, it's brewed in a syrup or mixed in with lots of it, and that takes the blame for a lot of empty calories. Most commercial versions of this sugar filled drink contain little tea and lots of HFCS.

Having lived and vacationed in the South, it's no surprise that peddlers of the region's "house wine" ironically advertise it as having antioxidants when it contains a meager amount of the real stuff. Besides having all that sugar, the bottled versions contain little tea to begin with, reported one study.

Healthy Alternative

If you love tea, then here's four words to get the most out of it in terms of health: plain flutin' green tea. There are a lot of studies touting its numerous benefits, from reducing dementia risk to hydrating you, because it has antioxidants including catechins.

If you are losing weight or keeping slim, this is the ideal beverage for you - researchers from Oporto University found that it reduces unsightly (and unhealthy) belly fat. If you really miss the sugar, add a small amount of natural sweetener for a boost of sweetness with close-to-zero calories.

Juice drinks have little to no real fruit juice whatsoever and are loaded with sugar.
Juice drinks have little to no real fruit juice whatsoever and are loaded with sugar. | Source

Juice Out Already!

If you think fruit juices are healthy alternatives to sugary drinks because they have vitamins, minerals, and no additives, think again. Although the sugars come entirely from the fruit alone, they contain legions of calories. They are essentially liquids from the real fruits, which contain heart-healthy, satisfying fiber. Fruit "ades" are even worse - they contain very little juice and are loaded with HFCS and other refined sugars and synthetic additives.

Healthy Alternative:
Nutritionists and dietitians say it best: stick to real, whole, fresh fruit instead. Most of them have high water content and a study showed that eating foods of the type will reduce your body mass index (BMI). Can't miss drinking fruit juice? Add 1/4 cup of the 100% kind with water or juice a vegetable and blend it with frozen fruit (sweeten it with natural sweetener if it's too sour for you). Alternatively, blend the vegetable with the fruit and water for a drink with filling fiber.

Sodas are so years ago healthwise - try a fruit spritzer instead!
Sodas are so years ago healthwise - try a fruit spritzer instead! | Source

Last But Not Least...

The devil of all bad drinks in terms of nutrition is the humble soda pop. The demon comes in a bottle, can, or fountain and can be consumed by anyone. Give or take, the average can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, higher than the average candy bar.

Of course, nutritionists, nutrition watchdog groups, and personal trainers blame it on refined sugars, especially HFCS. the so-named "energy drinks" are just glorified sodas - caffeine-filled, sugar-laden, carbonated beverage that will give you anything but wings or power. It's no wonder why the health-conscious calls sodas of any type "liquid candy!"

Though non-caloric, diet sodas are not that great either. Because of unnatural sweeteners like aspartame, they promote overeating by making your pancreas secrete more insulin and raise leptin levels.

Healthy Alternative:

One of the best alternatives to sodas is the seltzer sparkler - take a small amount of 100% juice and top it with seltzer. You'll get the fizz with less calories and satisfying sweetness.

Another good alternative is milk - skim, 1%, soy, rice, or almond. They add calcium that your bones yearn for. Mix it with unsweetened cocoa and natural sweetener for a healthy, no sugar spin on chocolate milk.

A Word on Water

Harboring as much calories as unsweetened tea and plain coffee (which have no calories whatsoever), water is the universal alternative to fattening, high-calorie nonalcoholic beverages. It hydrates you, fills you up especially before meals, flushes out toxins, and helps you lose weight.

Unless you're buying bottles, it's completely free of purchase. All you have to do is buy yourself a water filter and pour some from your faucet. If drinking water means drinking something bland to you, add a bit of lemon or lime juice or any flavor extract for a no-calorie boost of flavor.

In fact, you should prefer water (as well as lowfat to skim milk) over all those caloric beverages. It's all in watching what you drink.

Recommended Reading

Drink This Not That!: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution
Drink This Not That!: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution
It's a must-read for those who want to swap out their usual unhealthy drinks with healthier thirst-quenchers.

And Now, A PSA Related to this Hub!


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    • talfonso profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      Gee... thank you all for reading this. I hope this Hub will help you choose healthier beverages and less of the sugary stuff.

    • jamiesweeney profile image


      9 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Sounds interesting hub!Love the way you wrote it.

    • profile image

      Abida Akthar 

      10 years ago

      Very informative...well written

    • hypnosis4u2 profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Good article with useful advice on replacing empty calories.


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