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Beverage choices are just as important as food choices. Drinking sugary beverages can contribute unnecessary calories. Instead, reach for water first.

Here are four tips for quenching your thirst healthfully.

Drink Plenty of Refreshing Water

Water does the body good. It helps your muscles and brain stay hydrated for optimal physical and mental performance. How much water you need depends on your size and activity level; larger, more active people need more fluids. Drink enough for your urine to be mostly colorless and odor-free.

Drink Nutrient-Rich Dairy and Fortified Beverages

The calcium in dairy foods help build and maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscle mass. They also may help lower the risk of high blood pressure. For the most nutrients with the least fat and calories, look for fat-free or low-fat options. Plant-based beverages fortified with calcium also are a good option — be sure to choose unsweetened varieties.

Drink a Maximum of 4 to 6 ounces of Juice a Day

While 100-percent juice can be a great source of several nutrients, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Whole fruits and vegetables are much better ways to get vitamins, minerals and fluids. Actual food tends to be more satisfying, plus you get the added value of fiber and phytonutrients from the skin and pulp.

Drink Other Beverages with Care

Soft drinks, sweetened teas, fruit drinks and most sports and “energy" drinks are loaded with calories and sometimes caffeine. Coffee drinks often are surprisingly high in calories, fat and sugar. Alcoholic drinks are packed with empty calories. Here are some ways to manage drinks that add extra calories:

  • Be a label reader and nutrition investigator. Check calories, caffeine, sugar and fat before you drink. If the numbers aren’t on the label, check the company’s website.
  • Steer clear of super-charged “energy" drinks. Do not consume highly caffeinated beverages with alcohol.
  • Choose the smallest sized portion you can buy. Moderation is always a smart way to treat your body well.

Beverages Play an Important Role in Nutrition

When thinking about nutrition, you may focus only on the food that you eat. It’s important to think carefully about the choices you make to balance protein, carbohydrates and fats. It’s also important to get the most nutritional impact for your calories, with the best choices packing the most nutrients into each calorie.

However, it is also beneficial to carefully choose your beverages to balance your nutrition. It can be easy to drink sugar all day in the form of coffee sweeteners, soda and energy drinks. Many who strive for nutritional choices in foods often forget about the nutrition that is contributed through beverage consumption.

This can be especially critical if you are a family that receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits. You may have limited resources to choose foods and beverages that are nutritious, and you may feel pressured to make every calorie count toward good health. Here are a few reasons why you can think of your beverages as a way to get good nutrition, too:

Beverages Help You Manage Your Energy Balance
When your body has an adequate supply of the nutrients it needs while you also manage your calorie intake, you are maintaining a healthy weight with your energy balance. Think about not only foods, but beverages as being part of your energy balance.

Beverages Supply Essential Nutrients
This is not true of all beverages, of course. Avoid soda, sweetened teas and other soft drinks because they will not supply a good balance of nutrients for the calories you consume. Instead, consider the nutrients you supply to your body with milk, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices and soy-based beverages.

These choices provide your body with important nutrients you need for good health. Fruit and vegetable juices that are 100 percent juice can fuel your body with vitamin C, folate and potassium. Watch out for juice that does not say “100 percent juice” on the label. They are often loaded with sugar or artificial flavors meant to imitate real juice.

Milk and soy-based beverages can be an important source of calcium and protein. These nutrients strengthen bones and muscles and can help stave off hunger.

Make Water Your Sidekick
Whether going out or staying in, keep a tall glass of water nearby. It can aid in digestion, keep you hydrated and keep your body humming. It can be easy to load up on calories with many beverages, even if you stick to healthy choices like juice or milk. To keep calorie consumption in check, make juice and milk part of your daily choices, but make water the bulk of your beverage consumption. It will make you feel great.

At Second Harvest Community Food Bank , we help individuals and families make the most of their resources with healthy beverage choices. Give us a call today to see how we can help your family access the resources you need to put nutritious choices on your table.

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