By Jennifer McGregor
Most Americans have a beverage they can't get through the day without. It might be coffee, soda, energy drinks, iced tea, or even smoothies. Despite some companies touting "healthy" options for their standard fare, many lite or diet options can actually be worse for you than the full sugar version. With the explosion of health foods in mainstream culture, there are now innumerable, healthy alternatives to these popular beverages. Here are a few great options to break your bad drink habits.
From Soda to Sparkling Water
In the U.S., soda is one of the most-consumed beverages and, with cup sizes only getting bigger, it is one of the leading causes of obesity. A small bottle of Coca-Cola contains about 65 grams of sugar. By comparison, a serving of vanilla ice cream contains about 14 grams of sugar. What surprises many people who regularly crave soda is that they aren't necessarily craving the sugar or the flavor. They are often craving the carbonation.
To replace soda cravings, you might want to consider switching to a quality brand of carbonated water. Here is where label reading becomes important. Many brands of sparkling water include zero calorie sweeteners which have been shown to cause negative effects on overall health. They may also add unnecessary - potentially harmful - dyes. A good sparkling water will contain water, natural flavor, and C02. Fruit flavors are the best way to begin leaning away from soda.
From Coffee to Milk Tea
Coffee has a high caffeine content which can aggravate conditions like anxiety and add to external stress. Many American adults admit to having some level of caffeine addiction and can actually experience withdrawal when they go too long without it. Coffee is also very acidic, negatively affecting ulcers and other stomach issues.
An alternative to the standard latte or drip coffee with creamer is black tea with milk and sugar. Although black contains caffeine and is acidic, the levels are lower in comparison to the levels found in coffee. Black tea is good stepping stone when cutting back or eliminating coffee from your diet. As you drink it, you can even begin move yourself from black tea to green tea which has proven to be more beneficial to health. Green tea in moderation is full of antioxidants which can fight damaged cells. It is also somewhat lower in acidity and caffeine than black tea.
Herbal teas are ideal for when you might normally drink decaf. Enjoying a cup of chamomile tea in the evening as bedtime nears can be helpful to aid sleep while still fulfilling the desire for a sweet, hot beverage.
Energy Drinks to Chia and Ginseng
While energy drinks proclaim high vitamin content, these vitamins are actually useless. With the volume of caffeine in the drinks, the body loses all those vitamins during the waste removal process. That means all you are getting from energy drinks are excess amounts of caffeine and sugar or zero-calorie sweetener - which is arguably worse - in your body.
Instead of getting an enormous can of anxiety-inducing alertness, seek out a chia seed drink. Chia seeds provide energy by delivering a number of nutrients such as vitamins A, B, D, and E. They also offer protein and antioxidants. The best way to energize yourself is with nutrition as opposed to caffeine.
Ginseng is a component found in many natural energy drinks and foods. It is a root that is believed to have numerous positive effects such as reduce inflammation and prevent cancer. It also happens to provide energy. Asian specialty stores often carry drinks that contain pure ginseng, and natural grocery stores tend to offer herbal blend energy drinks.
Walk into any grocery store and you will see an entire aisle devoted to healthy alternatives for unhealthy - but popular - products. Sparkling water is easy to find just about anywhere while herbal energy blends are a little more location-specific. Odds are, whatever your unhealthy habit is, you can find a better alternative.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she's well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn't working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.