8 Healthy Drinks to Beat the Heat

When the temperature heats up, sipping a cool drink can be just the thing to help you feel refreshed and stay hydrated. Unfortunately, many popular summer beverages are loaded with sugar and calories. But not to worry: You can find plenty of alternatives that will be kind to your waistline—while still satisfying your taste buds and helping you meet your daily nutritional requirements.

When selecting summer drinks, Joey Gochnour, MEd, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in the greater Austin, Texas, area, says to stay clear of the rich, sweetened beverages found at your grocery store or at your local coffee shop. Instead, he says to look for unsweetened items on the menu or other natural options (either home-made or store bought) that are chock full of calcium, protein, minerals, and vitamins. And while organic drinks can be a good choice, Gochnour says you shouldn’t feel pressured to spend more for organic unless you want to. He recommends the following eight options.

1. Cranberry Juice

A glass of cranberry juice over ice is a refreshing choice—perfect for the pool on a hot day. Just be sure that you don’t confuse cranberry juice with the high-sugar/low nutrient cranberry juice cocktail-type drinks you’ll find in the juice aisle of your local supermarket. Gochnour stresses the importance of shopping in the health food aisle for this item, and also of reading labels to be sure you select an option that is 100% cranberry juice (many popular brands are 100% percent juice but not 100% cranberry) and one that doesn’t have added sugar or additives.

"Real cranberry juice is not sweet but tart. It tends to have 7-8 grams of sugar per serving and is not cheap (i.e. like $8 per bottle)," he says. In return for the splurge, the drink can quench your thirst and the cranberries can offer some real health benefits, including supporting urinary health and digestion, improving iron absorption, maintaining blood sugar levels, and restoring electrolytes (substances like sodium and potassium that that help control a range of functions, especially fluid balance, in the body).

Nutritional Information for Lakewood Organic Cranberry Juice

  • Serving size 8oz (240ml)
  • Calories 80
  • Fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 5mg
  • Total carbohydrates 19g
  • Dietary fiber 1g
  • Sugars 9g
  • Protein 1g

For a lighter—but still tasty—option, mix the cranberry juice with water, or add carbonated seltzer for an alcohol-free "mocktail."

2. V8 Vegetable Juice

"V8 is a healthy [packed with nutrients] beverage that doesn’t have too many calories," Gochnour says. Better yet, on a hot day, the classic drink can be a great way to help meet your vegetable and vitamin goals without having to fuss in the kitchen or eat something heavy. One 8-ounce glass provides two servings of vegetables and as well as vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants (substances that delay or help prevent cell damage). There is one caveat, though: This drink is loaded with sodium. "I wouldn't recommend drinking more than one at a time," Gochnour says. If you’re watching your salt intake, be sure to select the low sodium option.

Nutritional Information for V8 Vegetable Juice

  • Serving size 1 can (11.5oz/340ml)
  • Calories 70
  • Fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 920mg (The low-sodium option has 200g sodium.)
  • Total carbohydrates 14g
  • Dietary fiber 3g
  • Sugars 9g
  • Protein 2g

3. Almond Milk

For a drink that provides lots of calcium and is good for your teeth and your bones, consider almond milk. In fact, this dairy-free option has double the calcium you’d get from regular milk, yet is very low in calories—as long as you get the unsweetened variety, Gochnour says. Almond milk is also soy- and lactose-free (lactose is milk sugar), and has no saturated fat, making it a good calcium substitute for regular milk, especially for people on a calorie-restricted diet. However, it lacks the significant amounts of protein (as well as potassium and other nutrients) found in dairy, so be sure to make up the protein elsewhere in your diet. In addition to drinking it straight up, you can also use it to make smoothies, or add it to cereal.

Nutritional Information for Silk Unsweetened Original Almondmilk

  • Serving size 8oz (240ml)
  • Calories 30
  • Fat 2.5g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 160mg
  • Total carbohydrates 1g
  • Dietary fiber 1g
  • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 1g

4. Soy Milk

This is another lactose-free drink that provides double the amount of calcium found in dairy milk. But unlike almond milk, soy milk has protein—in fact, it’s a naturally complete protein—so it can be ultra good for your heart and your overall health. Drink up a glass of soy milk, add it to a fruit smoothie, or use it instead of dairy milk in your coffee.

Nutritional Information for Silk Original Soymilk

  • Serving size 8oz (240ml)
  • Calories 110
  • Fat 4.5g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 105mg
  • Total carbohydrates 9g
  • Dietary fiber 2g
  • Sugars 6g
  • Protein 8g

5. Unsweetened Iced Tea

Unsweetened ice tea can really quench your thirst, and it’ll help you stay hydrated without adding unnecessary calories. While black tea is the most popular, "White tea [which you may be able to find at your local supermarket] is higher in antioxidants than green tea, and lower in caffeine," says Gochnour. Homemade iced teas are also higher in antioxidants than pre-packaged iced teas, but even store-bought brands of this beverage are still good for you. In fact, tea may even lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as your cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

Nutritional Information for Inko’s Organic White Tea Unsweetened Original

  • Serving size 1 bottle (16oz/480ml)
  • Calories 0
  • Total fat 0g
  • Sodium 0mg
  • Total carbohydrates 0g
  • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 0g

6. Iced Coffee

Thanks to refreshing cold coffee, you don’t have to sacrifice your daily coffee fix to keep cool during the summer months. Coffee offers some key health benefits, including protecting your heart, according to research published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure. Just be sure to drink in moderation: Excessive caffeine consumption (such as five or six cups a day), can pose its own health risks. To keep your cool when the weather is steamy, opt for iced coffee and be sure to skip the sugary flavors and the sweet add-ons that can pile on unneeded calories.

Nutritional Information for Starbucks Unsweetened Iced Coffee

  • Serving Size 12oz (tall)
  • Calories 0
  • Fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 0mg
  • Total carbohydrates 0g
  • Dietary fiber 0g
  • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 0g

7. Smoothies

Smoothies can be a delicious and satisfying way to help you meet an array of nutritional requirements. You can make them with milk, yogurt, juice, fruits, vegetables, and even grains. You can even add peanut butter, tofu, or whey protein powder to increase the protein content or even use it as a meal replacement or supplement. Just be aware that some smoothies can be ultra-high in calories.

When time is short, you can also find frozen smoothies in the freezer case of your grocery store that already contain the fruit and nutrients, allowing you to just add milk or juice and either shake or blend them to take them on the go. Just check the calories, sodium, and sugar content, since these can be high in prepared options.

Nutritional Information for Dole Strawberry Fruit Smoothie Shaker

  • Serving size 4oz (113g/1 container) Note that you’ll need to add 7 ounces of juice to this, so add in the nutritional values for whatever juice you use.
  • Calories 90
  • Fat 2g
  • Cholesterol 10mg
  • Sodium 35mg
  • Total carbohydrates 17g
  • Dietary fiber 5g
  • Sugars 12g
  • Protein 3g

8. Kefir

If you’re looking for something more exotic, how about a glass of kefir? This richly-textured yogurt drink can be made from goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk. Depending on the type of milk it contains, the nutritional values vary, but kefir is typically loaded with probiotics (a type of "good" bacteria that can help with digestion) and other nutrients, including vitamin B12, magnesium, and enzymes (which can help the body break down the food more quickly). To keep the calories and fat content down, you can make kefir yourself using low-fat milk, or look for a pre-made low-fat option.

Nutritional Information for Nancy’s Organic Plain Lowfat Kefir

  • Serving size 8oz (240ml)
  • Calories 140
  • Fat 3g
  • Cholesterol 20mg
  • Sodium 150mg
  • Total carbohydrates 17g
  • Dietary fiber 1g
  • Sugars 16g
  • Protein 11g

Joey Gochnour, MEd, RDN, reviewed this article.


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