Calorie-free thirst quenchers

Now that spring has brought warm, sunny days, do you find yourself craving a cold, refreshing beverage? Beware the liquid calories lurking in many drinks!

Calories from fluids typically aren’t filling, meaning you’ll still eat the same amount of food during the day. These liquid calories become “bonus” calories that can easily contribute to unwanted weight gain — not a good thing for your health or the upcoming swimsuit season!

Liquid calories include any beverage that isn’t calorie-free, such as regular soda, fruit drinks (fruit punch, lemonade, etc.), coffee drinks (mochas, sweetened lattes, etc.), sweet tea, energy drinks and sports drinks.

Staying hydrated is important, particularly if you’re outside in hot weather, so I aim for 64 ounces of calorie-free, caffeine-free fluids every day. Water is always a great choice, but what should you do when craving a sweet drink?

Try these tips for tasty and healthy thirst quenchers:

  • Fruit juice spritzers: 100 percent fruit juice is all-natural, but the calories add up quickly. Fiber-filled whole fruit is always a better choice. Try mixing four ounces of 100 percent fruit juice with 16 ounces of sparkling water, or squeeze lemon or lime juice into club soda for a refreshing spritzer. If you’re a regular soda drinker, the carbonation will help satisfy your craving for fizz.
  • Herbal teas: A delicious way to get flavor without any calories, sugar or caffeine is by making herbal tea. Many of my patients love The Good Earth’s Sweet & Spicy herbal tea, and I am addicted to the various fruity herbal teas at (piña colada is my favorite—I drink it iced all summer long!).
  • Infused waters: Another tasty, low-calorie option is to add herbs, fruit and even vegetables to a large pitcher of water and steep overnight; the next morning you’ll have a delicately-flavored beverage that’s both refreshing and beautiful. I like the recipes at
  • Other calorie-free drinks such as Crystal Light or Mio are also fine to include.

Some drinks with calories also provide other essential nutrients, such as the protein and calcium from low-fat or fat-free milk (or soy milk)—include eight ounces of skim or 1 percent milk (or soy milk) as part of your 2-3 servings of dairy each day.

Hopefully these tips will help quench your thirst and whittle your waistline this spring!


Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. Tracy works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.

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