Which drinks are the best choice?

Diet soft drinks, low-carb beers, iced tea, fruit juices, smoothies, flavoured water – the choices seem endless! Each year, more drinks come onto the market and more of our total energy (or kilojoule) intake now comes from drinks.

So what should we be drinking, and how much?

The human body is made up of 50-75% water. Staying well-hydrated (especially in hot weather and when exercising) is crucial to make sure our bodies function at their best. There are many theories about the right amount to drink, but the following is a good guide to aim for:

  • 1,500 – 2,000mL/day (or 35-45mL/kg/day) for adults, and
  • 1,000 – 1,500mL/day for children

What is the best drink?

While all fluids can count towards your daily fluid intake, water is the best drink. It contains no kilojoules and is the best fluid for hydrating the body.

Tips for drinking water:

  • Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, to add variety to plain water
  • Pop ice cubes made from fruit into your glass of water
  • Keep a glass of water handy on your desk, or a bottle of water in your bag or backpack

Milk is another healthy drink to include. It has important nutrients, like protein and calcium, and is about 90% water.

If you are buying flavoured milk, compare brands and choose ones that are lower in added sugar. Also watch the serve sizes of smoothies, which may be ‘super-sized’, and can contain a lot of energy.

Fruit juice can be nutritious, but most types naturally contain a similar amount of sugar and kilojoules to soft drinks.  As with smoothies, juice bars often sell large portion sizes that are really too high in energy.

Juice is part of the fruit group, but if you’ve ever made fresh juice, you’ll know that it takes many pieces of fruit to make a small amount of juice – up to eight oranges to make one glass of juice! Most juices don’t have the fibre, that is contained in the fresh fruit, so a juice drink won’t keep you feeling satisfied and full afterwards.

Tips for drinking fruit juice:

  • Avoid the super-sizes
  • Limit juice to 125mL (½  glass), and only occasionally
  • Try diluting juice with water or ice

These drinks are low in nutrition but can contain plenty of extra kilojoules which you probably do not need. These are called ‘extra foods’; in other words, they are not needed in your diet and should be kept to only special occasions.

Diet soft drinks are lower in energy and sugar, but remember diet soft drinks can be quite acidic and frequent consumption can cause tooth decay.

These are healthy choices that help you to meet your daily fluid needs. Both black and green teas have antioxidants, which are good for our health.

A standard cup of tea has less than half the amount of caffeine of a typical cup of instant coffee (one cup of tea contains around 10-50mg of caffeine and a cup of instant coffee contains between 60-100mg per 250ml cup). When served without milk or sugar, tea and coffee have virtually no kilojoules. But watch iced-teas, as some are high in added sugar.

If you choose to drink, you should limit your intake of alcohol. Current recommendations suggest we drink no more than two standard alcoholic drinks on any one day.

We should also try to include at least two alcohol-free days per week. ‘Low carb’ beer has recently become popular. Although these are lower in carbohydrate than regular varieties, the alcohol and kilojoule content is often very similar to other types of beer.

For individual advice, with assessment of your drink choices, and planning a healthy diet, contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).