Health & Fitness

By Jasmin Guleria

The height of spring is upon us and the sweltering city summer is just weeks away. As the days get warmer, the soup shops lose business while ice cream and smoothie shops rake in bounties of parched patrons. Our taste buds call out for frozen frappuccinos, iced lattes, and berry smoothies and we happily oblige – after all, how unhealthy could a drink possibly be?

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It turns out that opting for any of the beverages above can be just as detrimental to your health as chowing down on a Whopper from the King. According to a recent statistic reported in the New York Times, about 21% of the calories consumed by Americans over the age of 2 come from beverages. Needless to say, these 21% of calories also come with fat and sugar grams galore.

Of course, depriving yourself of cold tasty beverages while walking amongst the tourists in New York is not what I’m suggesting. However, as always – there are better, healthier options that won’t leave you feeling bloated, or in a ‘drink-coma’ hours later. Here are my five tips for getting the most health out of your buck at the thousands of thirst-quenching oases found in Manhattan.

1) Say “nay” to the “grande” – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, portion-control is key to a meal. The same thing goes for a beverage. At most beverage shops a size ‘small’ is a 12 oz. cup. Considering a normal glass in your kitchen cupboard is 8 oz. – 12 ounces should still feel like a satisfying splurge.

2) Choose the “skim” or “soy” option – Many people don’t realize how many calories can be cut by simply opting for skim or soy milk in blended coffee drinks and fruit shakes! Choosing skim milk not only cuts out at least 50 calories, but it also reduces the amount of saturated heart-clogging fat you’re putting into your body. On top of all this, the Calcium and Vitamin D in milk is great for your bones and skin – so drink up!

3) “Eat” then “treat” - Smoothies are NOT meals. A typical smoothie consists of fruit, yogurt, and spoonfuls of sugar. A fruit smoothie is NOT a healthy meal and equating it to a meal replacement is detrimental to your health. Immediately after slurping up a smoothie, your blood-sugar level will rise. When it crashes, hunger pains will strike and binge eating will likely be inevitable. Eat real foods that pack a nutritional punch and then enjoy healthier options for beverages as a treat or snack.

4) No Whip on the Lip – Adding whipped cream to a drink can up your calorie-intake by a whopping 130 calories! Skip the whip and enjoy the essence of the drink – your abs and heart will thank you for it.

5) Drink that H20 – Water still reigns supreme, and now with the dozens of flavored water drinks available, those who need taste can indulge in the various fruit flavored, zero calorie best drinks for your health.

New York is filled with countless cafes devoted to delightful concoctions of delicious drinks – here’s what to pick during your quick stops.

Starbucks: Opt for skim milk in any drink you get – for coffee drinkers; iced lattes with splenda is your best bet. Other options are iced teas, which will leave you feeling refreshed and antioxidant-filled. Try the Berry Blossom White Tea – the flavor is sweet without the sugar-rush. My personal favorite is a 12 oz. cup of iced chocolate skim milk. With calcium and mood-lifting antioxidants galore, chocolate milk is certainly not just for kids anymore! Also, recent studies have shown that the polyphenols in cocoa help reduce blood pressure and the risk for cardiovascular disease. Who would have thought that Starbucks could be good for your heart, your bones, and your spirits!

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Jamba Juice: A smoothie lovers haven, it’s important to choose wisely at this hot summer spot. Keep in mind that just because a drink sounds healthy, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. For example, the Matcha Green Tea Blast, which proclaims to be full of healthy antioxidants and protein, contains a whopping 67 grams of sugar! Be smart and choose a drink from the Jamba Light menu. You’ll cut 1/3 of the calories, sugars and carbs as compared to a regular Jamba-licious smoothie. Opt for soymilk for a cholesterol free drink. Studies have demonstrated that a diet with significant soy protein reduces total cholesterol, which in turns helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Finally, remember – you can indulge in these frozen delights from time to time – just remember to think before you drink!

Originally published May 2007
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