Nutrition Articles

Healthy Beverage Guidelines

Drink Up, But Drink the Right Stuff

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Eight to twelve cups of water daily, that’s what the SparkPeople plan suggests. Whether you are having a hard time drinking that much water, or just want to drink a variety of beverages (coffee, tea, diet soda, juice), many dieters challenge and question the "8-12" rule.

Both the beverage-drinking patterns and overall health of U.S. adults have changed considerably over the past several decades. In the 1970s, Americans got 6-8% of their daily calories from drinks, but today, 21% of their daily calories from beverages. Not counting what’s in that glass, cup, can or mug may be a major cause of the alarming increase in obesity.

In March 2006, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published guidelines for beverage consumption, developed by the Beverage Guidance Panel. These experts reviewed years of research on beverages and health to make recommendations for adults. The panel stressed that a healthy diet should NOT rely on fluids to provide calorie or nutrient needs, and that water is necessary for metabolism and normal physiological function. In fact, water is the only fluid that the body truly needs.

Use the following guidelines to evaluate your own beverage intake, based on 6 categories (levels). Details of the full study are available on line at www.BeverageGuidancePanel.org

Healthy Beverage Guidelines for Adults
  • Consume 12 cups (96 ounces) of fluids per day.
  • For an adult on the standard 2,200-calorie diet, no more than 200-300 calories should come from fluids.
  • Adults consuming fewer than 2,200 calories should limit calorie-containing beverages even more—to less than 200 calories daily.
Level 1: Water
When eating a healthy diet, water can meet all of your fluid needs. This is the ideal choice and what SparkPeople also encourages!
  • Recommended Daily Consumption: At least 2-6 servings (20-50 ounces)
    * NOTE: Consume additional water if you limit other beverages.
  • Calories per Serving: 0
Level 2: Unsweetened Coffee and Unsweetened Teas
Coffee has some limited health benefits, while tea provides a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants. Both contain caffeine, which should be limited to less than 400 milligrams daily (or less than 300 mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women).
  • Recommended Daily Tea Consumption: 0-5 servings (0-40 ounces)
  • Recommended Daily Coffee Consumption: 0-4 servings (0-32 ounces)
  • Calories Provided per Serving: 0 Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I've been using unsweetened vanilla almond milk, instead of a dairy milk. It's only 30 calories per serving. Seems like a good alternative to me. Any opinions? - 2/7/2016 8:59:11 AM
  • I tend to drink ALOT of un-sweetened hot tea, especially in the winter, its useually a cup of peppermint, a cup of another herbal tea, and also a cup green tea and/or black tea. Is this unhealthy? I just really enjoy tea :/ - 1/6/2016 1:46:11 PM
  • When I first started SP I drank maybe 4 glasses of water and the rest were flavored water (using lemons or limes), soda or juice. Now I drink 98% water and 2% flavored water. I have nearly eliminated soda, I rarely drink it! - 12/27/2015 2:29:31 PM
  • Most of my daily water consumption happens while I am at the gym. As a general rule , I usually drink 2 and 1/2 liters of water when I exercise . I try to stay away from most sweet drinks , and having problems digesting some dairy means I do not drink milk. I occasionally have tea as well . As far as artificial sweeteners go, I try to only use sucralose. I have tried stevia, but every time I use it , it throws my blood sugar out of whack , which is weird since I am not diabetic - 9/14/2015 10:45:05 PM
  • Milk is NOT meant for the human body, so I'm glad this article suggests non dairy alternatives. There's a purpose for milk, and that is to nourish baby cows! - 7/1/2015 1:17:48 PM
  • Considering whole milk has been shown to actually help prevent weight gain or obesity - http://www.npr.or
    g/blogs/thesa
    lt/2014/02/12
    /275376259/th
    e-full-fat-pa
    radox-whole-m
    ilk-may-keep-us-lean - I don't know why Spark continues to push low fat or no fat milk. Just because it has less calories per serving doesn't make it better for weight, especially if the added satiation factor helps reduce overall calories consumed with it. - 1/20/2015 3:41:08 PM
  • CLEOPAS
    Interesting article - but it puts calories and fat as the paramount factor. I agree with earlier statements about artificially sweetened drinks and milk. Just because skim milk has fewer calories than whole milk does NOT make it a healthier choice for the body. The fat found in milk is required to help the body actually aborb the nutrients found in the beverage. And it has also found to be anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic
    .

    And just because a diet coke has no calories should not make it approved. ever.

    Food for thought. - 11/25/2014 11:44:09 AM
  • DRINKONLY
    awesome!

    www.drinkonlyhe
    althy.com
    100% Healthy Drinks!!!
    Drink Only Healthy - 10/20/2014 7:51:37 PM
  • GEORGIANBAYB
    The problem I have with some of these articles is that they assume the same principles work for everyone. I drink very little......two or three cups of coffee and one or two glasses of wine each day. If I have 40 ounces of fluid a day, that would be a lot for me. I actually feel better when I don't have much liquid of any kind. I'm losing weight like I want to, am healthy and feel good, and see no sense forcing water or other beverages down when I truly don't want them. - 5/3/2014 6:06:04 PM
  • For those who enjoy milk, I've found that once you become accustomed to the taste, So Delicious (other brands available ) Coconut Milk is a tasty, low calorie (around 50 per cup, (depending on the specific one you choose) low fat, low sugar dairy free alternative. It comes in several flavors too. Sugar free vanilla is my favorite. Another great alternative to regular milk is Almond Milk which also comes in various flavors and sugar free options. I find these in the non refrigerated "healthy" section of the grocery store. I've also seen Almond Milk in the dairy case with other milks. - 8/15/2013 6:15:18 AM
  • KAZADOR244
    I actually don't like how most articles talk so poorly about whole milk. It has lots of vitamins and nutrients and the fat needed to absorb the vitamin D. I don't drink milk per se (consumed with my cereals or in shakes and the like), but when it comes to those things that I put my milk into I prefer the quality that whole milk brings to these over watery 2 or 1% milks. - 6/20/2013 4:50:57 PM
  • Here is my problem. Water makes me nauseous. I try and try to drink it and I found I can only tolerate it after or during workouts and if I am really hot, like walking around a theme park all day and its 98 degrees outside. Any other time, it makes me sick.
    AM I THE ONLY ONE THAT THIS HAPPENS TO? LOL! - 6/4/2013 10:29:28 AM
  • Artificially sweetened beverages often use aspartame (though it may be under a different name), which can actually be dangerous. In addition, it can cause severe reactions that can be confused with diseases such as muscular dystrophy. It can make other conditions, such as Parkinson's, worse. You should drink naturally sweetened sodas before putting anything artificial in your mouth, even if it has more calories (though it's better to just drink water). It' always better to eat natural, so why does it change when it's about a drink? The FDA has approved this product time and time again, but as a person that is prone to headaches and migraines, I have experienced some of the adverse side effects (headaches/migrai
    nes, dizziness, nausea) first-hand after consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners that include aspartame. Then again, my body seems to be more sensitive than others' when it comes to adverse side effects of medications, as well (though I have no allergies, even seasonal allergies). The debate over this product is controversial, but do some research and don't trust every single thing the FDA approves (seeing as the people involved are most likely getting paid to positively review the products).

    Sites: http://aspartame.
    mercola.com/ ; http://www.sweetp
    oison.com/asp
    artame-side-e
    ffects.html ; http://www.natura
    lnews.com/035
    382_aspartame
    _side_effects
    _headaches.html - 5/16/2013 12:40:18 PM
  • DAWN784
    I am wondering why no one ever mentions Crystal Light as a go-to drink. I drink it often because the calories are 0 and sometimes only 5 for a glass. There are many flavors. My favorite is Tea with Lemon. I drink water all during the night as I have it on my night stand and my mouth gets try, so I sip. I am an oxygen patient and have CHF so I need lots of fluids and CL and water fills the bill. - 2/21/2013 10:20:14 AM
  • I also love the MIO like additions (Sweet Tea is the bomb) it is the only way I can drink water and the added benefit is if you eat something sweet (candy, donut, etc.) the water tastes nasty (kinda like drinking OJ then eating something sweet and drinking the OJ again) - 1/21/2013 1:52:02 PM

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