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Nutrition Articles  ›  Healthy Habits

Healthy Beverage Guidelines

Drink Up, But Drink the Right Stuff

-- By Becky Hand, Registered & Licensed Dietitian
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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

  • SUZEEFM
    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
  • HALFFULL30
    Does anyone drink their water with Mio in it?

    I weened myself off soda with this liquid enhancer. I think Peach Tea is the best flavor. The article didn't include these water enhancers in the article. I think Crystal Light also makes a powder flavor for water but Mio is less messy to carry with you.

    - 9/17/2012 1:33:22 AM
  • KTSCOUPONS
    I had heard that 1% milk is the worse... It's sugar water. Dr's suggest 2% is better - 5/15/2012 1:57:13 PM
  • For those of you who don't "like" the taste of water, and relying on artificial mix-in sachets to help you get your fluid intake, can I suggest that there is a much cheaper and easier way to flavour your water?

    Get a jug. Add a few slices of lemon or cucumber or a few mint leaves. Fill with water. Let it sit for a few, and then fill your glass from the jug. You can reuse the slices/leaves for a few fills as well, (for that day, anyway).

    Hope this helps. I've always stuck well away from artificial sweeteners, and generally don't drink soft drinks (soda) either. My downfall is energy drinks when I'm stressed out, but they always just make the situation worse. - 1/22/2012 8:33:43 PM
  • I try to drink 2 glasses of water while I'm preparing breakfast, morning snack and lunch. Then I drink 1 glass before afternoon snack and supper. That puts my total at 8 glasses of water. I put it in a short 8 ounce glass because I find that if I see a huge glass or cup of water (32 or 64 ounce) it just looks overwhelming and I give up. Drinking the water before eating helps me keep to reasonable portions because my stomach is not totally empty when I start and I don't have to worry about confusing hunger with thirst.

    I drink 2 cups of coffee after my breakfast water. I drink additional water when I workout but don't measure or count it. I do drink 2 diet sodas a week. One on grocery day (it's my treat in the checkout instead of a snickers bar which is what I was doing last year) and the other is my once a week dinner at a restaurant. I order both a diet soda and a water. After I drink one soda I only have the water refilled. I tried to go cold turkey with the diet soda because I want to be healthy and be a good example for my kids but just not ready yet!

    In the winter I drink decaf green tea at night. I find I don't really crave juices unless I have a cold and then a little OJ seems very comforting. - 5/23/2011 8:32:09 AM
  • This article is worth while reading too, with a lot of details. Cool, Clear hopefully pur Water is all that I really need and require. I could enjoy the fruit juices,personally for me; they contain to much sugar, @least 30 grs. and must be diluted with water - 3/9/2011 8:31:27 AM
  • I am still a little confused. The only real time I can drink "pure water" is when I am working out and need it to survive in a sense. So, I drink flavored water that has no calorie intake and has Splenda as a sweetener whenever I am thristy as I have been trying to not drink diet soda anymore. I usually will drink diet soda or regular soda when I am craving it and try to limit it to one 8oz cup that day..but I don't drink it all the time. I count my flavored water as my water intake, b/c it doesn't have any calories. I was hoping the article would specifically mention 'flavored water', but it did not. - 3/6/2011 3:01:27 AM
  • I still don't get if I can include my regular tea in my daily 8 cup count or not. In gardening season, I have no problem with the water at all. Here in the winter, that much water makes me feel sick & sloshy. - 2/26/2011 12:26:20 PM
  • What about herbal tea, which contains no caffeine whatsoever, and which you don't sweeten? Because you don't mention that at all, and there are health benefits to drinking herbal teas. - 12/17/2010 5:58:51 PM