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Smarter Sips: Try These Low-Cal Beverages for Summer

By , SparkPeople Blogger
These days you're more likely to buy a powdered mix, gel, or bottle of flavored tea or lemonade, but these classic drinks are easy to make and a great way to stay hydrated in the summer months.
And though commercial versions can be loaded with sugar and other sweeteners, these drinks can be quite low in calories.
Let's compare some common summer drinks:

Beverage Calories Sugar (teaspoons)
Sweet tea from fast food restaurant (32 ounces) 230 15 (more than 1/4 cup!)
Bottled flavored green tea (20 ounces) 175 10
Lemonade made from mix (8 ounces) 131 8
Homemade lemonade (juice of 1 lemon, 8 ounces water, 1 teaspoon sugar) 28 1
Homemade "sweet" tea (1 black tea bag, 8 ounces water, 1 teaspoon sugar) 18 1
Wow! That's a lot of sugar.
Today we're going to look at low-calorie ways to infuse flavor for very little effort--and even less sugar.
All you need is some fruit, maybe some herbs from your garden, and a small amount of sweeteners.
Flavored Teas

For maximum flavor, use hot water when steeping tea or herbs. The longer it rests (steeps), the stronger the flavor. Using cold water will yield weak tea.
Mint adds sweetness to tea, so use it as a refreshing, cooling addition to your iced tea.
You want to taste tea, not just herbs. Start with small amounts, especially if you're using something like thyme or lavender. You don't want to feel like you are drinking bath water.
Like citrus in your tea? Add orange, lemon, or lime peel to the steeping water, or add the juice just before serving.
For food safety reasons, tea should be refrigerated after steeping to inhibit any bacterial growth.
Which herbs go well with tea? Try:
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Lemon balm 
Though I'm from the South, I don't like sweet tea. I want to drink tea--not sugar. I find that if I'm really thirsty on a hot summer afternoon, an unsweetened or lightly sweetened glass of iced tea is far more refreshing than sweet tea.
Try: Chef Meg's Orange Lavender Tea
Find more tea recipes from SparkRecipes--all for 50 calories or less per serving.
Lemonade and Limeade

Nothing beats real lemon or lime juice from the fruit. Their tart acidity with a hint of sweetness can be so refreshing.
Because citrus is so acidic, it does need a little bit of sweetness to balance it. Sometimes I use a liquid sweetener such as agave nectar and other times I'll rely on summer fruits to sweeten up my limeade and lemonade.
The Juiciest Citrus: To extract the most juice from a lemon or lime, use room temperature fruit. Roll your fruit in between your hands and the counter to break down some of the membranes inside and release more juice when you cut it. Cold lemons? Microwave them for 10-20 seconds. That will get the juices flowing!
The Sweetest Fruit: Roasting or heating fruit helps out if you are trying to extract as much flavor as possible from stone fruit or berries. 
Try these recipes today:
Chef Meg's Berry Good Limeade
Chef Meg's Peachy Thyme Lemonade 
Prefer flavored water instead? Try floating a couple of slices of cucumber in your water for a refreshing change of pace.

Other tasty water additions:
  • A couple of mashed berries 
  • Wedges of citrus fruit (try grapefruit or orange in addition to the common lime and lemon)
  • Melon balls
  • Halved grapes

Enjoy these fruity refreshing beverages and experiment with different fruits and herbs to make your own signature flavor!
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Like this blog? Then you'll love "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."