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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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KIMJ01 8/26/2019
For whatever it is worth, heating the water to the correct temperature for the tea in question is really important. So heating the water as hot as possible is not a good recommendation. Green tea water should be heated to 175, delicate teas (usually herbal based) are 160. Only black tea water should be heated to boiling. that's why some people prefer sun teas over the boiled tea bags, because they are not so bitter. Report
Refreshing idea! Report
My favorite drink is water...but good to know that I could make these for guest... Report
DRAGONFLY631 6/9/2019
Thanks will definitely try a couple of those Report
GEORGE815 5/31/2019
Thanks Report
thanks Report
Thanks for the Low Cal Beverage Tips! Report
I love unsweetened Iced tea with a little lemon.. (Ok alot of lemon) Lemon is detoxifying and I add it to water when I exercise to help flush the bad stuff out while I'm exercising!!

Happy Travels! Report
Does a cup of tea count as one of the 8 glasses of water a day tracking, or do I need to drink the water plus the tea?
Makes it difficult when your office is a long walk from the loo! Report
I love tea, got hooked on raspberry tea at sonic until I found out how much sugar was in it so now I make my own tea and love green tea so now I can have as much as I want without the sugar rush. Report
In a team I'm on they were talking about freezing a lemon and then grating it. It gives you more nutrients than just squeezing and using the juice. I wonder how this would work in the recipes that call for lemon juice. You could probably do the same with limes, oranges, and grapefruit. Report
I like peppermint tea and fresh diced strawberries, I like experimenting with different teas I love lemon zinger plain served ice cold a great summer drink Report
I do this when I get extra time. It sure tastes better homemade. Report
Great Idea

Now mix together the Homemade lemonade with the Homemade "sweet" tea and have the "Arnold Palmer", my favorite one with only 46 cal. Report
Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! Report
Great ideas to add a twist to classic summer beverages! Report
I make an unsweetened herbal sun tea that tastes very much like black tea and my family lives on it, we can go through a gallon a day! And we all agree that it is the best thing to drink when you are really thirsty. Sometimes we will throw in a little lemon or mint but usually we have it just as is. Besides being so much healthier, not buying a lot of prepared or commercially mixed drinks saves a lot of money! Report
These sound tasty! Report
I make my own iced tea by putting 3 tea bags into a 2 quart glass juice jug with cold tap water. I put this in the fridge for at least 2 hours and drink it. With no sugar and no extra flavors, it goes with everything and is very thirst quenching. No heating and cooling necessary. The tea is clear, flavorful and perfect. I don't use ice cubes but you could add an extra tea bag and then use ice cubes. It is cold directly from the fridge. Sun tea is silly. Use a cold dark fridge. It brews just as well and is cold to drink right away. Report
I love mint and cucumber in water. It's super refreshing and makes me want to drink a ton of water, which is great :)

Thanks for the tips! Report
Pineapple chunks in water is great too! Report
The wife used to buy those HUGE cans of Iced Tea Mix all the time about 20 years ago, I don't think it was good for any of us!!! TOO MUCH SUGAR!!!! I didn't drink a lot of it I think even back then I preferred water or beer. I have also seen packets of pure lemon juice powder (no sugar) at Safeway and you can also use it in cooking etc instead of lemon juice. Report
Very Tired Report
sounds refreshing Report
sounds refreshing Report