Hello healthy hydration!

Now that summer has arrived with a resounding “Hello!” in Seattle (I mean, everyone knows summer doesn’t arrive here until after July 4, but a 20-degree increase in two days? Come on Mother Nature, that’s hardly sporting.) I am being ever more concious of my water intake.

I consider water a vital nutrient (as should you) and we need lots of all months of the year (with the exception of those on a fluid-restricted diet, naturally), but we need more of it when it’s hotter than the hills of Hades outside. (I know, surprise, surprise.)

If you’re a habitual water drinker, you’re likely to simply reach for more of if to help cool you off. But if you’re habitually bad about drinking your water, you’re still going to reach for more fluids when the mercury climbs…but what you tend to reach for might not be so healthy.

Since I live in Seattle, also known as the Starbucks Mother Ship, I see a lot of lips wrapped around green straws sticking out of Frappuccinos. Never more so than in the summer. There was once a time when I enjoyed many a venti mocha frapp in the summer. I also weighed almost 50 pounds more than I do now. On a related note, a male aquaintance of mine, a former-and-sometimes-current runner who has kept himself in shape over his 6+ decades, mentioned a few months back that he never drinks Frappuccinos (despite being a loyal Starbucks customer) because (and he did phrase it diplomatically) he sees so many obese people drinking them in the morning, as part of breakfast.

Yes, a Frappuccino is to morning coffee as a donut is to a bowl of steel cut oatmeal or scrambled eggs and whole grain toast. In other words, a Frappuccino has no place at breakfast and neither does a donut! They are dessert, people!!

Whether you enjoy sipping a coffee-milk-sugar concoction, fruit juice, smoothies, sweetened tea, energy drinks, non-diet soda, alcohol (especially cocktails), milkshakes or flavored waters, you can count on two things:

  1. They can pack a calorie wallop of up to several hundred calories.
  2. Calories you drink do not fill you up like calories you eat.

Studies show that people who drink a lot of high-calorie beverages do not tend to make up for it my eating less. Whereas munching on a nice snack of 200-300 calories, such as an apple and a small handful of almonds, will tide you over until your next full meal, sipping that many calories in beverage form will just leave you asking, “OK, what’s for lunch?”

Even if you were to compensate, as some weight-conscious females do when they know they will be drinking a lot of calories during girls night out, you are loosing out nutritionally, big time. Sorry, but a cosmopolitan or a gin and tonic does not replace a healthy meal!

My advice is to try to limit your beverages to, in this order:

  1. Water (plain or dressed up with lemon or lime wedges)
  2. Tea (unsweetened). Green or white is best, but black has benefits, too.
  3. Coffee (black or with just a touch of milk, and unsweetened). This is only if you have not noticed any adverse effects from caffeine.

My other advice is to educate yourself about what’s in what you are drinking. If you get a smoothie from Sally’s Smoothies and More three times a week, it would behoove you to know how many calories are in your favorite Super Banana Berry Blast. Then you can decide whether to treat it as a snack or meal (if it’s nutritious enough), as an occasional extra-calorie treat, or to kick the smoothie habit and just eat a piece of actual non-blended fruit.

If you like to scratch that Frappuccino itch a little too often, get yourself onto Starbucks.com and figure out how many calories are the various concoctions. It’s all right there…you just have to let your fingers do the walking. I personally will only drink the coffee frappuccino. It doesn’t come with whipped cream, anyway, and I get it light, with nonfat milk and stevia instead of the normal simple syrup (i.e., sugar). It’s a little sweet for my taste, but the others I’ve sampled are overwelmingly sweet (and I blanch when I see the calorie counts). Someone I know recently ordered a frapp with NO sweetener, and I plan to check out that action next time I treat myself.