Skip the lemonade: Create your own low-sugar drinks to cool off

Instead of reaching for a beer or lemonade, quench your thirst without the added empty calories.

As temperatures heat up and summer arrives, so do pool and patio parties, outdoor concerts, family camp-outs and many other special events enjoyed by both kids and adults. Summertime equals fun time!

Whether you are working hard in the yard or just finishing a hike or walk in the park, reaching for a cold and refreshing beverage is a satisfying way to cool off. Instead of choosing a beer or lemonade after that round of golf, consider ways to quench your thirst without the added empty sugar calories.

There is scientific evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages, including those with alcohol, cause weight gain and contribute to obesity. Obesity is not only a risk factor for heart disease, it’s linked to 12 different cancers.

National health organizations like the American Institute for Cancer Research, as well as the current Dietary Guidelines, suggest we drink mainly water, along with dairy and unsweetened beverages to optimize health and avoid excess sugar. Sugary beverages like sports and energy drinks, sweetened waters and iced teas, cordials and specialty tea and coffee drinks are often loaded with sugar.

When you are at the grocery store, check the labels before buying ready-to-drink beverages for names like sucrose, honey, syrup, fruit juice, concentrated fruit syrup, high fructose corn syrup or agave syrup.

It’s easy to create your own healthy drinks, including fabulous mocktails — cocktails without the alcohol.

Create your own healthy drink

Use the following three lists as a base recipe to creating an exciting and refreshing drink without sacrificing your health. Simply mix together your choice of beverage base, healthy enhancer and extra flavor. Reference the Create Your Own Healthy Drinks Matrix on the American Institute for Cancer Research website for even more ideas.

Beverage bases: Club soda, flavored sparkling water, seltzer water, cold brewed tea or coffees, mineral water, vegetable juice.

Healthy enhancers: Fresh or frozen fruit chunks, citrus slices (lime, lemon, grapefruit), citrus peels or zest, cacao nibs.

Extra flavors: Fruit juice or nectar, flavored ice cubes, ground spices (cayenne, cinnamon, vanilla).

Here are a couple of recipes for incredible summer mocktails that I will be serving regularly on my deck this summer! These recipes are from Briana Hardy of the Women’s University Club of Seattle. I hope you enjoy them, too. Cheers to better health!

Mixed berry mocktail

4 blackberries

4 raspberries

4 strawberries, plus more for garnish

10 sprigs of mint, washed, stems removed

1 cup cold-brewed green tea

1-2 ounces coconut-flavored zero-calorie sparkling water

Muddle blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and mint. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, followed by your favorite cold-brewed green tea until it is about half full. Add the muddled ingredients, shake for a few seconds, then strain into a martini glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a strawberry half.

Pomegranate mocktail

Juice from ½ lime, plus slices for garnish

3 ounces Pom pomegranate juice

2-3 ounces coconut-flavored zero-calorie sparkling water

Pour the lime and pomegranate juices into a cocktail shaker. Shake for a few seconds, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with a half slice of lime.

Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Visit www.totalhealthrd.com or www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd.

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