As the temperature increases so does our thirst, but picking the right beverage is not easy -- especially with all the choices. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate through this maze of drink options.
Dunkin' Donuts Iced Mocha Swirl Latte with Skim Milk vs. Coffee Coolatta with Skim Milk vs. Smoothie vs. Caramel Iced Coffee
The Coolatta with skim milk is 170 calories, and the Iced Mocha Swirl Latte is 180 calories -- so they're pretty close. Not great choices, but not the worst if you compare them with Dunkin' Donuts Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Dunkin' Donuts hypes the fact that the smoothie is made with "real fruit" -- and a variety of other not-so-great ingredients. It also has 360 calories and 69 grams of sugar for 16 ounces. Also available is JavaPop (www.javapop.com), an organic, Fair Trade Certified coffee soda with real coffee at about 115 calories per bottle.
Among the best Calorie Bargains are the flavored coffees at Dunkin' Donuts (www.dunkindonuts.com): about 20 calories per 10 ounces (without sugar or milk). They actually double the amount of coffee beans when they brew their iced coffee to compensate for the ice. Some of the nine flavors include caramel, chocolate, hazelnut, raspberry and blueberry.
McDonald's Vanilla Triple Thick Shake vs. Starbucks Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino Blended Cr?me vs. Orange Cr?me Frappuccino Blended Cr?me
If you picked the McDonald's (www.mcdonalds.com) thick shake as the highest in calories, you'd be wrong. The Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino (www.starbucks.com) adds up to 550 calories for 16 ounces -- which is the same as the McDonald's shake. And while the Tazo has real green tea, the shake also has some benefits (not that I'm pushing the shake), including high levels of calcium and 13 grams of protein. If you're itching for a fancy green tea dessert, you can try Starbucks Tazo Green Iced Tea & Lemonade, which has 120 calories. Or even better, how about plain green tea, which has zero calories?
The Orange Cr?me Frappuccino Blended Cr?me with whipped cream has 430 calories (save 110 calories by skipping the cream). Starbucks does offer a lower-calorie, light version of the Orange Mocha Frappuccino for 150 calories (without whipped cream). Not a perfect choice, but certainly better than the full-calorie versions or the shake.
As a side note -- kudos to McDonald's for not listing the shake as a beverage on its menu: It shares the category with desserts, the right place for a shake or any of these beverages.
Tropicana Fruit Squeeze vs. Glaceau Fruitwater vs. Glaceau VitaminWater vs. Fruit2O vs. Gatorade.
Glaceau Fruitwater (www.glaceau.com) comes in a 20-ounce bottle and has 45-50 calories. It's basically water and sugar -- not better than plain water, but still better than a soda. The ingredient list calls the added sugar "crystalline fructose" -- however, that doesn't mean the sugar is from fruit. In fact, it's from cornstarch, just like high-fructose corn syrup.
The VitaminWater is much higher in calories with 125 for 20 ounces and also has crystalline fructose, some food coloring and added vitamins. Keep in mind, for comparison sake, a 12-ounce can of soda, which is hard to chug because of the carbonation, has 140 calories, which is only 15 calories more than the bottle of VitaminWater. And you should ask yourself: Do we even need those extra vitamins? Check out the vitamins you need and lack here: http://www.dietdetective.com/content/view/1318/159/ and http://www.dietdetective.com/content/view/1320/159/
Also on the market is Tropicana Fruit Squeeze, which has only 50 calories per 20 ounces, with nine grams of sugar vs. almost 40 grams for VitaminWater. The Fruit Squeeze could be a nice alternative if you don't mind the sucralose (Splenda). Fruit2O, which boasts that it contains no calories, fat or sugar (also with sucralose), is a very sweet option if you're hankering for a diet soda replacement. Gatorade, at 160 calories for a 20-ounce bottle, is really designed to replenish electrolytes for athletes. It's not really a run-of-the-mill thirst quencher.
Metromint vs. Hint vs. Tasmanian Rain
Now this is a category you can sink your teeth into -- or your lips: tasty water without additives. Metromint (www.metromint.com), one of our favorites, is made with real mint, and it's delicious. There's also Hint (www.drinkhint.com), which offers purified water with natural flavors and no calories or artificial sweeteners. The flavors include lime, raspberry-lime and mango-grapefruit, to name a few. Finally, Tasmanian Rain (www.tasmanianrain.com) offers water that's collected without ever touching the ground "from the purest skies on Earth," according to the Australian based company. The water is sold in fancy bottles resembling fine wine, costing almost five dollars per bottle.
Another way to liven up your bottled water is by using Crystal Light On The Go (lemonade, peach tea, raspberry ice and iced tea). Each of the packets has 10 calories (sweetened with aspartame) and is designed to be poured into a 16.9-ounce bottle of water.
Enviga vs. Propel Fitness Water vs. Red Bull
Enviga (www.enviga.com) claims to actually burn calories. I'm not convinced. The good news is that Enviga has only five calories per can (sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium). What about Gatorade's Propel Fitness Water (www.propelwater.com)? It has about 30 calories per 24-ounce bottle and about 25 percent of the daily value of B vitamins (niacin, B6, pantothenic acid). Maybe so, but shouldn't we get these B vitamins from food sources, such as bananas or turkey?
As far as Red Bull (www.redbull.com) is concerned, it is basically a souped-up can of sugar, water, caffeine and other "goodies" (such as taurine) that have very little research supporting their health claims. Each can is about 110 calories. If you really want the Red Bull effect without the calories, try the sugar-free version (sweetened with acesulfame k, aspartame) at only 10 calories.
CHARLES STUART PLATKIN is a nutrition and public health advocate, author of The Diet Detective's Count Down (Simon & Schuster, 2007) and founder of DietDetective.com, the health and fitness network.
Copyright 2006 by Charles Stuart Platkin