Best Choice: Water
It’s essential for your body. It prevents dehydration, constipation, and kidney stones. Plus, with no calories, it’s the best beverage for your waistline. If you add 1 to 3 cups of water a day to your diet, you could end up taking in less fat, salt, sugar, and up to 200 fewer calories per day. Too plain for your taste buds? Add a squeeze of citrus, a few berries, or your favorite herbs, like mint.
Best Choice: Filtered Coffee
Coffee has gotten a bad rap before, but studies show it may protect against type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and lower your odds of heart disease. Three to five cups a day seems to be healthy, as long as you go easy on the cream and sugar. But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor how much to sip. If you have high cholesterol, brew yours with a paper filter. It gets rid of a substance called cafestol that can raise LDL cholesterol.
Best Choice: Tea
Green, black, and other kinds are full of antioxidants, which may protect you against some types of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, unsweetened brews are low in calories. Whether you like it hot or iced, the healthiest kinds are the ones you brew at home — without the added sugars that bottled tea can have.
Good Choice: Milk
It’s a powerhouse of nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which keep your muscles, teeth, and bones healthy. And a cup of it has more protein than a large egg. To get more nutrition from fewer calories, look for low-fat and skim options. And some non-dairy milks — soy, almond, and others — have some of the same nutrients as cow’s milk.
Worst: Soft Drinks
They have no nutrients, and they’re loaded with sugar. People who drink one or two a day take in more calories and may have a higher body weight. You’re also more likely to have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Worst: Diet Soda
Yes, it’s low in calories, but it may not be a good swap for regular sodas. Diet drinks are linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes. And over time, some experts think their artificial sweeteners may make you gain weight by tricking your body into wanting more calories. But if you’re trying to cut back on regular soda, diet versions may be a good way to help you make the switch to water and other healthier drinks.
Better Choice: Sparkling Water
It gives you a little fizz without the calories or artificial sweeteners of soda. But watch out for flavored seltzers that have added sugar. And remember, sparkling water is different from club soda, which has sodium, and tonic water, which has sodium and sugar. A safe bet is to add your own flavor, like a squeeze of lemon or lime, to plain seltzer or sparkling water.
Worst: Energy Drinks
They claim to give you a boost with big doses of caffeine — equal to 4 to 5 cups of coffee — and other ingredients like guarana, B vitamins, and ginseng. Most have loads of sugar or sweeteners, too. You may get a short bump in alertness, but don’t believe the hype about more energy, strength, and power. What you’ll really get is too many calories and too much caffeine, which can cause weird heart rhythms, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and digestive problems.
Sip Sparingly: Fruit Juice
If it’s 100% juice, it has most of the vitamins of its original fruit. But all the fiber gets left behind. Without it, most of what you get from this drink is sugar. That adds calories to your diet without filling you up. A cup of no-sugar-added juice with breakfast or a snack is fine, but for kids and adults, it’s best to eat fruit in its whole form, and limit how much juice you get. If you just enjoy the taste, add a splash or two to a glass of water.
Sip Sparingly: Smoothies
If you have a hard time getting enough fruits and veggies in your diet, smoothies could be a good solution. They have the vitamins of their ingredients, plus a bit of the fiber, too. But a typical store-bought one has almost 400 calories and 75 grams of sugar. Instead, make them at home, and go light on sweetened add-ons, like flavored yogurt, honey, or agave.
Sip Sparingly: Sports Drinks
The electrolytes and sugar in these drinks make them ideal for athletes who need to replenish their bodies after an intense workout. But unless you’re finishing an hour-long sweat session, you should skip these beverages. Many have almost as much sugar as a can of soda. All your body really needs to refuel is water.
Sip Sparingly: Coconut Water
It’s the clear liquid you’d find if you cracked open a coconut. It has electrolytes and less sugar than many sports drinks or fruit juices. Still, the nutrients vary a lot from brand to brand. For all but the most draining workouts, water is all you need to rehydrate. And some coconut water is sweetened with added sugar, so check the label.
Sip Sparingly: Wine
Drink the right amount of wine — particularly red wine — and you may improve your brain and heart health, and even your sex life. This may be due to antioxidants like resveratrol that protect your cells from damage. But drinking more than a glass or two per day isn’t good for your health, especially if you do it over the long term.
Sip Sparingly: Beer
It’s not a health drink of course, but it can be part of a healthy diet. Moderate beer drinkers — 1 12-ounce beer a day for women and 2 for men — may be less likely to get kidney stones than non-drinkers. But know what you’re sipping. Some brews have more alcohol by volume and calories than others. If you’re watching your weight, stick with a light beer (about 100 calories).