The Very Best Beverage

My last blog post was all about choices. And one of the choices you make on a regular basis is what to drink. This particular choice can have a huge effect on whether or not you are healthy. And how difficult it will be for you to lose weight.

The beverage industry does not make our choices any easier. For one thing, we are offered way too many. Try walking into a Starbucks and getting a cup of regular coffee. (I know all you smartypants people out there can tell me what to order. But what language is Starbucks speaking, anyway? How come a large is a "venti" but a small is a "tall"? And what the heck is all that extra junk they're putting into your coffee cup? I'll tell you what it is: SUGAR.)

My task today is to simplify your life when it comes to drinking. There are a handful of awesome beverages which enhance your health and beauty. Some even make dieting easier and more effective. Almost all of these have zero, or very few, calories.

There is absolutely no question when it comes to beverages, one stands out above all the rest. You already know what I'm going to say, don't you?

1) Water. Zero calories. Plain old water is the best thing for you to be drinking. It has everything going for it. It is clear and colorless, so it goes with whatever outfit you're wearing. If you spill it on your dress, it doesn't make a stain. It is so cheap, it's practically free. In fact, if you are eating out, it IS free. And most importantly, your body NEEDS it. Winter air is dry, so our bodies dehydrate even when we aren't sweating. You need to replace that water you're losing just by breathing. And if you're working out, you need even more. A minimum of 3 liters (or quarts) of water per day is a good start.

2) Tea is the next best thing, also with zero calories. Green tea has less caffeine than black tea. Both are excellent choices as long as you drink them sugar-free. If you usually add a boatload of sugar or honey to your tea, begin by scaling this back. You will soon be able to taste the tea itself, which I think is delicious on its own. Both green and black teas are rich in polyphenols, substances which reduce inflammation in the body. Green tea has been shown to increase weight loss in those who are dieting. Decaf and herbal teas are great in the evening. You can find such a wide variety of flavors, there is sure to be something you will enjoy.

3) Coffee. Also close to zero calories, unless you add something to it. Many of us can't imagine starting the day without this delicious, life-sustaining liquid. (In my daily practice of writing 10 things I'm grateful for, coffee appears repeatedly. Every single day.) If you're anything like me, you bow down and kiss the ground that coffee plants grow in. I always thought coffee was my only major sin, but in the last few years I've learned that coffee is actually healthy. Studies show coffee drinkers live longer, have less chance of getting diabetes and Parkinson's disease, and even burn more calories while exercising. If you're sensitive to caffeine, stick to 1-2 cups in the morning hours and then switch over to decaf in the afternoon. Again, try drinking your coffee sugar-free.

4) Last, but not least, is red wine. About 100 calories for a SMALL (4 oz.) glass. If you're trying to lose weight, I recommend ditching the alcohol because of the extra calories and carbs. But if you are already at a healthy weight, you might want to indulge in a glass of wine now and then. Red wine is the best choice--for men, especially-- as it has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. For women, any alcohol seems to raise the chances of breast cancer, so less is better.

You will note that diet soda did not make the list. There is also no juice on this list. No soy milk, almond milk, no milk of any kind. In general, but especially when you're trying to lose weight, you want to avoid drinking your calories. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat a whole piece of fruit. Instead of juicing your carrots or your kale, eat a big salad. Whole foods, with the fiber included, will fill up your tummy with way less calories than juice.

Try switching one cup of juice or one glass of soda for plain old water today. Boom! You just saved 100 calories (or more!) and rehydrated your body with the water it needs. Go you!