By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES
Everyone knows the benefits of drinking water. Not only is it free of calories, it helps to fuel your muscles, keeps you alert, maintains skin tone and aids digestion. Aiming for at least 8 cups of water a day is a general goal – but you may need less if you eat plenty of fruits and veggies, since they contain a lot of water. For many people, moving away from sugary soft drinks and fruit juices is an important first step for successfully managing weight. If you feel bored drinking plain water – start exploring the vast sea of possibilities when it comes to drinking flavored infused waters. Still or Sparkling. Ready to drink or Do it yourself. Follow a recipe or just experiment! The choices are endless.
Still or Sparkling?
Personally, I like both. Keep yourself open to all possibilities. Consider purchasing a water carbonator (like SodaStream) to add fizz to your own tap water. It will save you money (and help the planet with fewer plastic bottles!) Also, sipping hot flavored water is a nice alternate to tea on a cold day.
Ready-to-drink or Do-it-yourself?
There are so many choices it can be overwhelming. There are several brands listed below, as well as ideas for making your own flavored water. Flavor choices can range from the ordinary (lemon, lime, grapefruit) to the exotic (ginger-lime, kiwi-strawberry). Check the labels of any flavored water you purchase carefully to see if they really are calorie free. Also, look to see if any sweeteners have been added. Even though you may not see the word “sugar” or “sucrose” on the label, flavored waters often add a very low-calorie sweetener. While the drink may still be calorie free, some people may experience a slight stomach upset (gas, diarrhea) if they drink too much so check for words like “erythritol”, “stevia” or “sucralose” which may have been added to give your drink a sweeter taste.
There are a variety of specially designed water bottles and pitchers that you can buy so you can easily make flavored waters. A small chamber in the center holds the flavorings. Just add water – and let sit for at least an hour. It’s also easy to find recipes for infused waters for pressure cookers (aka “Instant Pot”). If these are handy or make it more convenient for you – use them! But know, they are not necessary. Adding sliced fruit or cucumber to a pitcher of tap water and putting it in your fridge works just fine too!
While you can easily find recipes online, it really as easy as using up what’s in your fridge! Check the list of suggested combos for some popular flavor ideas.
- Start with very cold sparkling or still water.
- As a general guide, fruit that is very ripe has the most flavor. It’s a great way to use up fruit that may be about to spoil.
- Frozen fruit works well too!
- Experiment with amounts. If you’re just filling 16-24 oz water bottle, a few slices of lemon, cucumber, a couple of frozen strawberries might be all you need. If you’re filling a large pitcher, you might use up to a cup of fruit.
- Adding fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme) can be wonderful – but you only need a small amount for a big flavor burst. Crush them a little before adding to enhance the taste. A small chunk of fresh ginger or a small piece of a cinnamon stick is also tasty.
- The longer the fruit sits, the better. Let it sit at least 30 minutes – but aim to drink it within the day you make it.
- Refill the container with water 2-3 more times as you’ll still be able to extract more flavor.
- If you make a very concentrated batch (as you would if you were using a pressure cooker) – just add about 2 Tbsp to your water. Or, freeze the liquid in ice cube tray containers – and then add one to a glass of still or sparkling water for a boost of flavor.
- Once you’re done with the fruit and flavorings – compost them.
- Remember – you’re not getting much in the way of calories if you just infuse the flavors… but if you end up eating all the mushy fruit that remains after it’s done it’s job infusing the water – you will be eating all of the fruit calories.