Category Archives: Beverages

How to Choose the Best Drinks for a Successful Diet

Choosing the Wrong Drinks Adds Extra Empty Calories

Adapted with permission from the original article published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal.

You are starting your weight loss journey. You’ve been through your kitchen and thrown all the junk food into the trash. A diet plan has been chosen and you’ve taken those awkward “before” selfies.

What is the one thing you may have missed?

Frappacinos not healthy living
Credit – domtree_m

Have you made the common mistake of underestimating the caloric content of your favorite drinks?

The majority of beverages consumed by the American public each day are packed with hidden calories. The drinks you gulp down could be responsible for weight loss plateaus or lack of progress toward your weight loss goals.

Examples of Non-Healthy Drink Choices

  • The “healthy” smoothie from the organic store? It contains more calories than a double cheeseburger (a large Strawberry Surf Rider from Jamba Juice has 640 calories; a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger has 440 calories).
  • Heavily sweetened coffee on your morning commute?  A Venti Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino has 550 calories, while two Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut have 520 calories.
  • Having a beer with dinner? That’s more calories than a candy bar (a Lagunita’s IPA has 220 calories, while a Hershey bar has 214 calories).

This is not a suggestion to replace empty-calorie drinks with empty-calorie fast foods or sweets – it was for comparison only.

Beverages Can Add 100s of Calories Each Day

Whether it it a juice drink, flavored coffees, sodas, beers, popular “healthy” smoothies made commercially, they all contain high amounts of empty calories.

Instead of changing your diet, try rethinking your lifestyle.

Don’t count calories, make calories count!

Every calorie you choose to eat should be filled with nutrients (including beverages). Make them count. They should satisfy your hunger and help you reach your weight loss goals. The next post will discuss the best drinks to help you get there.

Beverages Are Not as Satisfying as Nutrient-Rich Foods

The first step is to be aware of the number of liquid calories you’re consuming each day, which often have little nutritional value. They may satisfy your sweet tooth; but they do not satisfy your hunger.

Studies have shown that meals with solid foods provide better sensations of fullness compared to liquid meal replacements alone.1

When you limit your daily calorie intake to kick-start weight loss, it is important to maximize the nutritional value of every calorie.

Every Calorie Counts When Committing to a Healthy Diet

  • A typical 16 oz bottle of soda has around 200 calories; that’s approximately equal to six ounces of chicken breast.
  • An average juice smoothie from a national chain has around 300 calories; that’s the equivalent to four whole eggs.
  • Most beer has at least 150 calories, equivalent to five pieces of turkey bacon.

Choosing the non-beverage option in each of these scenarios will not only provide more nutritional value but will also help you feel full.

The soda manufacturers have taken advantage of the “diet mentality” that is a big factor in drink choices. They have provided an alternative to “sugared drinks” in the form of diet or zero-calorie drinks. The problem is they remove the sugar and add artificial sweeteners – neither one is good for your health. Bottom line: sodas are not healthy drinks.

Potential Side Effects of Sweeteners

Studies have shown body weight, fat mass, and blood pressure may all be negatively affected by the consumption of sweeteners.

Two of the most commonly added artificial sweeteners are aspartame and saccharin.2 Another is sucralose. All three carry a potential risk of adverse metabolic effects and type 2 diabetes.3

Be careful. Limit your intake of artificial sweeteners. They can be harmful to your health.

The best choice is always a natural, non-processed drink that contains minimal sugar and minimal artificial sweeteners to be safe. We will discuss those in the next posting.

Starting today….every time you have a craving to buy your favorite beverage. Stop and ask yourself some simple questions. 

  • What is in this drink? (Learn to read labels or look it up on the Internet.)
  • How many calories does it contain?
  • Are they healthy, nutritional calories – or empty?
  • Do I really need this, or should I eat something solid instead?

Treating your self occasionally with a favorite drink is OK, but don’t make it a habit that takes the place of real food.

Awareness and making smart food choices are the first steps to a successful diet.

See you next time for the second post in the series,Seven Healthy Drink Options for a Healthy Diet.”


Note:  This was a long article originally that I am posting in segments for easier reading. If you want more information on the research, click on the numbered links in the posting. They will take you to the references in the original article. 


European Style Hot Chocolate

European Style Hot Chocolate, thick and creamy, is utterly delicious.  I first discovered it many, many years ago while living in Madrid, Spain.  I have tried to recreate it numerous times with some success, but it has always been filled with calories and fat.

Today, I found this recipe by Dr, Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., a nationally recognized expert in the field of health and wellbeing, and author of several books including Cholesterol Down. She lightens the recipe with a healthier, delicious version of the classic drink.  You should try it . . . sooooo good!  Only 190 calories and 0 cholesterol.

European Style Hot Chocolate
European Style Hot Chocolate
Image from


  • 2¼ cups vanilla soy milk
  • ½ cup natural unsweetened dark cocoa powder (or three squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or 1/8 cup Splenda sugar blend)
  • 1½ tablespoons corn starch


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  3. Remove from heat, pour immediately into three mugs
  4. Top with fat-free whipped topping and a dash of cocoa powder, if desired.

Servings: 3 (1/2 cup each) It is so rich that is all you will need per person.


Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk can be used to replace milk in most recipes or anywhere you would use packaged almond milk. You can also make your own flavored almond milk in the following ways: To sweeten, add a date just before blending (in step 2).  Vanilla Almond Milk – add a couple of drops of vanilla extract to the milk and shake well.  


  • 2 cups raw unsalted almonds
  • Pure filtered (bottled) water 



  1. Place almonds in a large bowl and cover them completely with water.
  2. Soak for at 6 to 12 hours – until they are nice and plump.
  3. Blend in food processor or blender in small batches – 1 cup of almonds and 1 1/2 cups of water at a time.  (You must blend in batches. DO NOT try to do it all at once)
  4. Blend for about 30 seconds – until you have a frothy, milky looking mixture.
  5. Using a find mesh strainer, strain the liquid into another bowl.
  6. Press mixture firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula to force out as much liquid as possible from the almond pulp.
  7. Repeat steps 3 – 6 until all your almonds have been processed.

Keep refrigerated – will keep for up to five days.


Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee
Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Image by Molly

 Cold-brewed iced coffee makes preparation of that pleasurable morning cup of coffee a breeze

 I have always loved the smell of freshly ground coffee and the tantalizing aroma as it brews in the early morning. To start my day there is nothing quite as comforting as a steaming hot cup of coffee on a cold winter morning; but, in Arizona hot coffee doesn’t have quite the same appeal on a summer morning after walking my dog, Chloe. A tall glass of iced coffee is just what I need. Cool, creamy and delicious. There is no reason to spend $4.00+ at the local coffee house, or to buy those nasty pre made cans or cartons of iced coffee (filled with additives). All you have to do is make a batch of cold brew coffee tonight (enough to last for several days) and be ready to enjoy your special cup tomorrow morning – and several mornings after that. One batch lasts five or six days, depending on how much I drink each morning.


  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups freshly ground coffee (coarse ground works best – regular or decaf)


  1. Place the coffee in a large bowl with a pouring spout. Add the water and strain thoroughly until coffee is well-mixed (no lumps).
  2. Cover and let it “brew” at room temperature 8-12 hours.
  3. Next morning – strain the coffee through a sieve lined with a paper coffee filter. This takes some time since you will have to pour a little at a time until all the coffee is filtered.
  4. Toss the grounds and pour the filtered coffee into a large container with a screw-on cap and refrigerate.
  5. Your coffee is now ready to pour over ice, add your preferred ingredients, and enjoy!

 I prefer the following combination for a delicious morning treat

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes and add the following:

  • 1 to 1½ cup of cold-brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup almond and/or coconut milk (Try Califia Farms™ Pure Coconut/Almond Milk Blend)
  • (OR – Make your own [highlight]almond milk[/highlight] – see post)
  • 1-2 tablespoons half-and-half (optional – I happen to like cream)
  • 1 packet Stevia (natural sweetener)
  •  1-2 tablespoons Hershey’s™ Chocolate Syrup (optional – sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t)

Make your first batch today and start experimenting. Find the perfect combinations that suit your particular taste. ENJOY! 

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Peach Basil Lemonade – Summer Coolers

Peach Lemonade

When I found a recipe for Peach Lemonade  in Cooking Light (June 2012), I decided to give it a try because peaches are my favorite summer fruit.  It is a wonderful combination of sweet and tart and very refreshing!  This is a variation on that recipe – Peach Basil Lemonade – using basil for an additional interesting flavor.  You can make it without the basil, if you choose. Directions are provided for both choices. 


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 firm-ripe peaches (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves (plus garnish)
  • ½ to ¾ cup sugar (to taste – personally, I like it sweeter)
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (~6 to 8 lemons)
  • 1 extra peach for garnish 



  1. Place water, chopped peaches, fresh basil (if using), and sugar in a sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat; lower the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the stove and let cool for at least 20 minutes.
  1. If you are using peaches only (no basil)– pour the mixture into a blender, take the center out of the lid and place it tightly on the blender. Cover the top with a kitchen towel and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a large container with a lid and refrigerate peach puree for approximately 3 hours or overnight.
  3. After peach puree has chilled, press the mixture through a sieve into a large container, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.
  4.  Pour peach juice into a pitcher and add lemon juice.
  5. Stir until combined.
  6. Taste and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water to dilute if too concentrated
  1. If using the basil – push mixture through a strainer into a large container – get as much liquid from the basil leaves and fruit pieces as possible.
  2. Reserve the liquid and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the liquid into a large container with a lid and refrigerate for approximately 3 hours or overnight.
  4. After the liquid is well-chilled, pour it into a pitcher and add lemon juice – Stir until combined,
  5. Taste and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water to dilute if too concentrated.

Serve in  in a small glasses over approximately 1/2 cup of ice. Garnish with a peach wedge if desired.

YIELD:  6 cups


  • This can be made with either peaches or nectarines (I prefer nectarines). Whichever you choose be sure the fruit is firm-ripe, flavorful, and not pithy.)


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