By Melanie Tina Mascarenhas
As we all know, summer typically brings us days of cloudless skies and up to fifteen hours of warm sunshine. This beautiful weather often comes with temperatures in the upper 80’s and 90’s and often times surpasses 100 degrees for a week or two. With hotter days, hydration becomes an important issue that is easily overlooked in the no-school frenzy.
Summer is the time for beach bashes and BBQs, events where sugary drinks and alcohol abound but natural beverages can be scarce. Soda consumption spikes during the summer months because, let us face it, grabbing a chilled can of Coke is convenient and refreshing in the short term. In fact, in California 62% of adolescents aged 12-17 consume at least one soda per day and, on average, soda is the top caloric source in modern teen diets. A twenty ounce soda contains sixteen teaspoons of sugar that not only fail to quench thirst, but also do nothing to satisfy hunger and lead to the familiar “crash” in energy levels mere hours after consumption. Consequently, drinking soda only serves to add to our caloric intake, which eventually contributes to unhealthy weight gain over time. In addition to increasing obesity nationwide, soda consumption also raises the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Now I am not saying that we should abandon sugary drinks entirely and subsist on water and milk from here onwards (though from a nutritional standpoint, that would be ideal). After all, there are some things that just are not complete if there is no fizzy drinks involved. What is a New Year’s Eve party without apple cider? And Superbowl Sunday simply would not be the same if our beverage options were restricted to…water. The idea is to eliminate excessive soda consumption in order to lead a healthier lifestyle. This means that instead of reaching for the two liter Dr. Pepper at the grocery store, grab a watermelon that you can blend into watermelon juice or a squeeze a bunch of carrots for a boost of Vitamin A with every carrot-y sip. There are countless possibilities that can replace the sugary drinks of our time without skimping on convenience and revitalizing tastiness. Here are a few of my favorites that you can try:
1. Citrus Water
A simple alternative to flavored water, citrus water is a quick way to jazz up plain filtered water for celebratory events or everyday use.
Making this is easy if you happen to have fruit trees and an herb garden in your backyard. If not, head over to the nearest Safeway and stock up on your favorite kinds of fruit (pretty much anything will work) and a couple of herbs to add some pleasant fragrance and you are all set.
To make the citrus version, slice up a lemon, a lime, and an orange into a two quart pitcher and gently press the slices with a wooden spoon to release a bit of the juice. Fill up the pitcher with ice and add water to the top along with some more citrus slices and you are done! If you are not a citrus fan, add 2 cups of any kind of fruit (strawberry, pineapple, blackberry, etc.) along with mint, sage, or rosemary if desired and follow with ice and water for an all-natural twist on water according to your preference.
My personal obsession, lassi is a traditional Indian beverage that is a staple for my summer days. There are many varieties, the most popular in the U.S. being mango. The simplest kind, however is known as plain lassi and is still as mouth-wateringly delicious as all the others.
Lassi is wholly yogurt-based so be sure to have some plain yogurt on hand if you are planning to make it. All you need to do is put 2 cups of yogurt, one cup of ice, and a little bit of salt and sugar into a blender and blend away! The final product is a frothy, white liquid that is a delight to the senses.
3. Frozen Berry Smoothie
To be honest, I’m sure berry smoothies are supposed to be made with actual berries but fresh berries can be quite pricey. Plus going to the store can be a tad out of the way. The nice thing about frozen fruit is that you can keep the little packages in your freezer, break off how much you want to use, and save the rest for the next time you have a midnight craving for a homemade Jamba Juice.
For this smoothie, use half a pack of Trader Joe’s Berry Mix (containing blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) or any kind of frozen berry mix, really. Put the berry mix into a blender with one freshly sliced banana for thickness. If you want to shoot for the health stars or would like some added crunch, add in a dash of flaxseed or a handful of chia seeds (I hear they’re extremely nutritious). Blend until desired smoothness is achieved. Because the berries were frozen, the smoothie should be cold already so you can enjoy it right away.
Now I know what you’re thinking: avocados? Avocados are for salads and sandwiches! Why would I want to drink them? Trust me on this, as long as you’re not allergic to avocados, this shake is one you’ll love. Containing almost 20 essential nutrients that help with everything from lowering blood cholesterol to reducing the risk of a variety of eye diseases, avocados are a highly valuable addition to any diet.
To get your fill of this little green fruit, simply slice up one avocado and put it in your blender along with a cup of milk, ice, and a tablespoon of sugar for added sweetness. Run the blender till the shake is reasonably smooth and drink up!