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Cool Summer Drinks: Your Best Bets

6 refreshing ways to stay hydrated this summer.

Cool Summer Drink No. 1: Cold Water

Cold water hydrates, cools, and refreshes you like nothing else. If your tap water has levels of components/contaminants that you aren't comfortable with, you can buy a filtering system (even the affordable carafe type) that can help.

The environmentally cool thing about tap water or filtered water is there are no plastic or glass bottles to trash or recycle.

You can make your water taste a lot more interesting by adding a slice of lemon, lime, or orange.

Cool Summer Drink No. 2: Water With Natural Flavor Essence

This type of flavored water -- with no calories and no alternative sweeteners -- is my favorite way to drink water. If you don't care for plain water, give these a try. If it tastes good to you, you'll be more likely to drink more of it -- and stay more hydrated.

Depending on where you live, you'll have many brands to choose from, like Crystal Geyser, Calistoga, or Perrier with lemon. The first two brands come in assorted noncaloric and nonartificially sweetened flavors -- lemon, lime, orange, and berry. These are bubbly, though, so drink them only if carbonation isn't a problem for you.

If you want something nonbubbly, try Calistoga Mineral Water with essence. Its ingredients are simple: mineral water, natural flavors, and carbon dioxide.

Cool Summer Drink No. 3: Iced Green or Black Tea

Look for noncaffeinated versions if you drink tea throughout the day. Lots of flavor options await you at most grocery stores and specialty markets. If you insist on sweetening your tea, use the least amount of sweetener your tastes will tolerate.

Cool Summer Drink No. 4: Iced Coffee

Millions of Starbucks customers have already figured out how to have their coffee and stay cool, too -- iced coffee! The lowest-calorie way to go is to drink it black, or add a splash or two of low- fat milk or a flavored, fat-free creamer. And you can make it even healthier by choosing decaf.

The Iced Caffe Americano from Starbucks is espresso mixed with cold filtered water and ice, and it has just 15 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrate. If you go the iced latte route, Starbucks' tall Iced Caffe Latte with nonfat milk adds up to 90 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrate (from the nonfat milk).

It's easy to make iced coffee at home, too. Just brew a batch of coffee in the morning or the night before, chill it in the refrigerator, and it will be ready to hit the ice by high noon.

Here's my simple method: To a large glass, add 1 1/4 cups iced coffee, 1/2 cup low-fat milk, and one packet Splenda Flavor Blends for Coffee, such as hazelnut (about 1/2 teaspoon). Stir, then add at least 1 cup of ice cubes or crushed ice.

For an even more flavorful twist on iced coffee, see my Raspberry Mocha Freeze recipe below.

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