Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on August 04, 2021
Best Choice: Water

Best Choice: Water

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Water is essential for your body. It prevents dehydration, constipation, and kidney stones. Plus, with no calories, it’s the best beverage for your waistline. If you add 1 to 3 cups of water a day to your diet, you could end up taking in less fat, salt, sugar, and up to 200 fewer calories per day. Too plain? Calorie-free flavor drops sweeten, but may have artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Try a squeeze of citrus instead.

Best Choice: Filtered Coffee

Best Choice: Filtered Coffee

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Coffee has gotten a bad rap before, but studies show it may protect against type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and lower your odds of heart disease. Three to five cups a day seems to be healthy, as long as you go easy on the cream and sugar. But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor how much to sip. If you have high cholesterol, brew yours with a paper filter. It gets rid of a substance called cafestol that can raise LDL cholesterol.

Best Choice: Tea

Best Choice: Tea

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Green, black, and other kinds are full of antioxidants, which may protect you against some types of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, unsweetened brews are low in calories. Whether you like it hot or iced, the healthiest kinds are the ones you brew at home -- without the added sugars that bottled tea can have. 

Good Choice: Milk

Good Choice: Milk

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It’s a powerhouse of nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which keep your muscles, teeth, and bones healthy. And a cup of it has more protein than a large egg. To get more nutrition from fewer calories, look for low-fat and skim options. Some nondairy milks -- soy, oat, almond, and others -- have some of the same nutrients as cow’s milk, but the concentration of these is low per serving.  

Worst: Soft Drinks

Worst: Soft Drinks

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They have no nutrients, and they're loaded with sugar. People who drink one or two a day take in more calories and may have a higher body weight. You’re also more likely to have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. 

Worst: Diet Soda

Worst: Diet Soda

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Yes, it’s low in calories, but it may not be the best swap for regular sodas. Diet drinks are linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes. And over time, some experts think their artificial sweeteners may make you gain weight by tricking your body into wanting more calories. But if you’re trying to cut back on regular soda, diet versions may be a good way to help you make the switch to water and other healthier drinks. Once you move from regular to diet soda, you can start trying to limit the number of diet drinks you have every day.

Better Choice: Sparkling Water

Better Choice: Sparkling Water

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It gives you a little fizz without the calories or artificial sweeteners of soda. But watch out for flavored seltzers that have added sugar. And remember, sparkling water is different from club soda, which has sodium, and tonic water, which has sodium and sugar. 

Worst: Energy Drinks

Worst: Energy Drinks

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They claim to give you a boost with big doses of caffeine -- equal to 4 to 5 cups of coffee -- and other ingredients like guarana, B vitamins, and ginseng. Most have loads of sugar or sweeteners, too. You may get a short bump in alertness, but don’t believe the hype about more energy and strength. What you do get is too many calories and too much caffeine, which can cause weird heart rhythms, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and digestive problems.

Sip Sparingly: Fruit Juice

Sip Sparingly: Fruit Juice

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If it’s 100% juice, it has most of the vitamins of its original fruit. But all the fiber is left out. Without it, most of what you get from juice is its natural sugar, called fructose. That adds calories to your diet without filling you up. A cup of no-sugar-added juice with breakfast or a snack is fine, but for kids and adults, it’s best to eat fruit in its whole form, and limit how much juice you get. If you just enjoy the taste, add a splash or two to a glass of water. Avoid juices with added sugar.

Sip Sparingly: Smoothies

Sip Sparingly: Smoothies

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If you have a hard time getting enough fruits and veggies in your diet, smoothies could be a good solution. They have the vitamins of their ingredients, plus the fiber, too. But a typical store-bought one has almost 400 calories and 75 grams of sugar. Instead, make them at home, and go light on sweetened add-ons, like flavored yogurt, honey, or agave.

Sip Sparingly: Sports Drinks

Sip Sparingly: Sports Drinks

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The electrolytes and sugar in these drinks make them ideal for athletes who need to replenish their bodies after an intense workout. But unless you’re finishing an hourlong sweat session, you should skip these beverages. Many have almost as much sugar as a can of soda. All your body really needs to refuel is water. 

Sip Sparingly: Coconut Water

Sip Sparingly: Coconut Water

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It’s the clear liquid you’d find if you cracked open a coconut. It has electrolytes and less sugar than many sports drinks or fruit juices. Still, the nutrients vary a lot from brand to brand. For all but the most draining workouts, water is all you need to rehydrate. And some coconut water is sweetened with added sugar, so check the label.

Sip Sparingly: Wine

Sip Sparingly: Wine

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Drink the right amount of wine -- particularly red wine -- and you may improve your brain and heart health, and even your sex life. This may be due to antioxidants like resveratrol that protect your cells from damage. But drinking too much -- more than one glass a day for women or two per day for men -- isn’t good for your health, especially if you do it over the long term.

Sip Sparingly: Beer

Sip Sparingly: Beer

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It’s not a health drink of course, but it can be part of a healthy diet. Moderate beer drinkers -- 1 12-ounce beer a day for women and 2 for men -- may be less likely to get kidney stones than nondrinkers. But know what you’re sipping. Some brews have more alcohol by volume and calories than others. If you’re watching your weight, stick with a light beer (about 100 calories).

Sip Sparingly: Canned Cocktails and Hard Seltzers

Sip Sparingly: Canned Cocktails and Hard Seltzers

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Hard seltzers have booze, so you should drink them in moderation if you enjoy alcohol. These or other canned cocktails can be a good alternative to other drinks -- they tend to have fewer calories and carbohydrates than typical beers or mixed drinks (about 90-110 calories per can). Be sure to check the sugar content, though. Drinks with less sugar usually have fewer calories, too.

Sip Sparingly: Protein Shakes and Powders

Sip Sparingly: Protein Shakes and Powders

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They can help you meet your daily nutrition goals. But It’s important to be picky about your protein. Some mixes have a lot of added sugars, artificial flavorings, or extra calories. Protein shakes and powders may also cause digestive issues for some people. Be sure to talk to your doctor first to find the right protein source for your body.

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15) WebMD
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SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Nutrition Info about Beverages,” “Coconut Water: Is It What It's Cracked Up to Be?” “How to Get Your Children to Drink Their Milk.” 
American Journal of Public Health: “Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”
CDC: “Alcohol and Public Health,” “Get the Facts: Drinking Water and Intake.”
Circulation: “Nonnutrituve Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives.”
Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome: “Does long-term coffee intake reduce type 2 diabetes mellitus risk?”
Harvard Health Publications: “What is it about coffee?” “The big benefits of plain water,” “The hidden dangers of protein powders.”
Harvard School of Public Health: “Soft Drinks and Disease,” “Ask the Expert: Coffee and health,” “Drinks to Consume in Moderation,” “Artificial Sweeteners,” “Other Healthy Beverage Options.”
International Journal of Angiology: “Polyphenols are medicine: Is it time to prescribe red wine for our patients?”
International Journal of Obesity: “Effects of food form on appetite and energy intake in lean and obese young adults.”
Journal of Sexual Health: “Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women's sexual health.”
Mayo Clinic: “Does coffee offer health benefits?” “What you need to know about milk substitutes,” “Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?”
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Energy Drinks.”
Nutrition Journal: “Red wine and component flavonoids inhibit UGT2B17 in vitro.”
USDA: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2015-2020.” 
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: “Sport and Energy Drinks: Are They Necessary?”
PepsiCo: “Gatorade Lemon-Lime.”
Coca-Cola Product Facts: “Coca-Cola.” 
UChicago Medicine: “Are sparkling water and hard seltzer bad for you?”
University of Florida: “Plant-Based Milks: Almond.”
Mio Product Facts: “Mio original.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You.”