07/01/2013 05:48 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

Tastiest Healthy Drinks for a Hot Summer Day

Nothing beats a nice cold drink on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, sodas, sports drinks, juice drinks, energy drinks, smoothies, and even juice offer a ton of calories and sugar most of us don't need. Sugary drinks don't make us feel full like other foods. And they can increase feelings of hunger in a few hours so we can end up eating more later on. This may explain why emerging research shows that sugary drinks cause more weight gain than the same number of calories from other foods.

So what to do?

Why not try a zero-calorie drink, without artificial sweeteners, that is flavorful and good for you? There are a few standouts you can buy at the market that are worth trying. You can also make infused water at home for a lot less money.

One of my favorite store-bought drinks is Hint. The Strawberry-Kiwi and Mango-Grapefruit flavors are particularly good. They also have a relatively new fizzy version called Hint Fizz, which I like even better. The Strawberry-Kiwi flavor is my favorite flavor as well, but most are tasty and very refreshing.

Another great option is MetroMint. This drink has zero calories and a tasty Chocolatemint flavor that even diehard chocolate lovers seem to like. Steer clear of the berry and cherry flavors unless you like the medicinal taste of cough syrup.

The winner in the unsweetened tea category is Sokenbicha Bold Barley Tea. I have found it at Whole Foods Market, but not all of the stores carry it. If you find a store that has it, try it. You will not be disappointed. It is really good. There are other worthy unsweetened teas out there such as Tejava and Trader Joe's unsweetened green tea. However, they both pale in comparison to the Sokenbicha Bold Barley Tea.

Another great option is fruit-and-herb-infused water that you make at home. I've created a few recipes and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy, tasty, and cheap they are. Why spend $1.50 for a small bottle of another drink when you can make a whole pitcher at home for less money?

One recipe I like is made with one sliced lemon and a teaspoon of vanilla in a pitcher of water. Then just place it in the refrigerator and let it infuse for a few hours. It's easy, cheap, quick, and best of all surprisingly tasty.

You can also combine a sliced lemon, a few sprigs of fresh mint and rosemary, and a sliced cucumber in a pitcher of water. Just a few hours in the refrigerator and you have a tangy, savory drink. I have a lemon tree in my yard and grow rosemary and mint. So all I have to buy is a cucumber and some filtered water. You can't get much easier or cheaper than that.

One of my favorite recipes is strawberry kiwi-infused water. Try it instead of a 140-calorie can of Coke or other sugary drink.

Strawberry Kiwi Infused Water

▪ 9 ripe strawberries
▪ 1 kiwi
▪ 8 cups filtered or bottled water

1. Wash the strawberries, cut out the leaves, and cut in half.
2. Wash, peel, and slice the kiwi.
3. In a 2½-quart pitcher, or a gallon plastic water bottle, combine the water, strawberries and kiwi.
4. Make sure to cover the container and place in the refrigerator. If you are using a glass pitcher without a lid, place a piece of saran wrap snugly over the top.

This drink tastes good in 3 to 4 days. Take the fruit out once you like the flavor. Depending on how fresh your fruit was, it should last about 5 days.


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