Having trouble finding healthy summer drinks? Traditional warm-weather favorites can be packed with sugar, caffeine, and other unwanted additives, making it harder to optimize hydration.
On the other hand, healthy summer drink recipes can keep you cool while providing much-needed nutrients. Keep reading for nine super refreshing summer beverages, including tips and tricks for finding and making the healthiest drinks.
Importance of Hydration
Staying hydrated is important year-round, but it’s especially crucial in the summer. It’s estimated that about 60-70% of the body is made up of water, and that water is used to keep the body running properly. In the summer, an increase in activity and sun exposure can put extra strain on the body, increasing the importance of proper hydration practices.
During warm weather months, you’re more likely to lose water through sweat which helps to cool the body down. Other situations that may put you at a higher risk for dehydration during the summer include:
• Being an athlete or highly active individual
• Higher altitude
How to Choose Healthy Summer Drinks
Choosing healthy, hydrating drinks whenever possible during the summer months is a great way to reduce the risk of dehydration. The good news? From gas stations to vending machines, you can find hydrating options almost anywhere these days.
Water is often considered the “gold standard” when it comes to hydration, but other healthy drink choices can get you closer to your health goals, too. Drinks with electrolytes can be especially helpful since they replenish fluids along with vitamins and minerals that encourage more efficient hydration within the body.
Take A Closer Look At Additives
Beverages with added electrolytes can be a healthy choice, but it’s important to look closely at the label in case there are other added ingredients. One of the easiest ways to make your drink choices healthier is by looking for unsweetened varieties.
A Note On Alcohol
Thanks to parties, holidays, and other summer celebrations, alcohol consumption often goes up in the summer. While alcoholic summer drinks can be tempting, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a mild diuretic and can contribute to dehydration.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that nearly 70% of water recreation deaths also involve alcohol. This makes it extremely important to be aware of how much alcohol you are consuming.
If (or when) you choose to drink, making sure every other beverage you consume is water is a great way to keep consumption in check. Another great way to keep track of your alcohol consumption this summer is by using an online alcoholic drink trackers. These trackers can help you make healthier choices within a matter of moments when it comes to alcohol content, spending, and more.
More of a pen-and-paper person? Drinking tracker cards can be a discreet and portable way to track your drinking practices.
How to Make Healthy Summer Drink Recipes
If you’re wondering how to drink more water daily, the best place to start is at home. Making better beverage choices at home often leads to making better beverage choices once you leave the house, too.
Start With Fresh Foods
The start of summer also marks the prime time for many seasonal foods. Fresh tropical favorites, like mangos, can be easily incorporated into smoothies and juices. Many herbs are also in season, and can be used to elevate simple drink recipes.
Use Naturally Sweet Ingredients
Making sensational sips at home also gives you the freedom to customize ingredients. Instead of adding sugar, you can experiment with sugar substitutes to find which one works best for you. For example, using a natural sweetener like agave nectar (in moderation) may help you balance your blood sugar.
Create “Healthy” Cocktails
If you do choose to consume alcohol, making drinks at home can give you greater control over ingredients. Using a mixed drink and cocktail calculator can help you carefully craft drinks at home without going overboard on the alcohol.
Making your own mixed drinks can sound intimidating, so here are some health-conscious cocktail recipes to get you started:
9 Healthy Summer Drinks
Struggling to find summer drink recipes that align with your diet goals? The following nine drinks can fit into almost any diet, and are an exciting departure from plain water. Try incorporating them into your beverage rotation today for increased hydration.
Infused or Sparkling Water
Although water is generally considered the best beverage for hydration, it doesn’t always sound the most appealing. Simply infusing plain water with fruit can take it up a notch, since the fruit lends a subtle flavor (and even adds some extra nutrients).
For star-spangled events like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July, Skinny Starfruit Splash Infused Water is sure to be a hit. Keep in mind that fruit infusions aren’t your only option. Herbs can also add surprising flavors, along with extra nutrients and antioxidants to keep you feeling your best.
Skeptical about adding herbs to water? Fresh mint leaves are known for their potential health benefits, and add a flavor you’re likely already familiar with. Basil is another popular pick that pairs well with everything from citrus to strawberries.
Sparkling water can also take water from boring to sensational. Plus, it can take the place of regular water in many beverage recipes, giving drinks an unexpected and pleasant mouthfeel.
For a healthy combination of herbs, fruit, and sparkling water, try Fresh Fruit and Herb Sparkling Water from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Homemade Lemonade (or Limeade)
Although often included on lists of beverages to limit, lemonade can be a healthy hydration choice. Often, lemonades served at restaurants or bought at the store contain alarming amounts of sugar. Sweeteners are generally added to lemonade to counteract the tart taste of citrus.
To make lemonade a healthy drink choice, look for varieties made with 100% lemon juice and minimal amounts of added sugar. Homemade lemonade recipes are also an option. Instead of using fresh lemon or lime (juiced), the more shelf-stable, pre-squeezed lemon or lime juices can be utilized in most recipes.
Prefer pre-made or store-bought drink mixes? Those can also be made healthy. For example, Strawberry Lemonade Chia Fresca uses a crystallized citrus powder made from real fruit. The added chia seeds in the recipe add a bit of fiber, too, which is usually missing from fruit juices and other types of liquid hydration.
As a note, citrus (such as lemon or lime) is a natural flavor enhancer. Plus, citrus foods are about 90% water, meaning they are also natural hydration enhancers.
Speaking of water-rich foods, many fruits besides citrus are high in water content. Melons and berries are also extremely hydrating. Looking for these ingredients in juice can help maximize your hydration.
Vegetables and vegetable juices can also be a refreshing alternative. Leafy greens, carrots, cabbage, and squash have a surprisingly high water content. If you’re not into vegetable juice, sneaking veggies into fruit juices or smoothies can help mask the vegetable’s flavor.
When shopping for juice, be sure to seek out 100% juice options. This means the juice is made mostly of juice content instead of other unwanted ingredients. You’ll also want to keep and eye out for added sugars, and limit them whenever possible.
Although you’ll need to keep caffeine content in mind, iced tea is another great option. Enjoyed occasionally, the caffeine contained in iced tea won’t affect hydration too drastically.
Like other beverages, when shopping for store-bought mixes, you’ll want to seek out unsweetened varieties to keep liquid calories under control. You’ll also want to closely examine the ingredients in loaded teas to make sure there aren’t too many sweeteners or additives for your taste. Keep in mind that on-the-go beverages, like Starbucks’ Iced Green Tea Lemonade, can be surprisingly healthy if you’re strapped for time.
Many popular teas traditionally enjoyed warm can, surprisingly, be enjoyed cold as well. For example, the Academy of Dietetics recommends serving Green Tea with Fresh Mint or Cardamom Ginger Chai over ice.
Milk may seem like a surprising option but at approximately 90% water content, it ranks at the top of the list when it comes to hydrating beverages. Stored in the refrigerator, milk is an excellent cold beverage to have on hand.
One perk when it comes to milk is that many varieties are available to meet the needs of different lifestyles. For example, fat-free options make it easy to incorporate milk on a low-fat diet.
Keep in mind that flavored milks, such as chocolate or strawberry, are more likely to have added sugars. Plant-based milks are also an option for hydration since many are made with water as the base.
Protein Drinks, Smoothies, or Shakes
Searching for a way to start your day with water-rich foods and beverages? Smoothies are a great hydration habit to add to your morning routine. Healthy smoothies or shakes with added protein will also help to fuel your summer activities, since protein keeps you feeling full between meals.
Most smoothies use milk or water as a base, meaning you’ll get a boost of hydration when consuming these foods. Fruits to blend in that may help to increase your hydration include:
Avocados and bananas, in particular, can contribute to a creamy texture. As alluded to above, milk and dairy additions (such as yogurt) can also make smoothies creamier while boosting the beverage’s hydration.
Don’t know where to begin with healthy smoothies and shakes? Try these tantalizing recipes:
Avoiding alcohol but looking for a delicious drink? Mocktails are alcohol-free cocktails that have been making headlines lately. From designated drivers to party guests, these drinks are offering a safer alternative for those who want to enjoy events without giving up on their healthy goals.
Not sure where to start when it comes to alcohol-free cocktails? Try 10 Healthy & Delicious Mocktails sure to be crowd-pleasers at your next get-together.
Horchata may seem like a surprising choice for summer hydration. However, traditional horchata is enjoyed cold and over ice. Typically, it can be consumed cold during warmer months and warm over colder months.
As with other store-bought or restaurant-served beverages, horchata can have copious amounts of added sugar. Since it’s made with white rice in many cases, it may not be a “healthy” choice for everyone.
Luckily, horchata can be made healthier with stevia instead of sugar, and brown rice instead of white. Most horchata recipes contain cinnamon and vanilla, two ingredients that can make a drink taste sweeter, even when it contains no sugar. Try out this zero-sugar horchata from Livestrong if you’re looking to spice up your summer drink routine.
Gazpacho is another beverage option that may seem surprising. Although typically served in a bowl, like other broths or soups, it can be sipped from a cup or mug.
If you’ve never heard of gazpacho before, it’s a Spanish-inspired soup that is served cold, which makes it a refreshing meal. In fact, gazpacho is often referred to as summer soup. When served in a travel cup, it can even be taken on the go for warm-weather adventures.
Many gazpacho recipes naturally include seasonal summer produce or hydrating additions, such as:
Intimidated by the idea of gazpacho? Try out these recipes from health experts:
In Summary on Healthy Summer Drinks
Healthy hydration starts at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy smart store-bought or restaurant options. Looking for brands low in added sugar can help keep calories low, and adding ingredients like protein powder can help keep you feeling full on the go. Plus, you can boost hydration by selecting certain summer produce picks to add to your drinks.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat Stress Hydration. Cdc.gov. Published 2017.
Ellis E. Sand Surf and Great Eats. Eatright.org. Published June 2022.
Gordon B, Klemm S. How Much Water Do You Need? Eatright.org. Published June 2022.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. We Can! GO, SLOW, and WHOA Foods. Nhlbi.nih.gov. Accessed May 2023.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun. Niaaa.nih.gov. Published May 2022.
Riggs K. Ask an Expert: Six Tips for Staying Hydrated This Summer. Extension.usu.edu. Accessed May 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seasonal Produce Guide. Snaped.fns.usda.gov. Accessed May 2023.