We count calories and plan healthier choices for our food to get optimum nutrition, but we usually neglect to do the same for drinks.

The average man and woman should not consume more than 2,200 and 1,800 calories respectively every day, and drinks can comprise up to 10 percent of that amount. Sugar contained in drinks add empty calories, which raise your daily calorie count without adding nutrients. No drink is healthier than good old plain water. 

But if you have to get a drink with your daily meals, get healthier versions.

Healthier Choice Symbol in Drinks for the Home

woman enjoying her freshly brewed tea at home

If you’re stocking up for your home, choose canned or packet drinks with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) logo. Drinks with this logo contain at least 25% less sugar compared to regular sweetened beverages or products from the same food category.

You may also challenge your tastebuds to adapt by going completely sugar free! When you’ve gotten used to the taste, go for drinks such as green tea and fruit-infused sparkling water.

Related: Hidden Sugars and Diabetes

Make Your Own Healthy Homemade Drinks 

make your own tea 

Brew your own drinks to control the amount of sugar in them.

Chrysanthemum tea and barley water are both fairly easy to prepare, and raw ingredients such as dried chrysanthemum flowers, barley seeds and sugar can be easily found at Chinese medical halls or in the dried goods section at most supermarkets.

Steep a tablespoon of dried chrysanthemum flowers in 250ml of water for 15 minutes, and you’ve got a cup of tea worthy of your favourite dim sum restaurant. Or churn up a batch of barley water by boiling a cup of barley seeds and a small lump of sugar in two litres of water for about 45 minutes.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, get creative! You may try adding herbs such as wolfberries or ginseng to your chrysanthemum brew. You may also reduce the amount of sugar in your brew gradually, training your tastebuds as you go along to detect the subtle flavours of drinks without the added sweetness. Eventually, aim to enjoy your tea sugar-free.

Other homemade drinks include ice lemon tea, lemongrass tea, smoothie blends and flavoured water. The last one is the easiest, and the healthiest — just dunk your favourite cut fruits into a jug of cold water. Try oranges, strawberries, honeydew, and kiwi, or mix and match to find your favourite combination. You may also try adding a sprig of fresh herbs such as mint or basil. Go easy on the added sugar as these drinks already contain their own natural sweetness.

Juice up

kiwi juice 

For a sweet and nutritious pick-me-up, replace your soda with a cup of juice. Juicing is an easy way to consume the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruit[1].

However, limit your intake to one cup per day, as juicing removes the fibre and satiation that comes with eating fruit. For a healthier alternative, try juice blends instead, and leave the skin on fruits such as apples, pears and grapes so you don’t miss out on the most nutritious bits.

Ordering Low Sugar Drinks

waitress taking drink orders at a cafe

Ordering drinks outside the home? Make them healthier ones with the following tips.

Lower your fortified sugar level. Soya bean milk, a good source of calcium that is also lactose free, is good for you — until sugar syrup is ladled in. Cut the syrup to 25 percent, or down to zero if you can handle it.

healthier choice symbols 

Ordering bubble tea? Skip the toppings such as pearls and jellies, and you’ll eliminate about a third of the calories. Alternatively, pick something healthier, such as Gong Cha’s oat cereal topping.

Keep an eye on your sugar level — 50 percent sugar may sound modest, but an average drink with no toppings actually contains about 25g of sugar, or about five teaspoons. That’s almost half the daily recommended intake of 45-55g of sugar[2]. Cut your sugar level to 25 percent instead, and look for drinks with the HCS logo. Examples include Oolong tea, Taiwan Black Tea and Alisan Tea.

Say siu dai. At the coffee shop, say “siu dai” (less sweet) with your regular order of teh or kopi and you’ll be cutting out about one-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar from your daily cuppa.

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  1. Dostal, A. (2015, Oct 13). Cold-Pressed Juice: Hipster Hype or Health Hero? [Website].
    Retrieved August 2016 from http://www.foodinsight.org/cold-pressed-juice-healthy

  2. Carey, E. (2015, Feb 11). What Is the Nutritional Value of Boba? [Website].
    Retrieved August 2016 from http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/nutritional-value-of-boba#1