Having a Heat Wave? Be Smart in Picking a Beverage

Patient Expert

Where I live, we're already starting to have heat advisories. These advisories are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within 12 hours of the onset of one of two conditions. The first is that there will be a heat index (which is the "apparent temperature" of how hot you'll feel when the relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature) of at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit but less than 115 degrees Fahrenheit for less than three hours per day. The second is when the nighttime lows will be above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for two consecutive days.

Heat advisories can be really dangerous for people who are outside a lot,   live in unairconditioned homes, city dwellers, reside in the upper floors of tall buildings, and/or elderly. NOAA recommends drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids and eating light, easy-to-digest foods when there's a heat advisory. This is something that I always have to remind my father who is on a diuretic so he loses fluids a lot during the day. Plus, he tends to drink a lot of coffee, which can be another type of diuretic when 5-7 cups a day are consumed, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may sound like harping, but I always am asking him, "Are youd drinking enough because of the heat?"

But what exactly should Dad (and you) be grabbing to stave off the heat? Maybe you normallly choose   a soda or sports drink/ While these are OK choices, you need to realize that you may be consuming a beverage with a lot of calories and added sugars and with little or no nutrients, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). And you definitely should stay away from alcoholic beverages during a head advisory since they can cause you to become dehydrated and can increase your risk of heat stroke and other potentially fatal heat-related illnesses, NOAA warns.

To help you know the healthiest beverages to select (whether it's hot outside or not), the USDA has made several recommendations on how you can make better choices of what you drink. These tips include:

  • Choose water. Although sugary drinks   such as soda, energy or sports drinks and other sweet drinks often have a lot of added sugar, and thus a lot of calories. Water, on the other hand, has no calories and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Are you thirsty? Then it's time to drink Everyone's needs are different, so if you're thirsty, it means it's time to lift a glass (of water). "A healthy body can balance water needs throughout the day," the USDA tip sheet advises. "Drink plenty of water if you are very active, live or work in hot conditions, or are an older adult."
  • Some beverages carry a surprising number of calories. The USDA notes that the average person takes in approximately 400 calories per day in beverages. Water, which doesn't have calories, can help in calorie management.
  • For kids, have appropriate drinks on hand. The USA recommends having water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or 100 percent juice in readily available containers in the refrigerator so children can grab and go. "Depending on age, children can drink ½ to 1 cup, and adults can drink up to 1 cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice each day," the tip sheet stated.
  • Dairy products are an important part of your diet. Select low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soymilk. Calories differ tremendously between different types of milk. Adults, teens and older children need three cups of milk daily. Children who are between the ages of 4-8 should drink 2-1/2 cups of milk daily while children between the ages of 2-3 should drink two cups.
  • Take water with you. When you're off and running, fill a reusable water bottle and take it with you, whether to the office or to your workout.
  • Read labels when you're shopping. Be sure to check the label for total sugars, fats and calories when you are purchasing prepackaged drinks so you can make a wise purchase.
  • If you want to splurge, enjoy it but cut back the quantity. Want a soda or some wine? Check the serving size and number of servings per container to determine the calories you'll be consuming. If possible, select smaller servings - whether containers, glasses or cups - instead of a supersized portion.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2011). Don't let heat have you beat! Tips for staying healthy and cool in summer.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2012). Make better beverage choices: 10 tips to get started.