As the weather heats up, there’s a certain delight that comes in lounging poolside with the perfect beverage in hand. While some top-of-mind options — think lemonade, sports drinks, or blended coffee — may sound like they’d hit the spot, they could actually negate your best dietary intentions due to the sneaky amounts of sugar often found in them.
That being said, we won’t deny the refreshing pleasure of the first sip of a cold beverage. So, we spoke with Ryan Dodge, executive chef for Life Time’s LifeCafe’s nationwide, for his top healthy, low- or no-sugar beverage choices to enjoy this season. These five options can all be found in the LifeCafe, making them easy to grab on your way to the pool deck.
1. Unsweetened Iced Tea
Tea has long been enjoyed for its nutritional advantages, bringing a health bonus to this drink you can serve over ice for summer. It’s been found to help enhance immune function, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, aid digestion, and boost longevity, as well as offer a variety of vitamins and minerals.
While many conventional teas come sweetened, we offer three unsweetened flavors, refillable for unlimited iced tea all summer long with the purchase of a reusable Tea Tumbler. Flavors available include Wild Berry Hibiscus, Summer Solstice, and Green Tea Tropical.
“As summer temperatures soar, we find ourselves craving bright, fresh flavors to awaken our palate and cool ourselves down,” Dodge says. “That’s why I reach for the Wild Berry Hibiscus iced tea. It’s a gorgeous ruby-red color and has a tart acidity, somewhat similar to cranberry juice. We round it out with elderberry, blueberry, and strawberry to accentuate its fruitiness and add sweetness for balance.”
Summer Solstice is a black tea, specifically formulated for being served over ice. Green Tea Tropical features a blend of fruits, infused with grassy, vegetal flavors to make for a relaxing taste.
2. Kids’ Slushies
When pool season is in full swing, kids tend to crave frozen treats like popsicles, ice cream, and other sugar-laden options. For a cold, refreshing treat with significantly less sugar, consider a Passion Fruit-, Berry Lemonade-, or Summer Punch-flavored kids slushie. To make them, the LifeCafe team use Monin® natural flavor syrups, which are free from artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or sweeteners.
“As a kid, summers are memorable,” Dodge says. “Between cannonballs and splashing with friends, they want something to drink that’s cool, tastes good, and is fun-colored. They don’t need to know it’s free of artificial sugars, but parents can find comfort in that.”
3. Iced Peet’s Coffee
Coffee offers more than just a jolt of energy: The benefits of drinking a cup of joe — assuming it’s free of sugary flavoring or other unhealthy additives — can include enhanced exercise performance, sharpened focus, anti-inflammatory effects, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.
Life Time serves Peet’s Coffee, which sources its beans from the world’s best growing regions in a way that honors farmers, respects the environment, and recognizes the role of communities.
Crafted from East African beans, the Baridi Blend is made specifically for cold-brewed refreshment. The coffee is freshly ground and steeped overnight in cold, filtered water resulting in a sweet and smooth iced coffee without acidity or bitterness.
“I love it because of my appreciation for comforting pick-me-ups throughout the day,” Dodge says. “Knowing the commitment Peet’s and our team has in honoring the coffee-making process to yield such an incredibly consistent, quality experience almost makes me feel like a connoisseur in the finer things of life.”
4. Shakes and Smoothies
Many shakes and smoothies neglect a balance of nutrients and are high in sugar due to too large of servings of fruit. But a shake or smoothie created with carefully calculated, nourishing ingredients can serve as a meal replacement and make healthy eating a little easier.
Choose from a few of our favorites, such as Mocha Madness, the Almond Butter Shake, or Strawberry Sunrise, or customize your own with your choice of liquid, protein, healthy fats, fiber, vegetables, and fruits.
Bonus: Protein shakes can be great for refueling after a tough workout if you squeeze one in at the club before you make your way to the pool.
“When I work out, I enjoy pushing myself hard, but then recovering well to gain a renewed energy,” Dodge says. “It’s a treat to fortify the body with vitamins, proteins, and antioxidants. This summer, I’m looking forward to doing that with the return of our Sambazon® Acai Recovery Smoothie — I love Sambazon®.”
While it may not be as fun of a choice as the other options in our list, daily hydration with good old water is essential for our body to operate at its best. We physically need water to carry nutrients to our organs, diffuse nutrients into our cells, dilute pollutants, and transport waste products to their respective bodily exits. Working to get in enough H2O becomes even more critical as temperatures rise and we’re sweating more.
“I had to figure out a way to drink the proper amount of water — which felt like a lot,” Dodge says. “I came up with a rubber-band plan: I took my body weight and calculated my recommended water intake (half your body weight in fluid ounces). I needed to drink five, 32-ounce shakers of water a day. So I would put five rubber bands on my wrist, and every time I finished one water shaker, I would transfer the band to the bottle.”
What works for you? Come up with a fun way to track your water intake to make sure you’re getting enough. Remember to bring a refillable bottle with you when you’re at the club so you stay hydrated while sweating it out or soaking up the sun.