Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

The new rules of drinking in 2019

From nutrition-packed smoothies to pre-workout drinks, here's how to make smart beverage choices

What you drink is as important as what you eat. Yet, most drinks in the market contain added sugars, little or no nutrients, and too many calories. The good news is that it is possible to make smarter, healthier choices with a few simple swaps and hacks. Here’s what chefs and health and wellness experts recommend:

Find a balanced smoothie

Yogurt and fruit don’t quite cut it. When designing a smoothie, loading up on one single ingredient because it is healthier doesn’t work. “Make it a mix of good fat, protein, complex carbs, fibre, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and essential micro nutrients," says Vanika Choudhary, founder and chef, Sequel Bistro & Juice Bar, Mumbai. Her ideal smoothie would have a nut milk base, vegetables like spinach, nuts or seeds or avocado for good fat, and natural sweeteners like dates, mangoes or bananas. To amp it up, you can use superfoods like matcha, spirulina, maca root powder, chia seeds or moringa.

Pick a stimulating pre-workout drink

If a customer walks into the Easy Human Café in Mumbai’s Colaba for a pre-workout snack/meal, head chef and nutritionist Rohit Tambe suggests coffee, preferably black. “Coffee is a known stimulant and drinking it before a workout means your brain is alert, and you are more active. It reduces your lethargy. If you choose to do cardio, it helps your body metabolize fat," he says.

Tambe cautions against drinking too much coffee, or at night. He recommends adding almond or coconut milk to the drink for good fat.

Start your mornings with a power drink

Nutrition coach Kripa Jalan’s preferred morning “power drink" is a glass of plain water with 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and cinnamon powder. Lemon juice is optional and if the drink is too citric, add stevia. “This is a whole drink by itself. It has vitamin C, it has ACV that balances your gut and cinnamon to control sugar levels," says the founder of Mumbai-based nutritional solutions company, Burgers to Beasts. The drink also reduces sweet cravings, and you will be less likely to snack during the day.

Choose hard liquor over cocktails

“Alcohol is just another source of calories in your diet, but empty calories that offer no nutrition," says Neha Sahaya, nutrition consultant and founder at Neha Sahaya Wellness in Mumbai. To optimize the drinking experience, she suggests staying away from cocktails, which usually have sugary mixers.

“The best way to drink smartly is to stick to hard liquor as they are much lower in calories," she adds. “A glass or two of wine is actually good—red wine helps reduce blood pressure, and has some amount of iron, potassium and antioxidants."

If drinking cocktails, play it smart

When asked to make low-calorie cocktails, Adamo Balsamo, mixologist at CinCin, Mumbai, skips juices, purees and sugar, uses fresh fruits and herbs, and “healthier" alcohol like gluten-free vodka. He has even managed to create a low-calorie liqueur with cocoa powder, coconut water and spices.

“Order a vodka-soda-lime, which has about 60-90 calories. Lime juice helps the drink become more alkaline and soda or water keeps you hydrated. Bloody Mary, with fresh tomato juice and celery, is a filling and low-calorie option," says Sahaya.

Salt is an underrated but versatile part of cocktails. “It amplifies flavours in your drinks, especially in terms of dialling down bitterness or accentuating the citrus notes," says Arijit Bose, mixologist and partner in the Bar-Back Collective, a Delhi-based drinks consultancy. Balsamo uses pink Himalayan salt in his cocktails for its nutritious properties.

Drink herbal teas for gut health

“Weight loss can happen quickly if your gut microbiome is in symbiosis. To help with this, sip on matcha, kombucha, tumeric lattes and spearmint teas," says Payal Kothari, integrative nutritionist and gut healing coach. Herbal teas feed the gut bacteria and help them multiply. The best time to drink this tea is in the morning, on an empty stomach, but remember to not consume anything for 45 minutes before or after to retain its healing properties.

Kothari makes her own herbal tea using warm water with mint, lemon, ginger, curcumin. Those who like dairy can use almond, coconut or rice milk.

Beat hangovers with coconut water

Alcohol consumes antioxidants and dehydrates the body, which is why people feel worse after a night of drinking. Enter nariyal paani. Often called nature’s energy drink, coconut water is high on electrolytes and nutrients and low on calories. “The best morning after hangover cure is always fresh, cold coconut water. The electrolytes in it help replenish the antioxidant levels fast and the high potassium content helps with hydration," says Bose.

Upgrade your water

Try infusing your water with fruit and herbs. “(Infused water) fills you up so you are not tempted to consume too much junk or processed food and it flushes out toxins from your system," says Mumbai-based Raveena Taurani, founder and CEO, Yogisattva. The infused water can be refrigerated but has to be consumed the same day.

Her recipe for a winter infusion contains strawberries, mint leaves and lemon wedges in a jug of cold water. The drink controls blood sugar, is antioxidant rich, prevents bloating and aids in preventing water retention.

Don’t want to eat your probiotics? Drink them

Welcome to the fizzy, healthy world of gut-friendly fermented drinks. There’s kombucha, water and dairy kefir, root beer, sodas, kanji, beet kvass, among others. It is healthy and easy to make at home (with some initial guidance).

“Fermented food and drinks are rich in probiotic bacteria, so consuming them adds beneficial bacteria and enzymes to our intestinal flora, improving gut health and our immune system," says Vinita Contractor, a plant-based nutrition coach who conducts fermented food workshops. She suggests starting with a few sips of fermented drinks and then increasing it to a glass a day—they can be consumed on an empty stomach or as an accompaniment with a meal or snack.

If you must have fruit juice, amp it up

Most people will tell you to stay away from fruit juices. “Once you’ve blitzed the fruit and removed all the pulp, you are left with just sugar," says Jalan. For those who insist on having them, she suggests adding fat like nuts, seeds or unsweetened nut milk. “The fat will keep you feeling fuller for longer," she says.

Tambe’s advice is to add vegetables, herbs and spices to balance the nutritional content and cut down the sugar. For example: orange juice with carrot and ginger makes for a high-fibre and more nutritious version of plain orange juice.

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