Surprising Information about Typical Summer Beverages

Summer time drinks

(  When it comes to a hot summers’ day, nothing hits the spot quite like an icey cold beverage.  With choices ranging from sodas and juices, to beers and cocktails, there are many ways for you to satisfy your summer cravings. But at the same time, are there certain drinks that are better for your health than others?

Generally, with any drink other than water (or any calorie-containing beverage), it is helpful to moderate your intake because drinks are often referred to as liquid calories. The human body does not process liquid calories like it would calories from solid food.  Liquid calories do not keep us satiated and satisfied for as long as solid foods - you are likely to find yourself foraging for food a lot sooner after a drink of juice as compared to eating the whole fruit.

As well, it is easy to over consume calories from drinks. For example, how long does it take you to eat 1 whole apple, compared to how long it takes you to drink ½ cup of apple juice? And how often do you stop at only ½ cup of juice? Most people fill a glass containing several servings (depending on the size of the glass), and then drink it all. This makes overdoing liquid calories quite easy.

Take a look at the nutritional information for some popular summer time beverages. Do any of the numbers surprise you?

Drink Serving Size




12 151 10

Iced Tea


(range of 80 - 135)

(range of 5 - 9)


12 179
(range of 169 - 216)
(range of 10 - 15)

(assorted varieties)

12 146 10

Iced Coffee

12 145
(range of 7 - 145)
(range of 0 - 10)

(ex: Mojito, Margartis, Pina Colada, Martini, Cosmopolitan)

5 208
(range of 121 - 411)
(range of 0 - 6)

(assorted varieties)

5 112 1


12 141 1

So what exactly accounts for all the variations within the drinks?

Slushie, iced tea, soda and lemonade:

  • For the same serving size, drinks within the slushie, iced tea, soda and lemonade categories all have similar calorie, sugar and carbohydrate content because they are all basically different combinations of water, sugar and different artificial flavorings.

Iced coffee:

  • Drinks such as iced coffee vary greatly in the way they are prepared (with or without sugar, milk or cream, amount of ice added to the cup), so while some drinks can be quite a calorie bargain, others are similar to drinking 2 or more cans of soda.

Cocktails, Wine, Beer:

  • Cocktails are even more varied because not only can their composition differ, but also serving size. When making cocktails, you can use different alcohols, juices, mixes or flavorings which results in endless variations in nutritional content. As well, serving sizes are often determined by the drinks’ alcohol content. However, many people end up consuming more than the serving size.  
  • The difference between red and white wine lies largely in taste preference, as they both have very similar nutritional profiles. Red wine has recently seen more attention as a health promoting drink, but it is still best to moderate intake. 
  • Similarly, different types of regular beer also have similar nutritional profiles, as they are also different variations of a base recipe. However, some brands of beer contain 0 grams of sugar, while some can contain up to 10 grams of sugar. Most beer makers now also have light options. These tend to have lower sugar and alcohol content, and therefore fewer calories. Light beers are great for enjoying a drink while keeping your liquid calories in check, but don’t forget that these calories still count towards your daily intake.

One drink versus many:

  • While the difference in calories and sugar are small if you’re only having one drink, this difference adds up the more drinks you consume.   Many drinks today come in bottles that contain more than one serving of the drink, so you may actually consuming more than you thought.

Be aware of your calorie-containing beverage intake.  Give these suggestions a try:

  1. Drink more water! If you do not like the taste of plain water, try adding fresh berries,  slices of cucumber and fresh herbs (mint, basil) to make your own flavored water.  At a friend’s house the other day, she brought out a can of seltzer and added in a few pieces of frozen blueberries, mangos and raspberries, making for an attractive looking summer time cocktail.  
  2. Consider a drink that is light or reduced in sugar.  These drinks are lower in calories than their regular counterparts, often by replacing sugar with non-caloric sweeteners
  3. Remember the 80-20 guideline.  Depending on the drink, think about how the drinks fit into your overall diet, and your health goals.  The above drinks tend to fit in to the 20% of the more indulgent foods in our diet.  How do calorie-containing beverages rank in your choice of bliss foods?  If these drinks are your bliss food of choice, enjoy!  Consider alternating these calorie-containing beverages with non-calorie containing ones.

Drinks can make meaningful and important contributions to your health (ex: milk and milk alternatives).  Just remember to consider how they fit into your overall intake, and that they (likely) contribute to your meal or snack.  

Enjoy your summer! Drink mindfully, and with awareness – but above all – enjoy! 

Here are 3 non-alcoholic DIY cocktails for you to try this weekend.

Written by Calgary Dietitian Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director, HealthCastle Calgary, and Rebecca Lai, 3rd year nutrition student at the University of Alberta.

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.