01 September 2012

Alternatives to Soda and Juice

Apparently, drinking sweet beverages ruins your teeth, makes you obese, and gifts you with diabetes. With any scientific discovery that a certain foodstuff or drinkstuff hastens death, you have to decide, "Am I content to live 10 years less, as long as I fill those 60 to 70 years with delicious glasses of iced guava and pineapple juices?" The jury is still out on that one, for me.

People are wracking their brains trying to find healthy alternatives to sweet beverages, especially to serve at school lunches. Well, I have compiled a list of delicious un-sweet drinks for you, a list that does NOT include milk, since a lot of people suffer from milk allergies or lactose intolerance. Also, I have heard rumblings that milk may not be as good for you as the dairy industry promises it is. Who woulda thunk it? I used to drink that stuff by the gallon.

The recipe for almost every beverage on this list requires you to steep some of the ingredient in a pitcher of filtered—i.e., tasty—water, possibly overnight in the refrigerator or over-day by a sunny window.

Lime Water
Every beer ad I see these days is for "XYZ with lime." Lime is in. But those tiny limey wedges may not do the trick. I've discovered that one of those jumbo limes will produced enough juice for four tall refreshing glasses of cold lime water. Squeeze some of half a lime into the bottom of a glass. Fill the glass with cold filtered water. Serve immediately, or chill and serve in a hipster glass so as to feel with it. Pucker-licious.

Cucumber Water
You can pay more than $100 to go to a fancy pants spa that will serve you this drink in the waiting room…or you can make it at home by picking a cuke from your dinky backyard garden. Peel the cucumber, slice it lengthwise, use the tip of a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds, and then slice thickly. Add cold water, refrigerate for 1 hour and you have cucumber water.

Barley Tea
Translate from the Japanese, "mugi cha." Every casual restaurant in Japan (and Korea too, I hear) serves iced barley tea as a complimentary service in the summer. Because barley is a type of grain, barley tea has a soothing effect on the stomach, and the mild flavor doesn't interfere with any kind of food you might eat. You can buy bags of Barley Tea at an East Asian grocer, or you can buy a bunch of whole barley. With tea bags, you steep a few in cold water in the refrigerator overnight and voìla, barley tea. With the whole barley, it's better to boil and simmer the barley in water, then strain. I love both hot and cold barley tea. Plus, barley tea is probably the cheapest kind of tea in the world.

Sun Tea
Somehow iced sun tea always tastes a little better than the boiled version. Buy some loose leaf tea (green, brown rice green tea, black tea, hojicha, kukicha, rooibos, pu-erh, white tea, or oolong). Pack it into a tea ball or fold it into 2 ocha packs, sold as pretty much any tea shop I've ever patronized. Put the packed tea into a tall glass pitcher with a lid. Fill with purified water and close the lid. Leave the glass pitcher outside or in a sunny window for several hours until the tea has taken on a deep hue. Then refrigerate the tea and serve it cold over ice with optional lemon or orange slices.

Seltzer or Club Soda
Let's say you just can't resist that delicious 100% juice despite health concerns. You can simultaneously dilute it and fancy it up by filling a glass 1/3 with juice and 2/3 with seltzer or club soda. You can squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice in. Or you can just enjoy seltzer plain, or over ice. It feels nice in the mouth and might settle your stomach or aid in a belching contest.

Ginger Tea or Green Ginger Tea
This tea will invigorate you. I learned how to make this from a Korean friend. You wash a fresh piece of ginger, slice it into a few thin segments, then pour boiling water over it and steep a few minutes. Ginger goes really well with banana bread or muffins. If plain ginger tea tastes a bit harsh for you, you can steep only one or two pieces of ginger with two bags of green tea. Just make sure not to steep the green tea until it's bitter.

Got any favorite unsweet beverages of your own? I'd love to hear about it.

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