The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino was only available for a limited time, but most University of Saskatchewan students would recognize the pink, purple and blue sour-candy concoction, blended into the Starbucks trademark cup and topped with whipped cream.
News and magazine articles were quick to report how shockingly bad for your health the new drink was. Your blood sugar definitely would have spiked, as the drink contained 59 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce cup.
The Unicorn had 410 calories, 16 grams of fat — 10 of which were saturated — and only 15 per cent of the recommended daily intake of any vitamin, meaning it provided lots of calories with little nutritional value. However, if you think the Unicorn was bad, a Grande-sized Starbucks Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino Blended Coffee has 69 grams of sugar. Yes, the Unicorn actually had less sugar than an all-year-round Vanilla Frapp. It might even be better to drink a can of Coke instead, as it contains only 39 grams of sugar.
With sugary drinks everywhere in sight, overwhelmed students looking for healthy alternatives can turn to this handy Sheaf list.
Iced coffee: rather than succumbing to the Unicorn Frapp, an iced coffee can be a much better choice. If you monitor the added sugar used to sweeten it, an iced coffee can be refreshing and still fit into a healthy diet. It’s also easy to make, as all you have to do is brew extra-strong coffee, chill it in the fridge and add ice before serving it. You can throw in a little milk and syrup to add just a touch of sweetness. An iced coffee like this can be comparable, nutrition-wise, to a normal hot-brewed coffee.
Iced tea: another frequently sipped beverage — store-bought, sweetened, lemon iced tea from Nestea — is often advertised as a healthy option, as it’s made with tea leaves. However, the drink contains 160 calories and 43 grams of added sugar. In contrast, an unsweetened iced tea would have zero calories, although this can be too bitter for some.
Adding a little honey, chopped fruit and mint leaves to a large pitcher of hot water with three to four tea bags mellows the taste with a little sweetness but keeps it low on the sugar content. Steep it for four to six hours in the fridge before taking out the tea bags. If the tea is too bitter, brew it for less time in future.
Sports drinks: while sugar and caloric intake are important to consider when making healthy drink choices, hydration is most important. Although water is the best choice, in some cases it may not hydrate as efficiently as other options. A mixture of water and electrolytes — including salt, magnesium and potassium — with some carbohydrates can replenish what is lost through sweat.
Common choices are Gatorade, Powerade and other sports drinks. However, one bottle of Gatorade can be more than enough sugar than what is necessary for fuel, as it contains 21 grams of sugar in a serving. Coconut water, however, is a natural source of electrolytes and carbohydrates, making it a great drink to sip during activities in the sun. It has less salt than other known sports drinks, so some people may want to add a little extra salt to make it comparable to Gatorade.
Smoothies: another great drink for when it’s warm out is a smoothie. They can be enjoyable to have as a meal or snack, but smoothies from popular chains such as Orange Julius and Booster Juice contain added sugar, little vitamin content and minimal fibre. The sugar content in these smoothies is no different than frappuccinos, and the lack of fibre and protein leaves these drinks unsatisfying and hikes up the blood sugar, which is followed by a crash.
Alternatively, making your own smoothie with no added sugar, blended fruit and mixed vegetables will cut down on the unnecessary sugar, creating a drink to keep you satisfied. Add milk, plain yogurt or protein powder and some flax seeds or nuts, and it’s close to a wholesome breakfast.
No matter what your drink choices this summer, just remember that having a cool drink in the sun does not have to come at the cost of a balanced diet.
Don’t like coconut water? Here’s a sports drink recipe that you can make by the batch full. Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com
8 cups of cold water (divided)
3 tablespoons of honey
½ teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of calcium-magnesium powder (optional)
¾ cup of orange juice
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 limes
Bring 1 cup of water and the honey, salt and magnesium to a boil. Set aside to cool once mixture has dissolved. Add the juices and remaining water. Stir and chill.