By Contributor Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD

With record temperatures spreading across the U.S. this summer its vital you stay hydrated. And though most hydration recommendations are based on water, you can choose just about any beverage (well, except alcohol) to meet your fluid needs. Even caffeinated beverages count toward your fluid intake though I’d stay away from some of the energy drinks that contain a day's (or more) worth of caffeine in one container.

Why is hydration so important? It keeps your core body temperature down and your blood volume up (low blood volume can increase risk of fainting in those with low blood pressure). Dehydration can also affect concentration, alertness and short-term memory. And though our body should let us know when we are thirsty, our thirst mechanism sometimes lags behind our fluid needs. This is especially true for the elderly and young children. Both age groups have a greater risk for dehydration and heat illness. So, if you have someone young or older in your life, be sure to encourage fluid consumption! If you need a little pizzazz in your daily drinks and your party drinks, check out my favorite summer-time beverages:


Iced Tea
I’ve been drinking hot tea for as long as I can remember. And though I drink tea year-round, I switch to iced tea when the temperature starts hitting the 90s. And, its no wonder June is National Iced Tea month! This refreshing beverage is calorie-free, full of antioxidant flavonoids and is budget friendly and so easy to make at home.

For small quantities, bring fresh cold tap water to a full, rolling boil. Use 50% more tea than if you were preparing hot tea (because ice dilutes it). Pour the boiling water over the tea. Brew three to five minutes. If you prefer your tea less strong, add more water after brewing. Pour over ice.

To brew large quantities of tea, bring one quart of cold water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add heat and add 8-10 tea bags per quart of brewed tea desired. Steep three to five minutes and add ice cubes. To serve, pour into tall glasses filled with ice, garnish and sweeten as desired.

Ginger and Juice
This is another all time favorite that we drank growing up is ginger ale and juice. Pour a cup of ginger ale (or sugar free ginger ale), add a splash of your favorite juice (I prefer orange juice) and slice of orange for decoration. You can even freeze concentrated orange juice (or any other juice) in ice trays and add these flavored ice cubes to your beverage as well.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake Light
This is a great post-workout smoothie! Simply mix skim milk with 1 scoop of your favorite chocolate protein powder, 1 – 2 Tbsp peanut butter and ice and blend. If you want a thicker shake, add sugar-free (or regular) pudding mix in (I like vanilla) to the blender and refrigerate for about 5 minutes. You’ll end up with a thick, filling, delicious and healthy shake!

Editor's Note: For more recipes and ideas for staying hydrated, see Drink Your Way To Health and Are You Getting Enough Water?