Fabulous, Low-Fat Frozen Drinks

Chill out with these lower-cal concoctions

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

When it's hot outside, sometimes nothing hits the spot like an icy-cold frozen drink.

But as delicious and satisfying as these beverages can be, smoothies, iced coffee beverages, and other frozen sippers can also be full of calories.

The best and healthiest way to quench your thirst is always with refreshing, zero-calorie water. But there's nothing wrong with having a smoothie or other yummy frozen drink to perk up your lazy afternoon or energize your morning -- as long as you know how to choose one that won't wreck your diet.

Homemade Thirst-Quenchers

When you make a smoothie yourself, there's no question about the ingredients. Toss together any combination of fruits, ice, 100% fruit juice, and a little fresh or frozen yogurt for a delicious and nutritious frozen drink (when journaling, simply count each component used to make your single-serve smoothie.)

For example, you can make a great breakfast or pre-workout drink with one serving of fresh fruit, 4 ounces of fruit juice, and 4 ounces of low-fat yogurt. My favorite quick and easy summer smoothie combines a banana, orange juice, and vanilla yogurt. Adding yogurt contributes protein that makes the smoothie more satisfying; it can double as a quick, refreshing meal.

Coffee-lovers can get the taste of the fancy cold drinks found at coffee shops for a fraction of the calories and cost. Make double-strength coffee and let it come to room temperature. Pour the coffee over a tall glass of ice, add 1/2 cup skim or low-fat milk plus artificial sweetener or a teaspoon of sugar, if desired, then top with a tablespoon of light whipped topping and a dusting of cocoa. The only ingredient you need to journal is the milk (and sugar, if you use it).

Cruising the Dairy Aisle

When there's no time for a homemade concoction, you can find all sorts of individually packaged, convenient drinkable yogurts in your grocery store. In the past year, the yogurt drink market has expanded dramatically.

Most of these products cost $1-$2, and have from 60-260 calories per container. Many provide a healthy dose of protein and calcium, and are virtually fat-free. Artificially sweetened yogurt drinks, with fewer sugar calories and total calories, are marketed as "light."

At the Smoothie Stand

We flock in numbers to smoothie/juice stands such as Planet Smoothie, Smoothie King, and Jamba Juice to enjoy concoctions with catchy names like Caribbean Passion or Mango A Go Go. Some of these refreshing drinks are low in calories and high in nutrients -- but others serve up as many as 600 calories per serving.


"Try a sangria or wine spritzer; both are refreshing, yet lower in calories and alcohol."


To make a healthy choice, choose a drink with fresh fruit, fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, milk, or tofu. Stay clear of high-calorie ingredients such as turbinado (a fancy name for sugar), protein powder, peanut butter, ice cream, and whole milk. And to bring the portion into the normal range, split the 12- or 16-ounce drink with a friend. Journal a half portion of a healthy-choice smoothie as 8-ounce meal replacement drink, and enjoy!

At a Coffeehouse

We can't seem to get enough coffee and tea served up specialty-style at gathering spots such as Starbucks and Caribou. The good news is you can have it your way: Order your beverage with skim or soy milk, and without whipped cream or special flavorings. Also, be sure to have a small portion, pass on the added flavoring syrups and whipped cream, and use low-fat milk and artificial sweeteners, if any.

An 8-ounce, skim-milk Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee without whipped cream from Starbucks ranges from 100 to 220 calories, depending on added flavorings. The best bets at Starbuck's are Espresso or Coffee Frappuccino Light (count as an 8-ounce specialty coffee with nonfat milk and no whipped cream).

If you prefer another drink, be sure to ask for a brochure with nutritional information so you can make a wise choice. Even if you order them "skinny" and leave off the whipped cream, some drinks still pack quite a caloric punch -- witness the whopping 550 calories in a 16-ounce Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino.

Frozen Concoctions With a Kick

Frozen alcoholic drinks can be a tasty treat, but they also tend to be loaded with calories. Most alcoholic drinks contain 200-400 calories per serving, thanks to both the alcohol and the mixers. And because frozen drinks go down easily, they can go right to your head in the summer heat.

So first satisfy your thirst with a big glass of water, then slowly sip on your frozen treat (make sure to keep your portion small). Looking for a refreshing drink with fewer calories? Ask for the frozen concoction without the alcohol. Or try a sangria or wine spritzer; both are refreshing, yet lower in calories and alcohol. Journal most 4-ounce frozen alcoholic drinks as sweetened mixed drinks.

No-Calorie Iced Drinks

Drinks don't have to be frozen to be icy and refreshing. Make sun tea by infusing an interesting green, black, or herbal tea in a covered water jug left out on the porch for a few hours. Add ice and a sprig of fresh mint, and enjoy your sun-splashed, calorie-free tea to cool down hot summer days and nights.

The effervescence of sparkling water makes it a great thirst-quencher. Try the calorie-free flavored versions over ice, or spike unflavored types with cucumber, citrus, or fresh herbs like mint or rosemary.

It's vital to get enough fluids, especially during the heat of summer. Satisfy your thirst with no-calorie choices, and enjoy the tasty delight of a frozen drink for a quick meal or treat. Frozen and coffee drinks can fit into a healthy eating plan -- as long as you keep them light.

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