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You Asked: Do Drinks Like Coffee, Tea or Diet Soda Count toward My Daily Water Quota?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few decades ago, Americans consumed less than 10% of their daily calories in the form of drinks, but today we get 21% of our calories from beverages. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that's 420 calories a day in the form of drinks!
When you're trying to lose weight, you have fewer calories in your "budget" each day, which means you need to make all of them count. Those "empty" calories from sugary beverages are an easy place to cut back.
That said, one of the most common questions new SparkPeople members have is "Do drinks like coffee, tea or diet soda count toward my daily water quota?"
SparkPeople recommends eight to twelve cups of water daily, but for some people, drinking that much water can be difficult. Fruit juices, milk, teas and decaf coffee also count, as do flavored (unsweetened) waters, carbonated water, and water with fruit or herbs. So, yes, you can drink beverages other than water to meet your hydration needs, but there are a few things to consider before you start sipping.
Caffeinated beverages can actually increase your need for more water and dehydrate the body (caffeine is a diuretic) so a lot of caffeinated coffee or soda will not quench your thirst.
Artificially sweetened drinks, including diet sodas, can also count toward your quota. However, we recommend no more than four servings (32 ounces) of artificially sweetened beverages daily.
If you struggle to control your sweet tooth, you might want to avoid diet drinks. Preliminary studies suggest that high intakes of artificial sweeteners might affect appetite control (i.e. by eating more sweet foods—artificially sweetened or not—you crave more of them). Individuals who want to use artificial sweeteners should do so within the context of a sensible weight-management program that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.
My personal opinion, particularly for people trying to lose weight, is to drink plain water whenever possible. I feel it helps to cleanse the body when weight loss and fat breakdown is occurring. I also know that it helps to keep the hands and mouth busy, to reduce the urge to snack. This is a form of behavior modification that can help break old habits (such as mindless eating) and replace them with ones (drinking water when boredom hits). Most people report feeling better when they consume at least a few glasses of plain old H2O each day. If you're going to consume caffeinated beverages or diet drinks, consume as much or more water to balance them out.
Other caloric beverages, such as juice, sports drinks, and milk, can be part of a healthy diet. SparkPeople uses the guidelines set by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which were developed by the Beverage Guidance Panel in 2006. The experts on that panel stressed that a healthy diet should NOT rely on fluids to provide calorie or nutrient needs, and that water is necessary for metabolism and normal physiological function. In fact, water is the only fluid that the body truly needs.

Healthy Beverage Guidelines for Adults
  • Consume 12 cups (96 ounces) of fluids per day.
  • For an adult on the standard 2,200-calorie diet, no more than 200-300 calories should come from fluids.
  • Adults consuming fewer than 2,200 calories should limit calorie-containing beverages even more—to less than 200 calories daily.
Use the following guidelines to evaluate your own beverage intake.
Beverage Nutritional Benefits/Warnings Recommended Daily Consumption Calories per Serving
Water When eating a healthy diet, water can meet all of your fluid needs. This is the ideal choice and what SparkPeople also encourages! 2-6 servings
(16-48 ounces) SparkPeople recommends 8 cups of water daily * NOTE: Consume additional water if you limit other beverages.
Unsweetened Coffee and Unsweetened Teas Coffee has some limited health benefits, while tea provides a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants. Both contain caffeine, which should be limited to less than 400 milligrams daily (or less than 300 mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women). Up to 6 servings
(48 ounces)
Low-Fat (1%) or Skim (fat-free) Milk and Unsweetened/Fortified Non-Dairy Milks

Milk is an important source of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Through fortification, it is also a good source of vitamin D. Fortified non-dairy milks are good alternatives with many of the same benefits. <2 servings
(0-16 ounces)
Non-Caloric, Artificially-Sweetened Beverages (Diet Soda, Diet Drinks, and Artificially-Sweetened Drinks, Teas and Coffees)

Although the Food & Drug Administration has approved non-caloric sweeteners as safe, some studies suggest that diet drinks condition adults to have a higher preference for sweets. These teas and coffees also contain caffeine. (See above for guidelines.) <4 servings
(<32 ounces)
Caloric Beverages with Some Nutritional Benefits Nutritional Benefits/Warnings Recommended Daily Consumption Calories per Serving
100% Fruit & Vegetable Juices and Smoothies These provide nutrients in their natural state but lack fiber and some of the nutrients that are found in whole fruits and vegetables, which should be eaten for satiety and caloric balance. <1 serving
(8 ounces)
Sports Drinks These are designed to replace electrolyte (sodium, chloride, and potassium) levels that are diminished during endurance events For the Average Person: Drink rarely
For Endurance Athletic Events (strenuous activity that lasts over 90 minutes): Up to 2 servings (16 ounces)
Whole Milk and 2% Milk These drinks contain a significant amount of calories, fat, and saturated fat, so they are not recommended. Not recommended 120-160
Sweetened or Flavored Low-Fat Milk Such beverages contain the same nutrients as low-fat dairy products (Level 3) but have more calories due to the added sweeteners. Very rarely 150-160
Alcoholic Beverages When consumed in moderation, alcohol has some health benefits for adults, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and gallstones. Moderate intake of alcoholic beverages has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, while excessive alcohol consumption causes serious health and social problems. Pregnant women should NOT drink alcoholic beverages due to the increased risk of birth defects. for Women: 0-1 serving
for Men: 0-2 servings
One serving is: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits
Caloric, Sweetened Beverages without Nutritional Benefits (Soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit punch, fruit cocktail, fruit aid, and caloric/sweetened teas and coffees) none 0-1 serving (8 ounces)

Learn more about how much water you need:
Water is a Secret Ingredient
12 Tips to Drink 8 Cups a Day
Healthy Beverage Guidelines

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Caffeine does not dehydrate you that much at all, don't worry so much about it. I drink ice coffee, plain and black, but ice delutes it, doesn't even add up to two cups of coffee a day, keep adding ice to it. You can do tea the same way. All your liquids count, see your dietitian, don't force all that water down your throats and mess your kidneys up, Report
Great article. Report
Decaf tea is the way to go! Report
Great article. It gave me something to think about. Report
No more skim milk, folks. Full fat milk is the healthiest. Log the calories, of course. Report
i still need to drink a little more. i'm getting 10 cups, but my body needs more. Report
I drink way to much...seems nonstop. Satisfying for the moment but get over full. Need to quit always having drinks beside me Report
thanks article was helpful. I am huge coffee drinker but have really tried to switch off to just watet. Report
This article was very helpful. Report
Thanks for clearing up the Mia's that you can't Count coffee as water, I've had people say don't count anything but water, I drink my coffee every morning but first I drink a bottle of water. I've always heard that there is good benefits to drinking coffee so that we got that cleared up. Thanks for sharing.. Report
Thank you for this article. Report
I use a water app on my phone. Water is water, and I count a cup of tea (no sugar added), and coffee. Although I drink a full cup of coffee or tea, I do count them as one ounce each. Report
The dehydrating effect of coffee is a scientifically busted myth. That said, I love water and have no problem drinking my 8 cups. I've always been surprised that something that tastes so good can really be healthy. Report
They never seem to cover what I drink the most. Green a Herb teas with Stevia. I know Green tea has some caffeine in it, but it seems a lot better to drink than most drinks. I drink a class or 2 of water, but mostly green and herb teas. Report
It is SO hard for me to ONLY drink water. When I drink a lot it just makes me feel water logged, lol. I try though... Report
Drinking water used to be hard for me also. Someone suggested using a straw since the water would skip most of the tongue. That definitely helped. I don't have a problem with water any more. Infused water also helps with flavor. Report
My Dr actually told me to drink whole milk/2% as opposed to skimmed milk, so I'm not sure with SP doesn't recommend it. Report
I really do not like water=even with a slice of lemon... no taste. I drink the water additives in a small squirt bottle. Adds flavor and 0 cal.
i wa chetingmyselfoutoftwter amts as iuseteacofee soda adnothre juices adn teh botted crbery jiceforth cmpayhtdoehoeannohve4flavorddriksal
soivedrnkillstrttomorrowtogtmywtr itkeupbn sogladswthisnow.i drikliuidswithysnkcks melsall nalsoalone alot especilyihotwthr soimglsdotseethisher Report
I drink a lot of plain water - 1 cup with fiber twice a day, another cup with apple cider vinegar about 3 times a day another couple of cups with supplements. I also make a thermos of plain black tea, which I drink during my work (at home) day. I also make a 2 qt. pitcher in the morning with the juice of 2-4 limes, depending on their size, and 3 green tea bags. My goal is to finish all this liquid by about 7 pm. It totals to 4-5 quarts a day, about 18 oz. more when I work out. Report
I only count water (flavored, and carbonated included), and homemade tea (so I know it's mostly water) in my water counts. I feel like adding soda, or my morning coffee is cheating, lol. Well, unless I drank my coffee black, then I'd count that, but I can't stand black coffee so nope.

I think even if you could get all your water from the listed sources, you should still add some regular water in between, just because it's good for you. Report
I have to disagree with diet-sodas and other drinks of that nature counting as your "water" intake. I think if you are going to insist on a flavored beverage other than naturally flavored water or tea, you should make sure you are still consuming the recommended amount of water daily and the coke or whatever you choose be as a treat. Report
I don't like to drink water...I only enjoy it after a good workout. My parents banned it from our house growing up, so I went crazy once I had a job and had my own money. I was drinking a liter bottle each day. I tried to force myself to drink water-only but I was dehydrating myself so my doctor told me to go back to what I was doing before. Now, I limit myself to one caffeine-free diet Zero a day and still try to drink a full water bottle each day!

PS. I think Caffeine is just as addicting and damaging as any other drug. I wish I knew then what I know now. Report
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