A simple trip to the store to purchase bottled water can leave you feeling more confused than ever. With the myriad choices out there, how do you pick one that provides you with hydration, minus the hype? Water companies make fancy claims, but think about it. These companies are competing for your attention in a market where there is really no need for additives. Devise a game plan for water that makes waves!
1. Choose water without artificial sweeteners or added sugars.
Terms like Aspartame (brand name Nutrasweet) and Sucralose (brand name Splenda) are artificial and have no place lurking in your water! Add natural sweeteners like lemon, lime, a slice of orange, or even cucumber to your beverage for refreshment. Or choose a bottled water  like Metromint that uses mint essence and natural flavorings. Create a splash of flavor by freezing blueberries and raspberries in ice cube trays. Add the frozen berries to sparkling water and serve in fancy glasses for a special occasion!
Did you know? You may think that diet drinks help you lose weight. No such luck. Get this: A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that, overall, for each diet drink consumed per day, the prevalence of becoming overweight or obese rose by a whopping 37 percent! The thought is that artificial sweeteners heighten cravings for sugary items.
2. Become ingredient savvy.
Just as an embellished “beverage” at your local coffee joint can set you back more calories than a hamburger, flavored waters can have calorie and sugar levels that rival soda. Check the ingredients and look for the term “water” without a list of lots of other ingredients.
3. Beverages aren’t real food.
With the exception of soups and smoothies, beverages do not provide us with a feeling of fullness or satiety, the way a meal does. For example, an ounce of almonds contains 160 calories, 3 gm fiber, and 6 gm protein, and can help tide us over between meals. But sip a 160-calorie sugar-infused water and you’re likely to be just as hungry as you were before, if not more. The sugar causes your body to secrete insulin and you may find yourself on a high/low blood sugar rollercoaster, ready to raid the vending machine.
4. Steer clear of terms that belong in your science textbook.
In other words, many waters use coloring, flavors, and preservatives that are anything but natural. If you can’t decipher the terminology on the bottle, cruise on to clearer waters. It may surprise you, but preservatives such as sodium benzoate (known to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing) are still used in beverages you find on the grocery store shelf. Scary, huh?
5. Bottled isn’t always better.
Interestingly, bottled water is not necessarily any healthier than tap water, despite what water companies would have you believe. The show 20/20 took five bottles of bottled water plus a sample of tap water and sent them to a microbiologist to test for bacteria. Surprisingly, there was no difference between the tap water and the bottled waters. To help the environment, you might also think about investing in a permanent water bottle such as Nalgene. This way, you can refill your bottle at home or work with tap water or with filtered water, such as Brita. You will save plastic (both the bottle AND credit card plastic … bottled water is hundreds of times pricier than tap)!
6. Sail past the waters with hyped up health claims.
Because it is difficult for one water company to distinguish itself from another, companies use clever packaging and fancy words to compete for consumers’  attention. They convince you that you will feel younger, more invigorated, soothed, energized, beautiful, etc. if you drink their water. Now, let’s be realistic, here. If there exists a fountain of youth, it is simply this: eat well, get adequate rest and exercise, and take care of your spirit.
Sometimes less is more, and with water, this is the case, plain and simple.
Written by Brooke Benlifer, RD, for SheerBalance