The 9 Best Healthy Beverages in 2022: Eat This, Not That! Food Awards
Unpopular opinion: The beverage aisle is one of the most exciting spots in the entire grocery store. The colors, the flavors, the endless possibilities that can be added as a delicious accoutrement to your favorite meals… mmmm, we're thirsty just thinking about it.
And yet, ask any dietitian or doctor out there and they'll warn you that the drinks aisle is pretty much off-limits if you want to healthy. Water, that magical elixir, is pretty much all you need. Tea and coffee are great too, but not too much. And whatever you do, avoid sugar-filled soda at all costs.
Still, year after year, new beverages hit the shelves and tout themselves as the hottest new thing in the drinks category. Well, allow us to be the judge of that. We gathered all of the splashy new bottled products that launched nationwide between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 to decide which were worthy of our 2022 Eat This, Not That! Food Awards badge of approval.
In the end, 9 products stood out from the rest with their impressive nutrition and great taste. Eat This, Not That! Medical Expert Board member and registered dietitian, Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN, helped rate the products and choose the winners, then we taste-tested each one. Read on for our honest reviews—and to see where you can buy the winners!
The Best Healthy Beverages in 2022:
- Best healthy energy drink: Bai Boost
- Best healthy coffee: STEEPED Coffee
- Best healthy probiotic drink: Lifeway Organic Grassfed Kefir, Plain
- Best healthy electrolyte drink: Harmless Harvest Watermelon Flavored Coconut Water
- Best healthy functional drink: Lifeway Functional Shots, Mixed Berry
- Best healthy alcohol: Ranch Rider Spirits, Ranch Water
- Best healthy tea drink: Minna Peach Yuzu Green Tea
- Best healthy soda: OLIPOP Grape Soda
- Best healthy protein shake: REBBL Immunity Line, Vanilla Plant Protein Immunity Elixir
How They Ranked By Taste:
Watch our taste test video and check out how each winner ranked below.
Best healthy energy drink: Bai Boost
Kenyan watermelon and strawberry flavor come together in this caffeinated-from-tea-extract drink meant to add a plant-based pep in your step (to the tune of 110 mg of caffeine, which is equal to a full cup of coffee). With 13.5mg of vitamin C and 120 grams of potassium, you're getting a healthy dose of immunity-boosting power as well—which is not something other popular energy drinks can brag about.
The expert's take: "Bai is my pick in this category because taste-wise, this drink is up there, and I don't typically like drinks made with sugar alcohols and stevia. The fruit and vegetable juices look like they're providing color and taste instead of dyes," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "From the packaging alone, I thought this was going to be a super-sweet sip, but it actually has a really pleasing and not overpowering fruity taste. You definitely get more watermelon than strawberry, but that's a-okay with me. And I love the fact their natural fruit juices with only 1 gram of sugar," says Eat This, Not That! Editor-in-chief Faye Brennan.
Best healthy coffee: STEEPED Coffee
Fact: Freshly ground coffee will always taste better than anything that comes from a can. Steeped Coffee capitalizes on this concept by taking the fresh grounds of Columbian coffee beans and nitro-sealing them (by sucking out all of the oxygen) into single-serve bags that you can steep right in your coffee cup. The very cool part? These little bags are totally compostable and made with renewable materials, so they're much better for the environment than your typical coffee pods.
The expert's take: "This is just straight-up coffee using more sustainable packaging, so without all of the fancy additives and sweeteners, this brand is my pick. I always prefer adding my own milk or extras to coffee to avoid excess sugar," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "I'm no coffee connoisseur, but having a cup in the morning is arguably the best part of my day. So, it's important to me that the coffee I'm drinking tastes good. I couldn't necessarily discern the chocolate, toasted coconut, or fudge flavors that the California Blend Medium Roast says it's supposed to have, but it did taste smooth and wasn't bitter. It was also fun to switch things up and steep my coffee for once!" says Brennan.
Best healthy probiotic drink: Lifeway Organic Grassfed Kefir, Plain
This rich and creamy drink is made with certified organic full-fat milk and is full of probiotics and prebiotics. For those who have a gluten or lactose intolerance, it's an awesome provider of calcium (390 mg) and vitamin D (3.8 mcg). You can pour this into your morning smoothie or healthy cereal, or drink it on its own for a dose of 12 gut-friendly live and active probiotic cultures.
The expert's take: "Once again, Lifeway's probiotic kefir gets my vote. There is no added sugar in this drink compared to the others," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "It's very tart and tangy, and arguably better than many other kefirs I've tried. Still, I'm not a big kefir-fan taste and texture-wise. But, if you are, you should try this one," says Brennan.
Best healthy electrolyte drink: Harmless Harvest Watermelon Flavored Coconut Water
After having a smash hit on their hands with their Organic Coconut Water, Harmless Harvest upped the ante by adding a delicious watermelon flavor to their single-ingredient recipe. Yep, this is just the water from certified organic coconuts grown in Thailand plus organic watermelon juice. Each bottle has 686 mg of potassium.
The expert's take: "Any beverage that only uses coconut water and pure fruit juice is the clear winner. This brand has absolutely no artificial colors, sweeteners, or additives," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "Sometimes coconut water can be a little too strong for me, but this flavor is the perfect balance of tropical, pure coconut flavors with grassy, sweet watermelon that makes this bottle refreshingly addictive," says Tarantino.
Best healthy functional drink: Lifeway Functional Shots, Mixed Berry
Get your shot of nutrients and go with these travel-friendly bottles of kefir. Available in strawberry, strawberry banana, and mixed berry, this Lifeway drink packs 12 live and active probiotic cultures in its unassuming little size, which help support your immune system and boost the health of your microbiome.
The expert's take: "These taste really good and although they contain sugar, I prefer a little real sugar in my foods and beverages as opposed to artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners which are not helping us as a whole health-wise. The probiotics from the kefir are great for your digestive health and I would feel comfortable giving these to my kids too whereas the other options have questionable ingredients and sweeteners," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "Okay, maybe I'm coming around on kefir, or maybe it's the strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors in this, but swigging this like a shot tasted great. Even better: This was a better decision for my body than many other shots I've had," says Brennan.
Best healthy alcohol: Ranch Rider Spirits, Ranch Water
Canned cocktails were all the rage in 2020 and 2021 given that they were super conducive to the pandemic lifestyle of expending the least amount of effort from the comfort of your own couch. Enter Ranch Rider Spirits Co., a hard seltzer brand founded in Texas that boasts: "Premium spirits. Real Citrus. Sparkling Water. Nothing Else." Their Ranch Water contains reposado tequila, sparkling water, and real lime juice, and has 5.99% ABV. It's also gluten-free and low-carb, but the low sugar content makes this the real canned cocktail winner.
What the experts have to say: "This drink has no added sugar and is basically a drink I would mix for myself or recommend to a client with just tequila, club, and lime. Plus no added sugar and other additives will most likely help to avoid a dreaded hangover like most wines will give you," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "Natural flavors' in hard seltzers are my nemesis. There's nothing natural-tasting about them, and oftentimes they make it hard to enjoy what is a light, low-calorie alcohol beverage. If you're like me, you will love this can from Ranch Rider Spirits. The Texas-based distillery only uses real lime juice for flavor (yes, that's it), so it tastes like you're drinking something a bartender just whipped up. Just a warning: you may have trouble going back to those naturally flavored cans after a sip of this," says Tarantino.
Best healthy tea drink: Minna Peach Yuzu Green Tea
Fair Trade organic green tea is brightened up with the flavors of sweet organic peach and tart organic yuzu. In one word? Yum. There are 40 mg of natural caffeine for that green tea jolt you're familiar with (equal to a half cup of coffee), but the refreshing twist lies in the sparkling texture… and that string of zeroes in the nutritional info. This can is gluten-, keto-, and whole-30-friendly, too.
What the experts have to say: "No added sugar in this tea but with a hint of peach for a slight sweetness makes this a winner," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "Sweet peach, tart yuzu, and grassy green tea is the flavor trio we didn't know we needed until now. Although the flavors are subtle, this sparkling tea is still complex and leaves you craving another can!" says Tarantino.
Best healthy soda: OLIPOP Grape Soda
If you just can't quit soda, at least try switching to a healthier alternative. You've seen Olipop all over the place, but it's exploded in popularity for good reason. This soda disruptor is a sparkling tonic made out of plant fiber and prebiotics yet mimic the traditional flavors you know and love. Classic Grape is a recent addition to Olipop's lineup that features natural grape flavors and has far less sugar than your average soda.
What the experts have to say: "Although this drink is trendy in the influencer world, it does taste good," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "I haven't had grape soda since I was a kid, and I never thought I would again since learning that a 12-ounce can has 44 grams of sugar (mostly from high fructose corn syrup). Then gut-friendly OLIPOP launched their newest flavor, Grape, and I immediately transported back. With only 4 grams of sugar per can, this flavor is not too sweet, but hits all the right grape notes you're looking for in a soda," says Tarantino.
Best healthy protein shake: REBBL Immunity Line, Vanilla Plant Protein Immunity Elixir
We're big fans of smoothies for plenty of reasons: They're a great way to get your daily dose of fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and fiber if you choose the right portions of whole-food ingredients. In other words, it's easy to have a smoothie recipe backfire into an unsuspecting calorie bomb, but this new bottled offering takes all the guesswork out for you. REBBL's plant-forward recipe features organic coconut milk, organic alkalized cocoa powder, organic pea protein, prebiotic fiber, and a blend of Ashwagandha (so hot right now!), Maca, and Reishi.
What the experts have to say: "This drink wins for me because of the higher protein to sugar ratio and the addition of adaptogens," says Burak.
Our tasting notes: "I make my own protein smoothie every morning using a pea protein powder, half of a banana, almond milk, peanut butter, oats, and cinnamon, but popping this open and finding out that it tastes better and has other healthy ingredients I will never-ever have in my kitchen? Sold. High scores all around for the rich vanilla taste, texture, and filling effect," says Brennan.
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