There are pros/cons to drinking water, milk, juice and carbonated beverages (seltzer water for example), so it really depends on your philosophy, what research you choose to adhere to, as well as your overall preferences and nutrition goals. It is ironic---there is a controversy regarding ALL of these options---even water!
- Water is overall the best beverage, and what our body really needs.
- For optimal health, it is best to consume your calories from food and not "drink" all of your calories
- Controversy regarding drinking bottled water vs. tap water, and also the concern with drinking water from hard plastic bottles containing harmful chemicals (BPA).
- If you want to be environmentally conscious, find BPA-free plastic water bottles.
- Interesting article on the water controversy: Tidal Wave of Bottled Water
- There is evidence that the "phosphates in carbonated beverages interfere with calcium absorption". (Source: increase in carbonated drink consumption
- Some are made with artificial sweeteners that can be problematic, and it is suggested to add 100% juice or a few pieces of actual fruit (lemon, lime, orange for instance) to flavor the water. Here is an interesting recipe I found: Raspberry Evening Spritzer by Dr. Weil
- Juice that is freshly squeezed contain the most nutrients, and tastes great, but can be time consuming
- Fruit juices that are made from concentrate or do not contain "100% juice" are not as nutrient-dense, and can be considered as "empty calories".
- Juice is very caloric, and many Dietitians recommend eating the actual fruit rather than juice, as you will consume more fiber and nutrients
- There is much controversy surrounding milk, as it is a recommended source of calcium; however, there are other foods that are a higher calcium source
- You can read about other controversies (some people believe that humans should not drink other animal's milk for instance), and then of course there are different types of milk: soy, rice and others. Which Milk Should I be Drinking?
I hope this information helps to narrow down your choices, depending on your nutrition goals.
For myself, as long as I am consuming enough calcium, I am OK drinking seltzer water with Stevia and lemon once-in-a-while if I am craving something carbonated. I find that when I exercise more ("more" meaning up to the recommended weekly amount!), then all I want is water from my BPA-free plastic container. (ha--even have to "qualify" tap water). I stay away from juice, primarily for my teeth and save on calories, and prefer to fill up on actual fruit. If I am tired of just plain water, I add some 100% pomegranate or acai berry juice to ice water (fruits that I do not typically eat). I am a milk drinker, and consume non-fat milk and yogurts daily.
So, perhaps to answer your question more directly:
- If you are craving carbonation, seltzer is better than soda (diet or regular)
- If you are thirsty, water is best; perhaps chilled with ice and lemon is even better!
- If you are craving something sweet, add some 100% juice to water or seltzer
- If you are hungry and thirsty, you may want an 8 oz. glass of non-fat/low-fat milk (soy, rice or cow's milk)
Another alternative I did not mention: coconut water. You can read more about this: Coconut water quenches thirst and is healthy beverage. I forgot that my personal trainer also recommended coconut water after a particularly challenging strength training session. It is low-calorie, non fat and contains potassium, magnesium and calcium.