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Human Nutrition, Diet and Health > HNDH Blog > Posts > Infused Water - A Calorie-Free Option for the Holidays

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of what some people refer to as the “pig-out” season –the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.   It really does seem that we are faced with tempting holiday treats at every turn during this season…and most of us have a limit on just how much temptation we can ignore because we only get a chance at some of these goodies during the holiday season. 

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One of the logical ways to cut a few calories is to drink no-calorie beverages.  After all, there’s nothing special or out of the ordinary about sweet tea, sodas, and other sweetened beverages.  If you want something more special than water, I’d suggest trying infused water.  It’s a very “trendy” option in upscale restaurants and spas these days.  It’s even been available in the lobbies of some hotels I’ve stayed in recently and I’ve seen some of the TV hosts prepare it on their program.
 
It really only takes a few seconds of work to turn a plain pitcher of water into something more exciting.  But it does require a little advanced planning to allow enough time for the water to absorb the flavor of ingredients added to it. You should allow at least two hours of refrigeration after preparation, and keep in mind that the longer the refrigeration time, the more flavor the water will absorb from the ingredients.
 
You may want to start with something simple such as just lemon, lime, or orange and experiment with other flavor combinations later.  Most combinations will be good for up to three days.  Obviously, crushed fruit may deteriorate and not be appetizing in appearance for that long.  In some cases, you may want to strain before using.
 
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Making Infused Water
 
I’d recommend starting with small amounts of ingredients at first because it is easy to overdo the flavors.   The water can be served with or without ice and garnished attractively with slices of the fruit or sprigs of herbs used in the infusion.

Here are some suggestions to start with, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite flavors.

 
·Slice a lemon and/or lime or orange into thin slices or wedges and add to the water. 

·Fresh mint, slightly crushed, is a nice addition.

·Strawberries or raspberries may be used, and they may be left whole, sliced or crushed.

·Pineapple-mint is a great flavor combination.  Use fresh pineapple sliced thinly and then cut into triangles and fresh mint leaves.  Refrigerate at least three hours.  Orange slices may be used instead of pineapple.

·Citrus-Cucumber Water can be made by thinly slicing a large lemon, lime, orange, and cucumber and adding to ½ gallon of water.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.   Cucumber is a very cool flavor that is especially refreshing in summer weather.

·Watermelon-Basil is a flavorful and surprisingly good flavor combination.  Use 2 c. seedless watermelon, cubed or thinly sliced and cut into wedge shapes, and 10-12 basil leaves.  Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

·Lemon-Lavender is a great combination for flavored water.  For those of you with lavender in your herb or flower gardens, this is a good one to try.  Use 3 lemons, sliced,  and  ¼ c. fresh lavender to one-half gallon water.  Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

·Other flavors to try include grapes, blueberries, peaches,  grapefruit, rosemary and cilantro.


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Variations

 
The variations of infused water are limitless.  For special occasions you could use sparkling water as opposed to tap water.  Infusion pitchers are available in kitchen stores or departments.  These have a removable tube in the center of the pitcher that contains the fruit or other ingredients so they can be removed easily before serving.  The pitchers can also be used in making lemonade or other beverages.  It’s definitely not necessary to have this, but some who make infused water on a regular basis do use them.

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I don’t know about you, but I’d rather consume calorie-free beverages and save those calories for other favorite treats which, after January 1, will not be available in my kitchen for a while.
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Enjoy the holidays, special  times with your family and friends, and yes – the food…in moderation.
 
 
Shirley Whitten, Regional Extension Agent III - Human Nutrition, Diet & Health, North Region 2, 819 Cook Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35801, Office 256-532-1578, Email whittsl@aces.edu


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