I have to admit it, and I hate to admit it, but I am finding myself getting increasingly addicted to Coke Zero!! Now I know you’re all out there thinking “What? …How could you, a dietitian, drink that poison?” Well let me elaborate a little:

Bali is HOT, so very hot and humid that you need to stay well hydrated to feel remotely normal. This requires a highly adapted schedule of drinking, sometimes even to the minute, because if you don’t, you find yourself dehydrated by mid-afternoon, trying to replenish large volumes, only to find yourself up half the night peeing because you left it too late, otherwise you wake up dry in the mouth. I know it sounds dramatic! But you do need to consciously increase your fluid intake in hot and humid environments.

drinks in Bali
Plenty of choices for drinks

Drink options are wide and varied here in Bali. Starting with the most important plain water (filtered of course), nice refreshing iced water maybe with a slice of lemon. Then the multitude of “other options” include; milk and milk drinks, coffee (hot, iced, frappé), tea (hot, iced, herbal infusion), coconut water, soft drinks, electrolyte drinks, energy drinks, a range of delicious and exotic blended juices, and of course alcohol which usually makes the initial challenge worse!

The ‘new age’ cafés around town have an array of amazingly ‘delicious and exotic blended juices’ available, packed full of a delicious combination of exotic items like tamarind, lime, ginger, mint, rose-water, nut-milks, spirulina, maca, cinnamon, honey, vegetables (taro, beetroot, carrot, celery, avocado – I kid you not it is delicious), tropical fruit (you name it – you can drink it). They are actually rather enticing and packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, however…

Olive enjoying a milkshake
Olive enjoying a milkshake

What you notice about these and most of the “other options” is that they are laden with sugar and calories. Now for someone who is conscious of the ‘Energy In’ aspect of my daily living, drinking lots of extra fluids all of a sudden adds a lot of calories to that tally. It is very easy to order a perceived ‘healthy’ blended fruit drink or iced tea with your meal, but what you don’t realise is that the Balinese will always add sugar syrup to these types of drinks for sweetness, which of course inadvertently increases their energy value.

So what drinks are available that are calorie-free – besides water – because there is only so much water you can drink day in and day out without limiting your intake through boredom?

Diet soft drinks and non-sweetened tea/coffee are really the only alternatives.

In fact, I went off tea for a while as it was simply too hot to drink, but I am back to drinking hot tea with a dash of milk thankfully.

I agree some drinks are naturally low-calorie such as;

  • coconut water; which admittedly is very refreshing and I occasionally drink,
  • unsweetened coffee; but have a cappuccino with some sugar (which I admit I do) and it becomes a loaded drink too.

So you can see the dilemma. It started with the occasional Coke Zero which is so much more refreshing in the afternoon instead of my usual hot tea, but has become a regular daily thought. Is it the caffeine, the sweetness, or the bubbles perhaps? I am not impressed by this attraction, but there really are not many alternative options.

I try to find the right balance though, and in a week of drinking, among other things, plenty of water, one coffee daily, one beer almost daily, and one artificially sweetened soft drink 3 times a week, plus the occasional blended juice drink (tamarind, lime and honey my new favourite), hydration is achievable without too much added sugar and calories.

Clare enjoying a beer on Gili Meno

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