Water is the essential beverage, quenching our thirst and hydrating our bodies without unnecessary extras.

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OK, by now you’ve probably heard that drinking sugary beverages isn’t the best thing for your waistline or your health. I’m talking about soda, sports drinks and energy drinks as well as fruit juice. (Orange juice with pulp has a bit of fiber to partially redeem it, but juices like apple and grape are glorified sugar water).

The main problem is these beverages deliver a lot of sugar and calories, quickly, without making us feel full.

So what should we drink? Water. It’s the essential beverage, quenching our thirst and hydrating our bodies without unnecessary extras.

Trouble is, some people just do not like plain water. While “pure” water (straight H2O) is flavorless, the water we encounter contains varying amounts of minerals and gases that give it flavor.

That means tastiness is in the mouth of the drinker. As much as I love Seattle tap water, I don’t always like the local water when I travel. For example, Las Vegas tap water tastes strange to me.

If you’re not a water fan (or if you are), try these tips for giving your H2O a kick:

Go fruity. Add a slice — or a squeeze — of lemon, lime or orange. (These are easy to pack in a baggie and tote to work, too.) Or, smash some berries and stir a spoonful in your glass.

Make iced tea. In the morning before heading to work, drop a Lipton Cold Brew tea bag in a quart container of cold water. Once you get to work, remove the bag and you have a quart of iced tea to enjoy through the day.

Make personal sun tea. Put two tea bags in a glass of water and set it on a sunny windowsill for 20 minutes. Pour over ice. This works with black, green or herbal teas.

Get exotic. Float a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint in your glass, or stir in a touch of pomegranate molasses (a concentrated syrup of pomegranate juice and sugar). You can find it at grocers that sell Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. A teaspoon only has 40 calories — much better than a soda.

Be bubbly. Mineral water, club soda or seltzer might appeal to you. Some people just don’t like flat water and find bubbles make it palatable.

Taper off sodas. What if you are in the habit of drinking several sodas a day, and switching to water — flavored or not — seems impossible? Try tapering off. Cut out one, then two, then three. If you feel you have to go cold turkey, you may avoid making any changes at all.

If switching to artificially sweetened (“diet”) drinks will help you break the sugar habit, do it. But water is still the healthiest choice.

As for how much water we should drink, research has kind of debunked the idea there’s a “right” amount. Eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid (not just water) per day is a rough minimum guideline. Drink when you’re thirsty, and expect you’ll need to drink more during warm weather or when you’re exercising.

Next time: You’ve lost weight. Now what?

Carrie Dennett: nutritionbycarrie@gmail.com.

Dennett is a graduate student in the Nutritional Sciences Program at UW; her blog is nutritionbycarrie.com.