Sugary drinks – like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened coffees and teas - are the largest source of added sugar in the diet. Drinks with added sugar provide extra calories, but often no nutritional value, leading to unwanted weight gain. In addition, sugary drinks often replace healthy choices like low-fat milk, which is high in calcium and vitamin D. Children who drink sugary beverages almost double their risk of dental cavities and the average California teen drinks almost 39 pounds of sugar from sugary drinks each year.
How much sugar do you drink every day?
Most people have no idea. It is easy to find out by checking the Nutrition Facts label. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. Be sure to check the number of servings. One container is often more than one serving. Use the Santa Clara County Public Health Sugar Calculator to find out how much sugar is in your favorite drink. Check out Choose health. Drink water... for some common beverages, the amount of sugar added to each and how many minutes of brisk walking it would take to burn off the drink.
How much is too much?
Added sugar increases calories, but offers no nutritional benefit. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories (click for article). For the average American, this is about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women, 9 teaspoons of added sugar for men and 3 or less teaspoons of added sugar per day for children. For more information on added sugars, please visit the American Heart Association (click for article).
What can you do?
What you drink is just as important as what you eat. Choose healthy drinks and make an important step toward good health.
At the coffee shop:
- Request that your drink be made with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
- Order the smallest size available.
- Forgo the extra flavoring – the flavor syrups used in coffee shops, like vanilla or hazelnut, are sugar-sweetened and will add calories to your drink.
- Skip the Whip. The whipped cream on top of coffee drinks adds calories and fat.
- Get back to basics. Order a plain cup of coffee with fat-free milk and artificial sweetener, or drink it black.
At the smoothie stand:
- Order a child's size if available.
- Ask to see the nutrition information for each type of smoothie and pick the smoothie with the fewest calories.
- Hold the sugar. Many smoothies contain added sugar in addition to the sugar naturally in fruit, juice, or yogurt. Ask that your smoothie be prepared without added sugar: the fruit is naturally sweet.
Better Beverage Choices Made Easy
Now that you know how much difference a drink can make, here are some ways to make smart beverage choices:
- Choose water, diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
- Don't "stock the fridge" with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
- Serve water with meals.
- Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water. Try some of these healthy drink recipes from Champions for Change. or How to Make Fruit-Infused Water (PDF)
- Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
- When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
- Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages.
Champions for Change; Re-Think Your Drink
CDC RYD Page