By: Kristi Goode
Sugary drinks are the most common source of sugar intake in the American diet. One 12 ounce can of regular soda has an average of 39 grams of refined and processed sugar. At first glance this doesn't seem like much, except that sugar makes up all the calories contained in the can of soda. To get a better visual of how much sugar that is, it’s approximately 9-10 teaspoons of sugar! Now that you know this, what if I told you the highest daily sugar intake recommended by the American Heart Association, is no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men! So, imagine how much an extra-large soda from your favorite fast-food restaurant contains? It’s alarming when you start to think about how much sugar is contained in a 12-ounce beverage.
One of the biggest issues with sugar sweetened beverages is the lack of nutrients. So sweetened beverages such as soda lack protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. You may have heard it referred to as “empty calories” or “void of nutrients”. On a more important note, the issue with too much sugar is that it can lead to serious health issues and chronic illnesses such diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and inflammation. Not to mention the extra calories can lead to excess abdominal fat and overall weight gain!
So how can you start to shift your sugar intake in beverages?
Shift your awareness. Start by becoming aware of how much soda or sugary drinks you are consuming daily. Are you having juice for breakfast? A sweetened latte or mocha from your favorite coffee shop? A soda with lunch or dinner? Maybe chocolate milk before bed? Becoming aware of your intake is the first step in determining your next action!
Shift by reading nutrition labels. Learning to look for added sugars in beverages can be enlightening. The number of added sugars can be found on the Nutrition Facts label below total carbohydrates. You can also find the type of sugar that is added to the beverage. This is listed under ingredients and is generally located directly below or to the right on the Nutrition Facts.
Shift by cutting that number in half. Once you determine how much you are consuming, look at ways in which you can cut the total for the day in half. For example, if you order a large coffee or specialty drink with sweetener for breakfast, ask for one pump of your favorite syrup, or cut in half the amount of sweetened creamer you add to your coffee. Enjoy hot or sweetened tea? Cut the amount of sugar you use in half before adding it to the tea. If ordering tea out, ask for half sweet and half unsweetened. As for soda, plan to only have one a day if you’re currently drinking more than one. By taking these actions you are slowly shifting the amount of sugar in your day.
Shift by changing the type of beverage you’re consuming. Water is obviously the best choice when it comes to hydration. But in the interim, some other helpful shifts can be choosing coffee for alertness over a can of Red Bull. Shifting to a smaller bottle of Gatorade versus a 20-ounce serving after a hard workout. Shifting to unsweetened milks especially if using nut or oat milks. Another beverage that may be overlooked is Kombucha. Most contain a lot of added sugars. Look for brands that are lower in sugar or sweetened with monk fruit.
Shifting your awareness is the first and most important step to take when looking at added sweeteners in your beverages. Shifting to reading nutrition labels and recognizing what is actually in your beverage is just as important. Once you’ve gathered the data then you can take action by cutting your total intake in half and looking for better choices or shifting your options.