Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Rethink Your Drink (& Your Children’s) to Reduce Sugar!

Rethink Your Drink (& Your Children’s) to Reduce Sugar!

Grab a cold can of soda, easy to do when we’re on the go — maybe too easy!

If you are like me, you appreciate the plastic bottle that you can close when you don’t drink it all down as quickly as other containers.

Naturally we can do the same thing with a bottle of water or a water bottle we fill ourselves. But let’s face it, many people think that’s boring. Although the numbers are quickly changing, with more and more people drinking water, including flavored water of some sort, over soda these days.

Added Sugar in Drinks Linked to Obesity

Beverages with added sugars have been linked with the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. Two out of three adults and one out of three children in the US are overweight or obese, according to studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Knowing the potential of weight gain as a result of drinking excess calories in soda and other drinks, I was still surprised at a recent CDC study that examined the nation’s continued fascination with drinking sugar sweetened beverages. This study did not look only at soda but also other sugar sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks.

A sugar sweetened beverage, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Brochure, is a liquid that is sweetened with various forms of sugars that add calories. They include but are not limited to soda, fruit-ades, fruit drinks, and sports and energy drinks.

Sugar Sweetened Beverages — CDC Report Findings

Preventing Chronic Disease, which is a journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently presented the results of a study that reviewed almost 39,000 adult participants over age 18. Their goal was to examine the intake pattern of adults with sugar sweetened beverages, due to what they feel is a strong correlation with weight gain and obesity.

Because sugar sweetened beverages contribute a significant number of calories to the daily diet, drinking these beverages is a public health concern and states’ efforts aimed at decreasing their consumption can be one place to focus initiatives.

Some of the interesting findings in the study include:

  • 23.9% of those studied drank sugar sweetened beverages at least once a day
  • Young adults were more likely to drink one or more servings per day
  • Males, those of both sexes with lower education, and low income adults were also more likely to drink one or more servings a day
  • Adults who ate fruit one time or less a day were more likely to drink sugar sweetened beverages one or more times per day, compared to those who ate fruit one or more times a day
  • Adults who were more active were less likely to consume as many sugar sweetened beverages a day compared to those who were inactive
  • Smokers were more likely to drink sugar sweetened beverages more often than non-smokers, as were those who drank alcohol

While this study focused on adults, you may be surprised because of recent reports of trends to the contrary, to learn that our children are consuming greater quantities of sugar sweetened beverages. The CDC reports that these beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the diet of our youth. Many feel this intake is playing a major role in childhood obesity.

Boys aged 12–19 years consume an average of 22.0 ounces of full-calorie soda drink per day—more than twice their daily intake of fluid milk (9.8 ounces); girls consume an average of 14.3 ounces of full-calorie soda and 6.3 ounces of fluid milk per day.
(Source: CDC)

Reducing Sugar Sweetened Beverages in our Diet

Because no one wants to gain excessive weight and most of us are hoping to lose weight, not to mention the fact that we want our children to be healthy and active throughout their lifetimes, there are some tips that we can adopt to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened beverages we drink.

  • Drink more water. Make up your mind to do it and that it is important to bypass the sweet stuff. This may not be as glamorous as some of the flashy soda bottles, sports drinks or popular energy drinks we grab, but it is undeniably healthier!
  • Infuse your water with flavor. My favorite way to drink water is to add calorie free, crystallized lemon or lime. It comes in individual packs that equal one wedge. I can take them anywhere I go and sprinkle into my water. It is refreshing, delicious and contains no preservatives!
  • Add an orange, lime or lemon slice to your water. A sprig of mint in your water will help give it a punch of flavor!
  • Serve low fat milk at meals for your children.
  • Limit the availability of sugar sweetened beverages in your home. Buy only 100% juices with no added sugars, avoid fruit punch or cocktails that often have a lot of added sugar. Limit portions of 100% juices between meals in favor of water, especially if weight is a concern for your child.
  • Limit sports drinks and energy drinks even for kids playing sports. A healthy diet combined with water for re-hydration is typically enough to replace losses.
  • While at work or on the go bring water with you. If you don’t have a water cooler there, keep bottles or containers of water in the refrigerator so that it is always ready to go.
  • Freeze ice cubes of 100% juice and pop one into your kids’ water. What an unexpected treat on a hot day. You might even want to add a berry for fun! Or freeze pieces of fruit, such as strawberries to pop into your water!
  • Be aware of the beverages your children select (or to which they have access) at school or after school events. Encourage water as a first choice. High school students sugar sweetened beverage consumption is on the rise so they may need extra support to make the healthier choice.
  • Select other unsweetened beverages like iced tea, sugar free lemon aid, diet soda, or sugar free drinks. Remember, many of these are sweetened using a variety of artificial sweeteners. You might want to give green or black tea a try as a non-caloric alternate. Flavored teas brewed then serve over ice are great summer refreshers!
  • Make spritzers using water, sugar free beverages or even 100% juice mixing them with club soda, seltzer or mineral water!

Did you know that a typical 20-ounce non-diet soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and about 240 calories? Watch out, a big cup of fountain soda, so easy to buy in many convenience stores, can have about 700 calories!

In my calorie total for the day, I would rather eat real food and not waste that many calories on sugar with no nutritional content. How about you?

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