A large amount of calories may come from the things we drink. Certain drinks, such as regular soda, energy and sports drinks, lemonade or fruit drinks, sweetened tea, sweetened coffee drinks, sweetened bottle water, and alcoholic beverages, provide extra calories with little or no nutrient value. When we drink too many of these beverages, it is easy to go over our limit for calories without getting the nutrients we need.
A 12-ounce soda normally contains 36-46 grams of sugar, or 144-184 calories. When you drink four 12-ounce sodas a day, you add 576-737 calories from only sugar-sweetened beverages. Drinking four 12-ounce sodas a day can add five to six pounds a month.
Even flavored milk and 100% fruit juice can be counted as sugar-sweetened beverages if too many are consumed. A product containing 100% fruit juice provides several nutrients, but also contains sugar naturally present in fruit. It is recommended that only 6-ounces of 100% fruit juice be consumed daily as a way to limit the intake of sugar. It is better to eat the fruit than drink the juice.
Consuming large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to obesity. Some evidence suggests that the body does not respond to the calories in beverages the same way it responds to calories in food. Your body may not register the calories you drink so you may consumer more calories than you need. Added sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages can also result in an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol and a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol. Another concern is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and gout.
Only a few of us are physically active enough to meet our nutritional needs with room for extra calories from sugar. For example, if you drink one 12-ounce soda, it will take you 20 minutes of jogging to burn off the 184 calories. To burn off a “super size” soda, you would have to play basketball vigorously (without stopping) for one hour and 15 minutes or swim freestyle laps for one hour.
The average American consumers about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, more than three times the recommended 6 teaspoons for women and twice the nine teaspoons recommended for men. One 20-ounce soda has 16-18 teaspoons of sugar. A 20-ounce bottle of cranberry juice cocktail has 20 teaspoons of sugar. If we are to stay with the recommendations for sugar we have to limit these drinks and other sources of sugar in the diet.
Learn to recognize the words on ingredient lists that mean sugar. Look for the word “syrup” and words ending in “-ose.” The “-ose” words are most likely sugar, such as maltose, dextrose, fructose, and lactose.
Water should be your go-to beverage, as it quenches your thirst without adding calories. Substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with water and unsweetened coffee and tea can provide the water the body needs without the calories. Some people don’t like the blandness of water or get tired of drinking the same thing all the time. If you are one of those, adding fresh fruits or herbs to your water can produce interesting flavors without adding too much sugar and too many calories.
What about bottled water? Bottled water can be convenient. It’s portable, healthy and doesn’t contain calories or caffeine. Purchased bottles of water can also be expensive! Water bought in stores can cost 240 to 10,000 times as much as water from your kitchen faucet! Plus, the bottles aren’t environmentally friendly. Think about purchasing inexpensive reusable water bottles (kids especially love sports and theme bottles) and filling them at your kitchen sink. Remember to wash thoroughly each day and let dry before refilling. By the way, it isn’t recommended that people re-fill other types of bottles, like juice or even pre-packaged water bottles. They are designed for only a couple of uses. The plastic may break down with continued use and washing.
Most specialty coffee and tea drinks have more than 250 calories. You can reduce the calories in these drinks by not adding flavored syrups, asking for fat-free milk, leaving off the whipped topping, and ordering a smaller size.
Sports drinks can contain up to 250 calories in a 32-ounce bottle. They are high in carbohydrates and sugar. Quench your thirst with water instead, or look for low calorie sports drinks instead.
Energy drinks contain as much as 60 grams of sugar per container. That equals 240 calories. In addition these drinks are high in caffeine, as much as 300 mg. Some research shows that caffeine intake up to 400 mg in healthy adults is not associated with harmful effects. However, if an individual drinks two or more energy drinks per day they can easily go over that limit. Children and adolescents should limit their intake of caffeine to 100 mg per day. Drinking one energy drink could put them over that limit. Energy drinks may have serious life threatening effects in individuals who are sensitive to caffeine or who have pre-existing health conditions. It is best to choose balanced proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fat in a healthy diet to boost energy.
Carefully consider the beverages you choose. It makes a difference!
For more information, contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
Information for this article was obtained from “Making Healthy Beverage Choices: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You” by Ingrid Adams, Nutrition and Food Science Specialist, UK Cooperative Extension Service, September, 2012.
2 cups fat-free milk
2 cups brewed coffee
1⁄2 cup hot chocolate mix
Non-fat whipped topping (optional)
Heat the fat-free milk in a saucepan until warm; do not boil. Add coffee and hot chocolate mix. Stir well and heat to desired temperature. Divide mixture between four mugs; garnish with whipped topping and cinnamon if desired.
Yield: 4 (1-cup) servings
Nutrition Analysis: 180 calories; 1 g fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 180 mg sodium; 38 g total carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 34 g sugar; 9 g protein; 8% Daily Value of vitamin A; 2% Daily Value vitamin C; 25% Daily Value calcium; 2% Daily Value iron
Note: Substitute sugar-free hot chocolate mix to reduce sugar by 12 g and calories by 48.
Strawberry Green Tea
13 cups water
13 green tea bags, regular size
1 pound fresh strawberries
1 cup honey
1 lemon, optional
Wash strawberries and remove the tops. Chop the berries with a hand chopper in a large pot.
Add water to the chopped berries in large pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let mixture cool for 5 minutes. Add tea bags and submerge. Steep tea for 2 to 3 minutes.
Strain the tea through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth lined colander into a 1 gallon
pitcher. Add honey and stir until dissolved. Chill and serve. Garnish with a lemon slice or a fresh strawberry if desired.
Yield: 16, 8 ounce servings.
Nutrition Analysis: 70 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate,
1 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 0 g protein. 30% Daily Value for vitamin C.
Source: Plate it Up! Kentucky Proud Project, March 2012
4 cups low-fat milk
2 cups canned peaches, drained, or 2 cups fresh peaches
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash nutmeg, optional
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well. Sprinkle with nutmeg if you like. Serve cold.
Yield: 4 (1-cup) servings
Nutritional Analysis: 190 calories; 2.5 g total fat; 1.5 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 150 mg sodium; 32 g total carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 25 g sugar; 9 g protein; 20% Daily Value vitamin A; 4% Daily Value vitamin C; 30% Daily Value calcium