Time to Rethink Your Drink! | The Family Fork

Time to Rethink Your Drink!

Sugary soft drinks are unbelievably popular with our kids and even adults. And I'm not just talking carbonated "sodas"; I'm also talking all soft drinks including "fruit" flavored drinks, sweetened ice teas, flavored waters, even juices are laden with sugar (this doesn't include "diet" drinks btw). And that means calories galore, mostly empty ones at that. What a lot of folks don't realize is how much sugar and calories they're consuming in a lot of these drinks.

These beverages are usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, sucrose syrup, crystalline fructose, plain old sugar and so on. (I refer to these as "regular" soft drinks since diet drinks are calorie free or low calorie). Often I see kids (and adults) drinking 20 ounce bottles of these beverages. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts Label and tell me how many calories are in these 20 ounce bottles. The label says 100 calories, right? But that's only for one 8-ounce serving. There's 2½ servings in that bottle! Multiply 100 by 2½ and you get 250 calories, not to mention 65 grams of sugar in the entire bottle. That's a lot of calories just for something to drink, and A LOT of sugar (over 16 teaspoons!). Some drinks have even more; you've got to read food labels. Most people don't drink just one 8 ounce serving, they down the whole thing.

And that can really add up over time. Think about this. If you were to drink just one 20 oz. regular soft drink a day in addition to your regular diet, you could gain up to 26 pounds a year! Our kids are doing that and they don't even realize it (do you?). Furthermore, liquid calories don't satiate us like food calories do. We don't compensate for liquid calories later in the day, so we often end up taking in more calories than we need.

And 100% fruit juice isn't much better. Unlike soft drinks you do get more nutrients, but juices are also concentrated in sugar. Limit your fruit juice intake and your child's intake to 6-8 ounces a day. After you hit 8 ounces you're really just adding calories.

So what should we be drinking? Water is the best choice for hydration. To get our calcium and vitamin D drink lowfat, nonfat milk, fortified soy milk or rice milk (our kids are drinking much more soda than milk putting their precious bones at risk). If you love the sodas, fruit drinks and flavored waters switch to sugar free, diet or low sugar options. There are lots of low cal no cal drinks out there that really taste good. You just have to read the label and be a smart consumer. Explore your grocery and try a few out.

Send me the low cal no cal drinks that you like and want to pass on to the group. I think you'll be surprised by all the options out there.

For more recommendations and info on beverages check out the recent report A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.