Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Sugar and a Soda Free Summer

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The SF Bay Area is gearing up to have a "Soda Free Summer!" Six counties are being encouraged by the public health department and many community-based organizations to learn about the health risks associated with soda consumption and help families avoid soda.

Soda, along with sweetened teas and sports drinks are seen as a key cause of the nation's obesity trends, particularly in youth. Studies have shown that the extra calories from soda and other sweetened drinks leads to weight gain because they do not satisfy people's hunger, therefore they are just extra calories.

The Center for Weight and Health at U.C. Berkeley reports that sugared beverage consumption has increased 500% in the last 50 years, at the same time that obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed.

Rethink Your Drink! One medium triple thick chocolate shake from McDonalds has 21 teaspoons of sugar in it. One 20 oz. bottle of coke has over 16 teaspoons of sugar in it. Sunny Delight (16 oz) has 15 teaspoons of sugar in it. And lest you think water is good for you, Vitamin Water (20 oz) has 8 teaspoons of sugar in it (the same amount of sugar as a Snickers Bar).

You can calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are in your food or drink using this:
Fact: 4 grams (g) of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
Math: Amount of sugar on label times (x) servings per container = total grams of sugar
Answer: Total grams of sugar divided by 4 = teaspoons of sugar in your food

Alternatives to soda include water with some fresh mint leaves or a slice of orange, lemon or lime and smoothies with non-fat yogurt and fresh fruit, low-fat or non-fat milk.

For educators, you can get sugar savvy curriculum materials in English and Spanish at the Bay Area Nutrition & Physical Activity Collaborative (banpac), and the soda free summer site has family materials in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese.

Have fun being healthier this summer!

Photo credit: whalesalad
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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