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Best Beverage Choices

Posted 5/30/2016 by Raelynn DeBevits, Registered and Licensed Dietitian for Healthy Kids

The days are longer, the sun is hotter, and we often find ourselves reaching for a cold, refreshing beverage. Many popular beverages contain a lot of added sugar (or, empty calories) that can add inches to your waistline. The American Heart Association recommends that we limit added sugars to 22 grams per day or less. This recommendation can be thrown out the window with just one soft drink. One 12-ounce can of Pepsi, for example, contains 39 grams of sugar. That is the equivalent to eating ten sugar cubes. Sports drinks are marketed as a healthier alternative to soft drinks, however, this isn’t true. A 32-oz bottle of Gatorade contains 200 calories and would be the equivalent of consuming 13 sugar cubes. Here are some other examples of beverages with added sugars:

  • 20-oz bottle of Mountain Dew: 19 sugar cubes (77g)
  • 20-oz bottle Vitamin Water, B-relaxed Jackfruit and Guava: 8 sugar cubes (33g)
  • 16-oz bottle Snapple Lemon Iced Tea: 13 ½ sugar cubes (46g)
  • 20-oz bottle Minute Maid Lemonade: 16 ½ sugar cubes (67g)

Beverages such as flavored milks can also be a calorie-dense-culprit. Eight ounces of chocolate milk contains 29 grams of sugar. Compare that to plain milk which only has 12 grams of sugar – and this is natural sugar, not added.

Remember to choose whole fruit instead of fruit juices. Eating a piece of fruit will provide you with fiber to make you feel fuller for longer. A recent study from Harvard tracked over 120,000 men and women for over 20 years and discovered that those who drank juice tended to gain more weight over time than those who did not. Swap out your morning juice for a whole piece of fruit instead to add more fiber to your diet and help you maintain a healthy weight.

What’s the problem with sugar? Added sugar in large amounts has been shown to increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease. It also increases your risk for developing obesity and diabetes.

What should we drink on those hot summer days? Nothing quenches your thirst like water. Unflavored skim or 1 percent milk is also a great option. Not a fan of plain water? Here are some options for you to “spice it up”:

  • Cucumber, mint, and a splash of lime
  • Sliced strawberries, basil, and a little lemon juice
  • Berries
  • Pineapple, orange slices and some grated ginger

If you are in the mood for something bubbly try sparkling or carbonated water. Enjoy!

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is doing something about excess weight gain in children, through comprehensive, results-driven community education. Healthy Kids is preventing childhood obesity, helping children lose weight and teaching at-risk families to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011; 364:2392-404.

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