Rethink Your Drink

Rethink Your Drink

There May be More Sugar and Calories in Your Beverage Than You Think

Sugar and calories in drinks are not hidden (they’re listed right on the Nutrition Facts label), but many people don’t realize just how many calories and added sugar beverages can contribute to their daily intake. As you can see in the example below, calories and sugar from drinks can really add up, especially when 5 grams of carbohydrate equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. But there is good news: you have plenty of options for reducing the number of calories and sugar in what you drink.

Examples of sugar and calories in beverages

Coca Cola 12 oz 140 cals 39 g carbs  7.4 tsp sugar
Vanilla latte 12 oz 250 cals 37 g carb 7.9 tsp sugar
Mocha Frappuccino 13.7 oz 1006 cals 33 g carb 6.6 tsp sugar
Snapple Lemon Tea 16 oz 160 cals 37 g carb 7.4 tsp sugar
La Croix sparkling water 12 oz 0 cals 0 carb 0 tsp sugar


Better beverage choices made easy
Now that you know how much difference a drink can make, here are some ways to make smart beverage choices:

  • Choose water or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • For a quick, easy and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day
  • Keep a pitcher or bottles of cold water in the fridge rather than sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Serve water with meals
  • Make a pitcher of healthy spa water for your fridge or water bottle by adding berries or slices of lemon, lime, orange, cucumber or watermelon (sliced strawberries + basil leaves are delicious!)
  • Drink sparkling water if you’re looking for some fizz
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink
  • When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size—some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories
  • Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages

High-calorie/high-sugar culprits in unexpected places
Coffee drinks and blended fruit smoothies sound innocent enough, but their calories and sugar content may surprise you. Be informed and check out their websites or in-store nutrition information to learn your healthiest choices among the different menu items. When a smoothie or coffee craving kicks in, use these tips to help reduce the calorie/sugar consequences:

At the coffee shop

  • Request that your drink be made with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Order the smallest size available
  • Forgo the extra flavoring – the flavor syrups used in coffee shops, like vanilla or hazelnut, are sugar-sweetened and will add calories and sugar to your drink (unless you choose the sugar-free flavorings)
  • Skip the whip—the whipped cream on top of coffee drinks adds calories and fat
  • Get back to basics—order a plain cup of coffee with low-fat milk and no-cal sweetener like stevia, or drink it black

At the smoothie stand

  • Order a child’s size, if available
  • Ask to see the nutrition information for each type of smoothie and pick the smoothie with the fewest calories and least carbs
  • Hold the sugar— ask that your smoothie be prepared without added sugar—while fruit is naturally sweet, many smoothies contain added sugar

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Weight

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office