Many people don’t realize how much sugar content and how many calories are in common beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda and flavored drinks, are now the largest source of added sugar in American diets and can account for a large percentage of a person’s daily calorie intake.
Choosing the right beverage is important to maintain a healthy diet and staying hydrated and energized. In 2015, Baystate Health Food and Nutrition services joined the Health Healthcare Initiative (HHI) Health Care without Harm. Upon joining forces they pledged to help reduce the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease.
“Since joining forces with (HHI), we have succeeded in reducing sodium levels in entrees and sugar in beverages,” said Sandra Kozciak of Baystate Health Food and Nutrition Services. “We are now working with Mass In Motion, a group of organizations in Massachusetts who are coming together to reduce sodium and sugar throughout the state, with special interest in health care systems and schools and vending machines.
Sandra says the traffic light system is a guide to help you choose healthy beverages if you’re thirsty.
Go For The Green
“Green” drinks are those that contain zero0 to five grams of sugar per 12 ounces. These drinks have no added sugars and artificial sweeteners. These are the healthiest choices, especially tap water. Water not only hydrates the body and quenches thirst; it also supports other bodily functions necessary for overall health. Low-fat milk contains natural sugars and healthy nutrients. However, because it does contain sugars, it should be consumed in portions that are 8 ounces or less.
- Seltzer water
- 1% skim milk ( in small portions)
- Unsweetened soymilk ( in small portions)
Yellow: Proceed With Caution
Yellow beverages contain a moderate amount of sugar and sodium, anywhere between 6 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. They also contain artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners, like those found in diet and light drinks, may be doing more harm than good and could actually be contributing to weight gain. Although they’re lower in calories, these sweeteners actually taste sweeter than sugar and may make you crave more sweets. However, diet or yellow drinks are a better choice than red and can be used to help you transition from red to green.
- Diet soda
- Diet iced tea
- 100% fruit juice
- Low calorie sports drinks
- Sweetened soymilk (in small portions)
- Flavored 1% milk (in small portions)
- Other low-sugar drinks
Yellow beverages, such as 100% fruit juice and flavored low-fat milk, may have more than 12 grams of sugar because they contain natural sugar. However, both contain important nutrients, so it’s recommended that you consume them, but in small portions of 8 ounces or less.
Red Means Stop and Think
Red drinks are high in sugar and contain over 12 grams of sugar per 12 ounce serving. Many “red” beverages also contain high levels of sodium and/or fat. These drinks contain empty calories and have little to no nutrients. Drinking these types of drinks can contribute to weight gain and other chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Regular soda
- Energy soda
- Sports drinks
- Pre-sweetened coffee and tea drinks
- Juice drinks with added sugar
- Whole or 2% milk
Keep in mind, a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 17 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking one of these every day can lead to about 25 extra pounds of weight gain a year.
Read the Label
If you’re not sure which color category your drink falls in, check out the label. It’s important to look at the nutritional facts on the package. Paying close attention and reading the label is the best way to really know what you’re drinking. For example, a standard serving size is 8 ounces, so a 20 ounce soda is actually 2.5 servings.