Sugar: The Other Teen Drinking Problem
Hidden Sugar Can Add Pounds
Is sugar a food group? Turns out sugar makes up about a quarter of the calories teens eat and drink in one day. So what's the big deal?
1) Sugar doesn't offer your body nutrients.
2) It's easy to drink way more sugar than you think, which can add to unhealthy weight gain.
Soda is a major source of sugar. A 20-ounce cola has about 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Craving Sweet? Try Fruit.
Instead of reaching for a soda when you want something sweet, have some fruit or grab a granola bar and wash it down with some water. If you're craving a fizzy drink, try some soda or seltzer water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
Because sodas and other sugary drinks don’t have nutrients to fuel your body correctly, any energy burst you get from sugary drinks won't last long. Plus, they'll leave you hungry. It's better to get the same number of calories you would from a sweet drink from a wholesome food, like fruit.
Energy Drinks Burst With Sugar
Energy drinks not only give you a jolt of caffeine, they also serve up a lot of sugar. A 16-ounce can of one popular energy drink has about 200 calories and 54 grams of sugar -- almost 12 teaspoons. That's more sugar than in two servings of ice cream (1 cup).
Sugar Watch: Fruit Smoothies
Drinking fruit whipped in a cup sounds healthy -- but smoothies aren't always healthy drinks. One store-bought smoothie made with orange juice and sherbet has about 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Make sure your smoothies are made with real fruit and yogurt or fruit and ice. Better yet, make your own so you control the sugar. Keep the sugar count lower by splitting the same size smoothie you'd drink on your own with a friend.
Sports drinks are healthy if you are working out, right? Maybe. But for most of us, they're just overkill. A popular 20-ounce sports drink has 150 calories and 35 grams of sugar (nearly 9 teaspoons). You may benefit from electrolytes in sport drinks if you're working up a real sweat for at least one straight hour. Even then, watch how much you drink. Most bottles have at least enough for two servings.
Hidden Sugar: Coffee Drinks
Fancy lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and other drinks can have lots of sugar. And coffee drinks can pack more than 600 calories a piece. If you want coffee, order regular. It has no sugar, and you can control your sweetener. Better yet, skip caffeinated drinks like coffee. Caffeine can cause side effects like jitteriness and dehydration, and it can make your heart race.
Not All Juices Are Good For You
Watch for any juice that calls itself a "fruit drink." They're mostly just empty calories and sugar.
Your best bet: It's always better to eat, rather than drink, your daily fruits. That way you get filling, healthy fiber, too. If you are going to drink juice, drink only juices labeled "100% juice," and stick to just one small glass a day. If you have a hard time sticking to one glass, try adding lots of ice or some water.
Chocolate and Flavored Milk
Yes, you get calcium from chocolate milk, but you may also be getting way more sugar than you need. A 14-ounce store-bought chocolate milk can have more than 50 grams of sugar -- about 12 teaspoons. Some of it is natural milk sugar but most comes from chocolate.
If you don't like plain milk, look for low-fat, low-sugar flavored milks. Or doctor up milk at home. Start with low-fat milk and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or chocolate syrup.
Drink More Water
You may have heard that you should chug eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day -- but you don't need to be so precise. You'll know whether you're getting enough water if you -- sorry -- look at your urine. If it's pale yellow or clear, you're doing great. Darker? Drink more water. If you crave fizz in your drinks, try sparkling water with a wedge of lime or orange.
Canned and Bottled Teas
Tea is good for you, right? Sure, it can have cancer-fighting antioxidants, but beware of sugar. One popular bottled green tea has 61 grams of sugar -- about as much as a same-size cola. Plus, many canned teas have fewer beneficial ingredients than home-brewed green or black tea.
To cut back on sugar, brew your own tea and serve hot or over ice.
Read that Label
Want to get a better picture of what's inside your drink? Check out the ingredient list and look out for corn syrup or anything that ends in "-ose" such as dextrose, fructose. They're just sugar.
Like sugary drinks? Help yourself kick the habit slowly, one step at a time. Try to limit yourself to have only one sugary drink a day and, eventually, only one a week.
Sugary Drinks Add Up
If you had a soda, juice box, sports drink, and fruity drink in a day, that's more than 41 teaspoons of sugar -- the same as you'd find in about 38 chocolate chip cookies! If you drank that every day, you may have to burn off up to 62 pounds of fat each year. Plus, those drinks have a total of 595 empty calories that give you no nutrition and leave you feeling hungry. Drink water, seltzer, or low-fat milk instead.