Sugar Sweetened Beverages

What are sugary loaded beverages and why are they unhealthy?

Sugar loaded beverages, also known as sugar sweetened beverages, contain added sweeteners, and extra calories, but no nutritional value. Sugary drinks are the single greatest source of calories in the American diet, providing approximately 10% of the total average calories per day. The large increase in the amount of sugary drinks people consume, or drink, relates to the dramatic rise in adult and childhood obesity. In Illinois, nearly 25% of adults and 20% of children are obese. One study shows that increased consumption of sugary drinks accounts for 20% of the weight gained by adults and children in the past 30 years.

Drinking too much sugary drinks can lead to chronic diseases such as:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hypertension

What drinks are considered sugary drinks?

  • Soda, like Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sprite
  • Fruit drinks (not 100% juice), like Kool Aid, Hugs, and Hi-C.
  • Iced teas and sweet teas, like Snapple, Arizona, Nestea, SoBe, Honest, Sweet Leaf, and Tazo
  • Energy drinks, like Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar
  • Sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade
  • Flavored water, like Vitamin Water

To get the facts about sugary drinks, click here for Energy Drinks, Sports Drinks, and Flavored Water.

Note: Sodas and other drinks containing artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or stevia are not considered sugary drinks.

Healthier Drink Guide

There are hundreds of available options of what people can drink. Check our guide to making healthier drink choices.

DrinkRatingWhy
Water Green At least half of your daily fluid intake should come from water. That's about 5 cups for kids and 10 cups for adults. Water is the only drink your body needs.
Skim Milk, Soymilk with Calcium, 1% Low-Fat Milk (non-flavored) Green Drink 2 cups per day - less is fine as long as you get your calcium from another source.
100% Fruit Juice Yellow Drink daily but in small amounts. While 100% juice has many of the same nutrients as fruit, it has more calories. Just one small glass (4 oz) per day is all your body needs.
Non-caloric (zero calorie) artificially sweetened drinks like diet soda Yellow These are better choices because they have zero calories, but water and low-fat milk are even healthier choices.
Unsweetened iced tea Yellow This is a better choice because it is low in calories, but water and low-fat milk are even healthier choices.
Sports drinks and fitness water Red Sports drinks add unnecessary calories. They are designed for athletes after intense physical activity of at least 60 minutes.
Soda, fruit drinks and sweetened teas Red Remember: only one can of soda every day can add on 15 lbs in a year. Drink water or another healthier choice.

Tips for making a healthier choice in what to drink:

Drink water. For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day. Serve water with meals. Don't "stock the fridge" with sugary beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge. Water tips:

  • Add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to ice cold water – a little splash goes a long way!
  • Buy water packed in small sizes or colorful packaging to add appeal. This can be especially helpful for younger children.

If you can't drink water all the time, think about drinking low-calorie beverages instead of sugary beverages.

Reduce portion sizes. Read labels and pay attention to the "serving size". For example, a 20oz. bottle of soda contains 2.5 servings. One serving is 8 ounces. Most people drink the entire bottle in one sitting—a whopping 240 calories. That's about as much as a candy bar.

Look for the sugar content. Sugar can be listed as sucrose, glucose or high fructose corn syrup. Honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrates and dextrose are also forms of sugar. Keep an eye out for these hidden sugars.

Order a small size. If you drink sugary beverages, drinks small quantities. Some companies sell 8oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories. Avoid any "super" or "big" sizes.

Water it down. If you are drinking a sugar-sweetened juice or sports drink, it with the same amount of water.

Take a sugary drink vacation. Select a week, weekend or even month to be sugary drink free!

Consider your consumption. It's easy to let a waiter serve you three sugary beverages, or to guzzle an extra large juice without thinking twice. Before you swallow another 250 calories, take a moment to ask yourself, "Do I really want to drink all of this sugar?"

GET INVOLVED!

There are many ways to reduce consumption of Sugary Drinks. Encourage your school, community, worksite and organization to get involved in some of these initiatives:

Healthy Vending

While many children do not have access to healthy and appealing fresh foods, they have easy access to Sugary drinks in school vending machines and cafeterias. Children choose food and beverages that are easily accessible. Unfortunately, more and more of the food and beverages children consume are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Learn how to create healthy vending guidelines in your school here:

Increasing access to healthy options in the workplace can help increase the health of employees. Click here to learn how minimize the availability of Sugary drinks in your community and worksite.

Life’s Sweeter Challenge

Take on the Life’s Sweeter Challenge. The Center for Science and Public Interest created a toolkit to help you limit/ reduce sugary drinks in your home, workplace, and community. Join the Challenge to protect our children, our families, our co-workers, and ourselves from the harmful effects of soda consumption. The goal of Life’s Sweeter Challenge is to help reduce consumption of sugary drinks from 10 cans per week to a maximum of three per week by 2020, a healthy target proposed by the American Heart Association.

Download the Life is Sweeter Challenge today.

Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity (IAPO)

IAPO is a statewide coalition comprised of a broad range of stakeholders working for a state-level response to the obesity trend. Based on input from industry and organization leaders from across Illinois, IAPO created the State Obesity Action Roadmap. The roadmap consists of a2011-2012 policy agenda and 3 year policy agenda to reverse obesity trends in Illinois. To learn more about the roadmap and to be a supporter, click here.

Get Involved:

  • Join an Alliance for Healthy & Active Communities (AHAC) to learn how to increase the availability, accessibility, and demand for healthy nutritional options in your own community.
  • Become a member of Cook County Connects. Cook County Connects features an online social network connecting hundreds of people working to make suburban Cook County a healthier place to live, work, and play. Members come from entities throughout suburban Cook County, including community-based organizations, local governments, and school systems. Join today to connect with, learn from, and share best practices with others in suburban Cook County. To join, fill out a member request form.