Did you know that on average 40% of calories consumed come from a cup or a bottle? From healthy-sounding fruit drinks to refreshing iced teas and fun flavored coffees, excess sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are usually lurking behind the scenes. The problem is, these devilish drinks, however delicious, have no nutritional value and don’t fill you up, so those excess calories don’t give you a whole lot of value for your sip.
Even the vitamin-enriched versions provide little to no more benefit than regular water, often adding calories and even sodium where it’s not really necessary, especially when you have other options. In fact, the sugar and nutrition profile of many popular beverages is shockingly similar to that of your favorite dessert, especially if it’s ice cream.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are also the largest source of added sugars in the diets of kids in the US. With new studies showing among kids, even toddlers and preschoolers, children who drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day , as most do, have a 55% increase in odds of being overweight or obese.
Fruit juice also has a high concentration of sugar and calories while it lacks some of the nutrients and other benefits of whole fruit. When one cup of apple juice contains 27 grams (almost 7 teaspoons) of sugar, it’s a good idea to limit quantities to no more than one serving per day and substitute fresh, whole fruit as often as possible.
On average, we’re over-consuming more than three times the daily recommended amount, which for a normal weight adult is about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day. Of course making the switch from your favorite beverage to something a little less sticky sounds hard to start. But habits are best changed through favorable alternatives than cold-turkey, so trust this former junkie when I say it really is doable.
And kids are malleable too. I gradually weaned mine off of fruit juice many years ago and we’ve never looked back. High sugar consumption is associated with weight gain, heart disease and behavior issues, especially in kids, so managing intake makes sense.
Here are 3 Simple Tips for Reducing Sugar without Feeling Deprived:
- You can start by simply diluting juices with water, a trick that also works well with kids, especially when done on the sly. Gradually you’re sensitivity to the sweet stuff will increase to the point where you want and need less of it. Eventually you may decide fruit is best enjoyed as a whole, when it contains half of the sugar and calories as the liquid stuff.
- Naturally sweet stevia is one of the few sugar substitutes that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels the way most other sweeteners do, including honey and agave. Although it does have a bit of an aftertaste, you might try using to sweeten lemon water, since it’s best enjoyed with citrus. A little goes a long way.
- Or trade your regular pre-sweetened or diet beverages for sugar-free tea, preferably the kind you brew yourself. You’ll gain health benefits without the risk associated with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Try green tea for extra antioxidants, ginger tea to sooth the stomach or mint to add a skip to your step. Or check out Any way you steep it, tea tops those premade packaged beverages every time.