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Cutting Back on Sugary Drinks Improves Health

Cut back on sugary drinks. Choose low-fat milk or water instead.

Every day, parents serve their children food and drinks. Sometimes, sugar sneaks in. It sneaks in to sweetened cereal at their breakfast. It’s in granola bars and other snacks. Sugar can be added to the ketchup on their burger, the sauce on their spaghetti, and the cookies, cakes or ice cream at dessert.

But do you know how children get most of their added sugar each day?

They drink it.

Switch out those sugary drinks

Sugar is in more than just soda. A lot of sugar is added to powdered mixes, sports and energy drinks, vitamin drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, chocolate and other flavored milk, and sweetened fruit-flavored drinks.

Parents often try to switch out sugary foods for healthier options. But they would be doing more for their children’s health if they also switched out sugary drinks for healthy drinks that contain no added sweeteners. The two best choices are water and white, unflavored milk.

Sugary drinks can increase your risk of serious health problems:

So how much sugar is too much?

For the best health, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend children younger than 2 have foods and drinks without any added sugar. The guidelines recommend that older children and adults limit added sugar to a small amount — less than 10 percent of the total calories they consume every day. That means an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day should limit daily sugar to 200 calories or 50 grams of sugar —which is the same as 12 ½ teaspoons of sugar. A child consuming fewer calories a day should have even fewer teaspoons of added sugar.

What does 12½ teaspoons look like?

You can drink 12 1/2 teaspoons of sugar very quickly. A 20-ounce bottle of soda can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. A 16-ounce glass of a powdered orange drink has about 11 teaspoons of added sugar. Hand a child a sports drink on the soccer field and he’ll drink 9 teaspoons of added sugar in a few big gulps.

That means even one sugary drink a day can be too much.

Just ONE sugary drink often has more sugar than you should have in ONE day.

Play Every Day is sharing these recommendations for limiting added sugar in new videos, posters and other materials. Contact us if you would like free copies of these materials for your schools, preschools, child care facilities, clinics, businesses or other locations.

What can you do?

  • Cut back on buying sugary drinks. Limit them to special occasions.
  • Turn sugary drinks around and look at the back of the bottle. That’s where you’ll find the ingredient list. New Nutrition Facts labels make it easier to spot the added sugar in foods and drinks. If a sweetener by any name is in the first three ingredients, the food or drink is likely loaded with added sugars.
  • Choose water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks.
  • Pack water. Make it easier to choose water by carrying a water bottle with you. Pack a water bottle in your child’s backpack or lunchbox.
  • Make water tasty, and fun. Add lemon, lime or mint to your glass. Let your child drink water through a special straw, or in a fun cup or bottle.
Webpage updated January 2022