Most of us have a favorite sugary drink. It could be soda, a sugary fruit drink, an energy drink or a Frappuccino from Starbucks. Whatever type of drink it is, it’s probably super tasty and when you drink it, you probably get that satisfying “fix” you’re craving. Bad news, though: that sugary drink is probably not good for you, and what’s more, you probably know it. A Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity study found that a majority of Americans understand that soda, for instance, is bad for them. Still, a Gallup poll reveals that 48 percent of Americans surveyed drink soda on a daily basis – and those who do, consume 2.6 servings per day on average. As ages decrease, sugary beverage intake rates increase. A whopping 56 percent of 18 to 34 year olds surveyed regularly consume sugary drinks, and studies have indicated that there’s a strong link between consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity in young children.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says the sugar is bad enough, but the calories in sugary drinks are a problem, too. “A diet high in added sugar – particularly liquid sugar – has been associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome,” she said. “It’s also tied to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. For all these reasons, if you’re a regular consumer of these types of beverages, it may be time to rethink your drinks. For instance, a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 240 calories, 65 grams of carbohydrate and 65 grams of sugar. That’s about 16 teaspoons of sugar per bottle. For comparison, the recommended daily intake of sugar for an adult woman is six teaspoons or less, and about nine teaspoons or less for an adult man. So, with just that one bottle, you’ve nearly doubled that recommendation,” she explained. “Just having one bottle a day over the course of a year can theoretically lead to a weight gain of about 30 pounds,” she added.
Fortunately, Tillman says, there are lots of alternatives out there. “Obviously, plain water is best,” she said. “However, many of my patients tell me they just don’t enjoy the taste of plain water. The best idea really is to force yourself to drink it as much as you can, as doing so makes drinking water easier and more of a habit. If it helps, try infusing your water with some fruit. You also could try sparkling water with a splash of real juice, or shifting to sparkling flavored waters such as LaCroix. These can be great ideas to try if you want a taste similar to your favorite sugary beverage and you’re just not a person who enjoys plain water. Unsweetened coffee, unsweetened green teas or unsweetened black teas also are good alternatives,” she explained. “The important thing is to look for alternatives that not only have no sugar, but also have no artificial sweeteners,” she added.