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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: The Sugar Story

Watching what you eat? What about what you drink? Sugary beverages often contain more extra calories from added sugars than the foods we eat, and can lead to dental problems and weight gain.

Added Sugar vs. Natural Sugar

Added sugar is any sugar added as an ingredient, either in the preparation of store-bought food, at home, or at the table. This includes: sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, glucose, pure cane sugar, and at least 61 other names food manufactures use to describe sugar.

Natural sugar describes a simple carbohydrate, found naturally in foods in natural quantities, like an apple. Both natural and added sugars contain 4 calories per gram, however, natural sugars are often found in nutritious foods such as fruit, milk, and yogurt.

How much sugar am I drinking?

  • Flavored syrups in coffee contain 5 grams of added sugar per pump (most drinks have 6-8 pumps, adding up to 30-40grams of added sugar in one drink)
  • 1-12 ounce soda can contains anywhere from 44-56 gram of added sugar
  • 1 large soda at the movie theater (32 fl oz) contains up to 149 grams of added sugars (that equals 596 extra calories!)
  • 1 can energy drink contains 26-45 grams of added sugars
  • 1 large can or medium fast food sweet tea can contain up to 73 grams of added sugar
  • 1 lemonade may have more sugar than soda: 55 grams in a 12 ounce bottle.

How much is too much?

Health organizations like the American Heart Association ( recommend that we limit the added sugar in our diets to stay healthy:

Daily Added Sugar Limits:

  • Women: 6 tsp. (25g) or less
  • Men: 9 tsp. (38g) or less
  • Children: 3-6 tsp. (12-25g) or less

The Weight of Sugary Beverages

Americans consume an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That is the equivalent 335 added calories per day OR 2485 added calories per week OR 3 extra pounds per month OR 36 extra pounds of weight gain per year.

Try this…

Instead of this... ...try this
Mocha or Flavored coffee drink            Whole milk latte
Energy Drink Black coffee or Green tea
Regular Soda Fruit-infused water
Italian Soda An "Arnold Palmer"(1/2 lemonade 1/2 unsweetened iced tea)
Flavored iced coffee drink Unsweetened Iced tea
Lemonade Sparkling mineral water with lemon
Flavored syrups 100% Fruit juice or mashed fruit

More tips to help you drop down on sugar….

Make sure the "serving size" matches what you are consuming. For example, some drink labels will tell you there are 3 servings in one bottle or can, when you are likely to consume the entire thing.

"100% Juice" Indicates fruit juice that comes entirely from fruit sources, and not from added sugars. Fruit juice is a source of vitamins and minerals, but still provides calories, so limit to a 1 cup servings for adults as well as children.

Low-Sugar Summer Punch:

Makes 2, 8 fl oz servings

Mix together:

  • 1, 12 fl oz can orange-flavored sparkling water
  • 1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Garnish with 1 lime wedge.

Serve over ice on a hot day.

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