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Get the Facts About Sugary Drinks

Cutting Back on Sugary Drinks Improves Health

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 that you limit added sugar to a small amount — less than 10 percent of the calories you eat and drink every day. That means an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day should limit their 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.

For many people, this new daily sugar limit will be a big change to how they eat and drink. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day. To meet the daily limit on added sugars, they would need to significantly cut that sugar intake.

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 is too much.

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

Where can you learn more?

Play Every Day is sharing these recommendations for limiting added sugar in new videos, posters, and other materials. Through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Play Every Day has started the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project. This project is creating new educational materials to help dental providers talk about the health risks of sugary drinks related to teeth and the rest of the body. Contact us if you would like free copies of these materials for your schools, 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. If a sweetener by any name is in the first three ingredients, the food or drink is 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 lunch box.
  • 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.