Drinking empty calories

Empty calories can come in many hidden forms, especially delicious sweetened drinks.

Have you ever thought about how many different types of drinks you consume each day? Specialty coffees, soda, juice, sports drink, tea, protein drinks and maybe water? We are a fast moving society and having something to drink while we are on the go is a common habit for many of us. Now, drinking liquid is necessary so that we stay hydrated, but the kind of liquid is just as important. Water is our best choice for hydration but other forms of liquids can help balance electrolytes in extreme cases of physical activity and trauma. What is alarming about the multiple drink options available to us are the empty calories in the form of sugar that is contained in so many of them.

The new 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends that the average healthy American should consume no more than 10 percent of their calories from sugar in one day. From a 2000 calorie diet, that is about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons per day. That is for everything that is eaten, not just drinks. Drinks can play a large part in the amount of sugar consumed each day. In fact, much of our empty calories can come from drinks.

Sugar shows up on labels in various forms. If you see any of the following ingredients on a food label, that drink contains added sugar: High-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, sugar, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose are all forms of sugar. This is another reason why it is especially important to read the labels on your food.

Let’s rethink our drinks:
  • Instead of a regular flavored latte, you can ask for it to be made with skim milk and one quarter of the syrup. And skip the whipped cream.
  • Add a splash of juice to sparkling water
  • Order smaller sized drinks or share with someone.
  • Hold the sugar in smoothies. The fruit will provide a natural sweetness.
  • Do not stock the fridge with sugar sweetened beverages. If you don’t have them, you will not drink them.
  • Serve water with meals and be a role model for drinking water.

Keep in mind, that just a small change can make a big difference over time. Ordering a 12 ounce sweet tea instead of a 20 ounce size will save you 7 teaspoons of sugar. Consuming large amounts of added sugars can put unwanted added weight on which can impact the way your body metabolizes sugars. Check what is in the foods you eat and drink before consuming them, and you might be surprised. For more helpful information on making healthy lifestyle choices, visit the Michigan State University Extension website

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