Don’t Drink Your Sugar!

Regular consumption of sugary beverages (fruit juices, sodas, coffee drinks, sports drinks, etc.) contributes significantly to the average American’s sugar intake each day. Cutting back on these beverages is a simple way to lose some extra calories and, possibly, weight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-third of children and teens are overweight—and being overweight increases the risk for many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

What’s the problem with these beverages?

  • They contain what we call “empty calories”; that is, they offer no nutritional value but add calories that, over time, can cause weight gain. And, yes, this goes for fruit juices, too--if you want nutrition, eat a piece of fruit.
  • Another problem: Research has shown that people don’t cut back on how much they eat just because they’ve drunk a sugary drink. Apparently, many people’s brains don’t account for calories taken in through a drink. But many people do eat less if the last thing they ate was something big such as a big piece of cake or a large meal.

The Industry Strikes Back

I saw an interesting piece by the American Beverage Association that tried to minimize this problem. They stated that “only 7%” of a person’s total calories each day are from sugared beverages. However, 7 percent of a 2,000-calorie diet is still140 calories per day, which equals an extra pound’s worth of calories about every 25 days, or almost 15 extra pounds per year. That is not insignificant!

How can we cut back?

Cutting back requires that the whole family get involved.

  • Don’t buy 2-liter bottles or cases of soda. If these drinks aren’t there, you and your child won’t drink them.
  • Encourage your kids’ schools to eliminate vending machines that contain sugary beverages.
  • Discuss these facts with your children and educate them about what’s involved.
  • Continue to encourage regular exercise.
  • A note on sports drinks: for a child exercising in extreme heat or for more than 60 minutes duration, these drinks are recommended for hydration.

Cutting back on anything that has become a habit is hard. But with consistency and time, it becomes easier, especially as people start to feel better and healthier in the process.

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