BY KATIE MAXEY, MS, RD, CHES
Spring is here, and warmer temperatures are on the way. The more time we spend outside in the heat, the more we find ourselves reaching for a cool drink. Have you taken a look at what’s in your drink? Many of the most popular drinks are high in sugar. Experts at Brenner FIT can help you decode nutrition facts labels to find low-sugar drink options.
- What makes a drink high in sugar?
- Take a look at a drink’s nutrition-facts label to determine the amount of sugar. First, notice the serving size on the nutrition-facts label. Most drinks will show one serving as 8 ounces. Second, find the amount of sugar that is listed for an 8-ounce serving. If a drink is high in sugar, it will have more than three grams of sugar. If a drink is low in sugar, it will have less than 3 grams of sugar.
- Why are low-sugar drinks recommended?
- Many high-sugar beverages contain extra calories without providing any other nutrients. We call these “empty calories.” Drinking beverages that are high in sugar can cause excess weight gain and increase our risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Why do low-sugar drinks still taste sweet?
- Many drinks that are low in sugar but still taste sweet contain a sugar substitute, such as sucralose (Splenda®), saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), aspartame (Equal®) or stevia (Truvia®).
- Aren’t sugar substitutes chemically altered?
- Yes, sugar substitutes are chemically altered; however, so are most of our drinks. Water is the best choice and is the only natural option. If you want something sweet without the extra calories, a drink with a sugar substitute is a great option.
- Which drinks are low in sugar?
- Many drinks that are advertised as “light” or use the word “zero” in their name are lower in sugar. However, always look at the nutrition facts label and make sure there are less than 3 grams of sugar for every 8 ounces.
- What is the best way to change my habit of drinking high-sugar beverages?
- When making a nutrition change, it is best to start slowly. Gradually build on the new habit, so you don’t feel like you are on a diet. Take a look at how many high-sugar drinks you have each day and decide what small change you could make. You might decide to drink one low-sugar drink each day. Or, the first step might be to purchase low-sugar drinks and taste them to find ones you like.
Brenner FIT (Families in Training), a pediatric weight-management program at Wake Forest Baptist Health Brenner Children’s Hospital, helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT Kohl’s Family Collaborative offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing. Register by calling 336-713-2348 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.