How Sweet is Your Drink?

I invite you to try this at home: Go into your kitchen and spoon ten teaspoons of sugar into a bowl. Would you ever sit down to eat this much sugar, all at once? Probably not. But if you drink sugar-containing beverages—soft drinks, sweetened iced teas, energy drinks, sports drinks, smoothies, even fruit juice—you can easily consume that much sugar or more in just a few gulps. A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, about the same as a 12 ounce bottle of 100% orange juice. Grape juice has even more—about 15 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces.

Why am I asking you to be mindful about the amount of sugar in your drink? Because over time, drinking large amounts of sugary beverages can increase our risk of becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes, and perhaps even our risk of developing heart disease. So-called “diet” drinks, made with calorie-free sweeteners such as stevia or aspartame, may not be much better for us, as they may condition our palates to crave sweeter and sweeter foods and drinks.

We are all subject to the allure of tasty sweetened drinks that we can grab in ever-larger containers at the office, the gas station, the convenience store, the gym. But now that we are aware of the health risks associated with unmindful drinking, we can begin to form new habits—habits that may help us achieve a healthier weight.

Tips for choosing healthy beverages:

1. Read the labels carefully. Many sugary drinks are marketed as being “healthy” or “natural,” or touted as being packed with antioxidants, vitamins or herbs, but upon inspection of the Nutrition Facts label, you will find that they are loaded in sugar.

2. Embrace delicious low-sugar alternatives, including water infused with citrus and herbs, plain tea or coffee, or sparkling water with a slash of juice. See more ideas at The Nutrition Source, a website maintained by the Dept. of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

3. Check out the easy and quick How Sweet Is It? reference guide, created by the Dept. of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, which shows just how many teaspoons of sugar are in popular beverages.

4. If you do want something that’s a tad more sweet, my colleagues at Harvard and I recommend that you stick with beverages that have no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce—70 percent less sugar than a typical soft drink. These are a better choice than high-sugar soft drinks, but they still have calories – 50 calories in 12 ounces – so don’t overdo it. See the How Sweet Is It? guide for ideas.

Please share your healthy drink recipes and favorite low sugar drinks with our Savor community!

Looking forward to hearing from you,


P.S. When we consider healthy beverages, let us be mindful of our planet’s health and as well as our personal health. The use and inappropriate disposal of beverage bottles results in litter and increased oil drilling in order to manufacture and ship more containers, which increases global warming. Can you share your tips for “green” drink consumption?


Looking at a label, how do I equate the sugar contents with the tablespoons in the How Sweet Is It Guide?

This is a great question. The How Sweet Is It guide depicts the number of teaspoons of sugar in different drinks. One teaspoon of sugar weighs about 4 grams. So you can take the number of grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label and divide it by 4 to find out how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving of your drink. Make sure to check the number of servings in the beverage container: The Nutrition Facts label usually only gives you the amount of sugar in 8 ounces of a beverage. So, for a 12 ounce can, multiply the number of teaspoons by 1.5; for a 20 ounce bottle, multiple the number of teaspoons by 2.5.

I hope this helps. All the best,


I am concerned hat children learn to cope in a world of food and drink temptations . I grew up with a craving for everything I was deprived of and no skills to cope with the abundence of garbage out there. Just say no has not really shown to work. When my kids were little I wanted them to get the habit ofesting oatmeal in the am. The real thing with no sweeteners o. It. t first I would let them put anything. On their oatmeal and so for a couple weeks short of hotdogs was dumped on the cereal and then my son then three figured out how good it was plai n as he called it with just milk and to this day he is twenty retains the habit. Sometimes you have to go there to get here

Very good information!!!!

Very true!

My favorite low-sugar drink for a treat is mineral water with juice from a half lemon or lime and a small squeeze of agave nectar (which has a low glycemic index and maybe equals a teaspoon). This a delicious and refreshing drink instead of a soda or cocktail.

Sugar is the hidden killer in many foods. That, and high fructose corn syrup!

Once you visualize the amount of sugar in a product, it does become hard to consume it any more. One of my "old-time" favorites was an Arby's Jamoca shake - 35 teaspoons of sugar! Once I saw that, it was no more Jamoca shakes.

Unfortunately, American's, on average, consume 170 pounds of sugar every year.

Ken Leebow
Feed Your Head

I would love to drink water infused with citrus and herbs. Do you have any ideas? Thanks.

Remember that the body sees a very big difference between the refined sugars added to stuff and the sugars that occur naturally in plants that are eaten whole. Smoothies with all fruit are great, or better yet smoothies that are mostly green plants with some fruit thrown in for flavor are the probably the best thing you can eat. 100% fruit juice, meaning no added sugar, is nutritionally sound but it must be noted that it is very high calorie for the fibre and other nutrients it provides so it should be used minimally to leave room for other good stuff the body needs. Try blending a bunch of greens, spinach is the best to start with, a cup of juice (or water or soy milk or a combo), a large banana, 1/2 bag of frozen blueberries, a handful of nuts if you want.........Any greens, any fruits will work.....mmmm...mmmm good....

try a splash of juice in fresh-brewed tea!
:) ls

I enjoy fresh juice and iced tea too-

Here are two of my other favorite drink recipes:

Fruit Cooler:

Sparkling Iced Tea:

Savor with friends!

With a smile,


If fruit juice is high in sugar, how does one get the five servings of fruit in their cant have fruit without the juice.

Eating whole fruit has less sugar than juiced because it takes many oranges to get 12 oz of juice. So it comes down to portion control. Not to mention that eating the whole fruit has all the fiber in it to fill you up faster than drinking just the juice and discarding the fiber.

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