Skip to main content

Healthy Alternatives to Sugary Beverages

Written by Andrea Hanson under the direction and review of Megan Erickson, former SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.

With an abundance of different beverage products on the market, calorie intake from beverages has nearly doubled since the 1960s. According the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, beverages account for almost half (47%) of all added sugars consumed by the population. Consuming excess sugar may result in unwanted weight gain which can increase the risk of developing chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition, consuming too much sugar is also linked to poor dental health. Bacteria thrive in the presence of sugar, so regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages greatly increases the risk of developing cavities.

Choosing Healthier Drinks

So how do you fight the tantalizing temptation of sugar-sweetened beverages? Try the following tips to ‘rethink your drink’ and choose a healthier alternative to your favorite sugary drink.

  • Choose the low-calorie option.
    Opting for the lower calorie version of your favorite beverage can cut calorie and sugar intake nearly in half—or more! For example, an average 12-ounce can of soda contains nearly 140 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, while its diet counterpart generally contains less than 20 calories and minimal sugar.
  • Understand nutrition facts labels.
    Reading and comprehending the information on a nutrition facts label is crucial to knowing what you are putting into your body. It is important to realize that many labels provide calories for only a portion of the total package. To determine total calories, you must multiply the calories per serving by the total number of servings per package. The ingredient list is also important. Sweeteners that add calories to a beverage are not always obvious as they go by many different names. High-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, fructose, sucrose, and dextrose are just a few of the most common caloric sweeteners.
  • Try a healthier alternative.
    Fat-free and low-fat milk and 100% juices are also good alternatives to your typical sugar-sweetened beverages. They are not only delicious, but also provide key nutrients and are not extremely high in added sugars.
  • Stay hydrated.
    Water is one of the body’s most essential nutrients, so staying hydrated plays an important part in staying healthy. Carry a water bottle around and refill it throughout the day. Staying hydrated may curve the craving to indulge in a high-calorie, high-sugar beverage. Try adding fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices to your water as an innovative, refreshing alternative.

In Summary

So which beverage should you choose? Make sugar-sweetened beverages a “sometimes” choice. When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, moderation is key! Go for the smaller size. Forgo the extra flavoring or skip the sugar in your coffee. Remember, beverages are an important component of eating patterns. By making small changes and choosing healthier beverages is a great step to an overall healthy diet.


Related Topics

Health, Nutrition