Sugary drinks have become such a mainstream part of today’s diet- from pop to energy drinks to specialty lattes. They’re being consumed more than ever and according to Stats Canada they’re where Canadians are getting the most added sugar in their diet. They account for a whopping 44% of children and adolescent’s daily sugar intake and 35% of adult’s daily intake. Time to cut out sugary drinks.
This intake of sugary beverages can contribute to a multitude of diseases like type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, non-alcoholic liver disease and heart disease. As if that’s not enough, they’re also associated with tooth decay, cavities, gout and of course, weight gain and obesity.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation states:
Over the next 25 years, sugary drink consumption will be responsible for:
● More than 1 million Canadians being overweight and more than 3 million becoming obese
● Almost 1 million cases of type 2 diabetes
● 300,000 Canadians with ischemic heart disease
● 100,000 cases of cancer
● Almost 40,000 strokes
Sugary drinks will account for an additional 63,321 deaths and 2,185,549 DALYs (the number of healthy life years lost due to ill health, disability or early death) in Canada, and an estimated $50,657,213,642 in direct health care costs (hospital care, physician care, drugs, other professionals, public health and other health spending) over the following 25 years.
With such a rap sheet of negative consequences, you’d think we’d all ditching these types of drinks in favour of healthier options. But it doesn’t appear that way. Consumption of these types of drinks is at an all time high with Canadians buying, on average, 444ml per day and consuming 334ml per day according to the Heart and Stroke foundation. (Anyone else curious as to where that 110ml is going that people are buying but not drinking?! Are we all stocking up for the apocalypse or something? That’s over 40 litres per year! But that’s beside that point…).
So the question remains- If it’s so bad for us, why in the world are we consuming so much of it? Well I’d guess for a multitude of reasons, but the top of the list being that they’re delicious and addictive. So regardless of how bad they may be for your health, it’s not as easy as choosing water over Coke and calling it a day. It’s tough to do, but the benefits are so worth it!
Here’s some tips to help you make healthier choices and have an overall positive impact on your own wellbeing:
Limit instead of eliminate
I’m not necessarily a fan of attempting to eliminate things from your diet cold turkey. It can lead to you craving and eating more of the whatever you’re trying to eliminate. That being said, I’m a big fan of reducing your consumption of unhealthy things with the intention of one day not consuming it at all (or at least consuming far less of it than you ever thought possible). So let’s apply that idea to sugary drinks!
The first thing to determine is how much you actually consume. I bet you’d be surprised when you look at your average day, just how much sugar you’re drinking (let alone eating!). My advice is to keep a log of just drinks for one week. Log everything, including water and things you might consider healthy drinks. In doing that you can get a good sense of how many sugar laden beverages you consume in a day, and make a goal that will work for you.
Here’s an example of what a typical person might consume in a day, and how much sugar that all adds up to:
MEAL DRINK VOLUME (ml) AMOUNT (g)
Breakfast Orange Juice 250 ml 21g
Lunch Coca-Cola 550 ml 53g
Dinner Full-Fat Milk 250 ml No added sugar
Snacks Chocolate milk 250 ml 24 g
So the total for that day (with 3 sugary beverages): 98g of sugar. That’s a whopping 24.5 teaspoons! And that’s before you’ve added in any potential sugar sources from food! Imagine sitting down and eating 24.5 teaspoons of sugar, one after another… pretty disgusting right?!
While some of you may not see that as a lot, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends sugar intake be NO MORE than 10% of your total caloric intake. And that is their upper limit. They also have a conditional recommendation for further reducing added sugars to less than 5%.
To work out how much 10% is, you can do some quick math. If you eat around 2000 calories a day, 10% would be 200 calories. There are 4 calories per 1 gram of sugar: 200 / 4 = 50. So your limit (that is, the upper limit) would be 50g of added sugar per day, which is 12.5 teaspoons. 5% would be 25g, or about 6 teaspoons.
Even if we use WHO’s strong recommendation, the person in the example above has consumed nearly double the recommendation for added sugar, and that’s before factoring in food.
Of course this is just an example, but I know that this is a fairly typical day for many people. Replacing just one of those drinks with a healthier alternative, or simply having a can instead of a bottle of coke, would reduce your sugar intake by about a quarter- which would have huge positive health impacts!
Replace with healthier alternatives
One of my least favorite things about this day and age is that unhealthy food and drinks are cheap, easily accessible, and full of variety. But on the flipside of that, healthy alternatives are cropping up everywhere and quickly becoming nearly as cheap, accessible, and diverse. So let’s explore some of these.
By far my favourite replacement for pop- it’s cheap, I can get it at any grocery store, and it now comes in tons of different flavours! The only ingredients should be carbonated water and natural flavours.
Another great way to drink sparkling water is to make your own using plain sparkling water or invest in a Soda Stream. We use ours daily to carbonate simple tap water and then add our own natural flavours. My personal favourite is a homemade ‘ginger ale’ with juice from half a lemon, ginger (I juice a ginger root and then freeze it in silicone trays to make it in advance), and a little bit of honey. But it’s lots of fun to experiment with new flavours and whatever fruit you happen to have on hand! Citrus works great, but so do berries, mint leaves, and pineapple.
Kombucha is super delicious and has a great fizziness that’s similar to pop. It comes in a bunch of flavours so you should be able to find something you love. As an added bonus, Kombucha is a fermented food and offers a great way to add beneficial probiotics to your diet. It’s not sugar free, as sugar is required for the fermentation, but it’s a lot less than you’d be getting in a pop. Be sure to check the label, as different brands will have different amounts of sugar. And if you’re feeling ambitious, you can brew your own Kombucha at home for even lower sugar levels! The longer it ferments, the less sugar there will be.
Whether you drink it hot or iced, flavoured tea is delicious. And even if you add your own sugar to sweeten it up, chances are you’re not adding 6 teaspoons to, so it’s not going to be as sugary as the cup of chocolate milk above! And there are amazing tea flavours these days! Pop into a David’s Tea or even check out a local craft fair or farmers market for fun new flavours.
If you’re used to having a daily glass of chocolate or strawberry milk, that’s about half your daily intake of sugar in one go. Make the switch to plain milk. Or, if that doesn’t appeal to you, buy the syrup or powder to add to your milk- I’m not claiming it’s healthy, but at least you can control how much sugar you’re consuming and make sure it’s less than it would be otherwise. One serving of the syrup/powder has about 11 grams of sugar, which is less than half a normal cup of chocolate milk. Keep in mind, that means you have to keep it to one serving.. you can’t just give the bottle a big squeeze and hope for the best!
I personally love sugary coffees. I love pumpkin spice lattes, frappuccinos, and double doubles. Or I should say I used to love them. I certainly still indulge occasionally, but my latte is now half sweet, my frappuccinos I make at home, and my double double only has one sugar (so a Double-Single I guess?). Not something I would do every day, but when I do have them I try and make them a slightly healthier choice. I do still have coffee everyday, but I make it at home as it’s too tempting to pop into a Starbucks (who wants to order a black coffee when the gingerbread latte with extra whipped cream and caramel sauce is pictured on the menu?!). I also make lots of fun specialty lattes at home, adding things like vanilla, coconut oil, cinnamon, molasses, peppermint, and cacao powder.
Up your intake of water
I’ve heard so many people say “I don’t drink enough water…” and I think often the reason is that we’re consuming other beverages instead! But what if all you did was focus on getting enough water during the day? (The best way to find out how much you need- take your weight in pounds, divide by 2 and that’s how many ounces you should be consuming). Once we’re drinking say, 8 glasses of water a day, will we have room for another litre of liquid from unhealthy sources?! I doubt it! You might find that when you focus on putting the healthy into your body, you crowd out some the unhealthy because there’s simply not room for both.
Don’t replace with “sugar free” alternatives
I’m all for trying to find healthier alternatives to unhealthy things. I definitely don’t like the idea of cutting something I love out of my diet forever, and I love to browse the health food store and experiment with different ingredients in my kitchen. But I fear we so often replace one unhealthy habit with another, under the guise of making better choices.
Artificial sweeteners are one of those replacements. It’s true that you won’t have to worry about the negative effects of sugar, but in excess artificial sweeteners come with their own array of problems. According to a study published in PubMed rats who were given IV cocaine, and were then given a choice between IV cocaine or oral saccharine (an artificial sweetener), the rats choose saccharine most of the time. So artificial sweeteners can be more addicting than cocaine!
Additionally, another study by the American Diabetes Association found that consuming diet drinks daily was associated with a 36% increased risk for metabolic syndrome as well as a 67% greater risk for type 2 diabetes.
It’s also important to note that most studies done on artificial sweeteners don’t take into account the cumulative amount many of us are consuming every day, over the course of many years. I’m not saying don’t ever consume them, and I’m not saying I’m an expert on their health effects, but I do think the jury’s still out on these sweeteners and we should proceed with caution while more studies are conducted.
Overall, if you’re looking to decrease your sugar intake, beverages are a great place to start! Track what you’re currently consuming, set a reasonable goal for yourself and get to work reducing, replacing with healthy alternatives, and increasing your intake of the one free beverage everyone needs daily-water! The impact on your health in the short and long term will be well worth it.
Having trouble reducing your sugar intake? Not sure where or how to get started? We’re here to help! Contact us Today!
If you are having trouble stopping a particular habit, there’s more to it than simple willpower! At One Step Health we work to address the WHOLE issue, by addressing every aspect of YOU. Our goal is to make you healthier. Plain and simple. Let’s start a journey to better health together.
Until next time, stay happy, healthy and hungry for improvement!