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Rethinking Your Daily Beverages

April 2022

Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

The next time you go grocery shopping, read the nutrition labels on the items in your cart to see which ones have the most added sugars. You may be surprised to see that the beverages have more added sugars than the food. Sugary drinks are the leading source of added sugars in the American diet. These sweetened liquids include regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened waters. The flavored coffees we grab on the way to work and the sweet tea we make at home also count as sugary drinks. Let’s look at the added sugar in drinks. Adapted from CDC, We Can! PDF-305KB.

Drink (12-ounce serving) Teaspoons of Sugar Calories
Tap or Unsweetened Bottled Water 0 teaspoons 0
Unsweetened Tea 0 teaspoons 0
Sports Drinks 2 teaspoons 75
Lemonade 6 ¼ teaspoons 105
Sweet Tea 8 ½ teaspoons 120
Cola 10 ¼ teaspoons 150
Fruit Punch 11 ½ teaspoons 195
Root Beer 11 ½ teaspoons 170
Orange Soda 13 teaspoons 210

Why Should I Be Concerned about Sugary Drinks?

People who often drink sugary drinks are more likely to face health problems, such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, cavities, and gout, a type of arthritis. References 1–4.

Tips to Rethink Your Beverages

Remember that you can be a role model for your friends and family by choosing water and other healthy, low-calorie beverages.

"Sugar" by Any Other Name: How to Tell Whether Your Drink Is Sweetened

If these items appear in the ingredient list of your favorite beverage, you are consuming a sugar-sweetened beverage.


Malik V, Popkin B, Bray G, Desprs J-P, Hu F. Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation. 2010;121(11):1356-1364.

Malik VS, Hu FB. Fructose and Cardiometabolic Health: What the Evidence From Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tells Us. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;66(14):1615-1624.

Bomback A, Derebail V, Shoham D, et al. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption, hyperuricemia, and kidney disease. Kidney International. 2010;77(7):609-616.

Bernabe E, Vehkalahti MM, Sheiham A, Aromaa A, Suominen AL. Sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries in adults: a 4-year prospective study. J Dent. 2014;42(8):952-958.