Ever find yourself wondering which beverage to choose from the endless rows of choices available? It is especially hard when each one advertises that it will make you healthy, your hair shine, give you a special new specific nutrient that is going to keep you disease free, or some similar promise.  Let’s clear up some of the confusion around these promoted-to-be healthy drinks that keep popping up and give you some tips so you can choose your beverages wisely.
juice glasses

There’s How Much Sugar in this drink?

Many drinks can be loaded with added sugars and you might never suspect it. There are two types of sugar in our diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars are those already present in fruits and milk. Added sugars include those added during processing and can include high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup solids, maltose, sucrose, and of course sugar. Sugar sweetened beverages like soda, teas, energy drinks, and coffee drinks have been shown to be associated with higher rates of obesity.   Added sugars are called empty calories because they can tack on additional calories without the nutrients. The extra sugar from drinks can also contribute to cavities and poor oral health. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit calories from added sugar to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.  That comes to approximately 50 grams/day on an average diet.

Beverage Amount of Sugar
8 ounces 100% Apple Juice 24 grams
8 ounces 1% Milk 13 grams
8 ounces Coke 26 grams
8 ounces Water 0 grams

How many servings are in this bottle?

Watch the serving size of the drink you are consuming. Sometimes drinks can contain multiple servings in each can or bottle. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time drinking 1 out of the 2.5 servings in a single bottle. Bottled beverages, like energy drinks, sports drinks, teas, sodas, and flavored waters do not have serving sizes defined by the Food and Drug Administration. The labeling law is in under review, but for now there is no limit on servings the bottler can declare for those foods and beverages for which there is not a serving size (like soda or candy).  This makes it difficult to visualize and understand what you are actually consuming. Adding those extra calories to your daily intake can add up quickly. Your first priority should be consuming a healthy balanced diet of real food, rather than high calorie beverages.



This drink will do what for me?

Maybe health is on your radar as a new goal to eat healthy or exercise more. Watch out for unrealistic health claims from drink companies trying to market to the health conscious crowd. Many of the beverages available at the grocery store will make claims that their drink can improve health, is organic or natural, or has a specific ingredient that will contribute to health benefits, but they are often untrue or are extremely exaggerated. For example, one brand made claims that their juice could be used as a treatment for heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. The Federal Trade Commission sued this particular brand for false advertising and the courts ruled in favor of the FTC. Cases this extreme and obviously wrong are not common, but many companies get away with making less outrageous yet false claims. If a beverage label claims that it can treat or cure a disease, it is safe to assume that it is a false claim. This doesn’t mean the beverage is harmful but don’t be fooled into thinking it is worth the high cost that they think they can get by making such claims.  It most likely won’t be able to achieve all that it is saying, so buyers beware.

False health claim beverages

The liquid calories don’t make you feel full for long

Water is actually an essential nutrient for your body, which means it is necessary to stay healthy and run efficiently. You can get water from many sources: in the foods you eat (think fruits and vegetables), plain water, or high water beverages and foods, like milk and real fruit juice. Drinking plain tea or coffee can provide you with some of the water your body needs, with zero calories.  Isn’t that good news?

So, What Now?

I hope I raised your awareness about how to navigate beverages choices a little better. Recent marketing has been targeting the health conscious and labeling their products to appear healthy or making some unproven health benefit claim. Watch out for drinks with added sugars, ambitious health claims, promising natural or organic, or drinks marketing a specific nutrient saying it is critical to your health. They tend to be costly and not worth the calories.

Simple healthy drink swaps to make

Instead of… Try…
Vanilla Latte made with whole milk Café Latte made with fat-free milk
Regular Soda Sparkling water or diet soda
Sweetened Iced Tea Sparkling water with a splash of 100% juice
Juice cocktail Water with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or other fruit.

flavored water


  1. Fair, Leslie. “POM v. FTC: A Dozen Quotable Quotes from the D.C. Circuit Opinion.” POM v. FTC: A Dozen Quotable Quotes from the D.C. Circuit Opinion. Federal Trade Commission, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 2 Jan. 2016.
  2. Food Labeling Guide” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
  3. Marieb, Elaine Nicpon, and Katja Hoehn. Human Anatomy & Physiology. 8th ed. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, 2010. Print.
  4. Pereira, MA. “Detailed Record Title: Sugar-sweetened and Artificially-sweetened Beverages in Relation to Obesity Risk.” Advances in Nutrition 5.6 (2014): 797-808. Print.
  5. Sugar 101.” Sugar 101. Web. 2 Jan. 2016.
  6. Touger-Decker, Riva, and Cor van Loveren. “Sugars and Dental Caries.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78.4 (2003): 881S–892S. Print.

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