Whether it’s a fancy latte from the local coffee shop, energy drink to get through a long study session, soda at the beach or the latest fermented elixir, our drink options are seemingly endless. Despite efforts by some companies to reduce added sugar, most sugar-sweetened beverages still contain a significant amount of added sugar – and it’s not just the obvious culprits like Coke and Pepsi. A can of San Pellegrino Limonata contains 33 grams of added sugar per can, or 8.25 teaspoons of sugar, while Vitamin Water has an average of 30 grams of added sugar per bottle, or about 7.5 teaspoons.

Research shows that sales of sugar-sweetened beverages are increasing year over year. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention defines sugar-sweetened beverages as “any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars.” This includes sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and sweetened coffee and tea beverages, among other things. This does not include beverages with naturally occurring sugar, like 100% fruit juice.

Young adults consume the highest number of sugary drinks per day. While occasional sugary drinks might not be harmful, the cumulative impact of frequent consumption on our health, wallets, and the environment is considerable – and a good reason to check out the nutritional information on the drinks you buy!

Check out the Nutrition Facts panel on the next beverage you consume. Your might be surprised by how much sugar is in it!

Dietitians of Canada recommends that individuals aim to consume no more than 13 teaspoons of added sugar each day – about 10% or less of your daily caloric intake. To put that into context, a single can of soda can contain up to 40 grams, or 10 teaspoons of sugar!

Simple swaps for sugar-sweetened beverages

Ditch the sugary drinks and stay hydrated with these 5 simple swaps. You’ll save money, improve your health, and reduce your consumption of single-use cups and bottles!

1. Tap Water

Tap water is the easiest, most cost effective and environmentally friendly swap for sugar-sweetened beverages. Vancouver has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world and our tap water is safe to drink, so it’s easy to fill up your water bottle and go. Vancouver also has a variety of drinking fountains and bottle refill stations throughout the city to keep you hydrated all day long. Check out the TapMap App to locate them on the go.

2. Infused Water

If plain water is getting boring, switch it up by adding fruits and herbs like cucumbers, strawberries, and rosemary to a pitcher of water. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and you’ll have a delicious naturally flavoured drink to sip on all day. If you live in a first year residence at UBC, this is already made for you! We call it “spa water”. Look out for it in the dining rooms.

3. Cinnamon Coffee

Need a little caffeine in the morning? Save the sugary lattes and frappuccino for every once in a while. Amp up your daily coffee with some steamed milk (or a plant-based alternative) and a dash of cinnamon. I like adding the cinnamon right to the coffee grounds before brewing.

4. Fizzy Herbal Tea

Make your own iced tea at home. Brew some herbal or fruit tea and chill it in the fridge overnight. Then mix in a little club soda for a bubbly twist on a classic.

5. Homemade Fruit Slushies

Enjoy a naturally sweet drink by blending frozen fruit with some water and herbs for a delicious take on a slurpee. Or, combine water, ice, watermelon, and fresh basil or mint in a blender to create a hydrating summer drink.

Written with UBC dietetics student Britney Lentz.


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