The Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) and Wellness Now are launching a new education campaign to promote awareness of the role of sugar-sweetened beverages in weight gain and related health problems.
“Most people have no idea how much sugar their drinks actually contain,” says OCCHD Dietitian Allyson Drain. For instance, drinking one 20 ounce soda a day will add up to consumption of 50 pounds of sugar by the end of the year. That translates into an extra 10 pounds of weight. “We’re hoping that once people realize how much sugary drinks contribute to weight gain, they’ll think twice before ordering that super-sized soda,” Drain says.
Over the next year, the Pouring on the Pounds awareness campaign will use advertising, social media, distribution of educational materials, health forums and community outreach through Wellness Now partners to get the word out about added calories from sugary drinks.
This week’s Rethink Your Drink challenges are encouraging people to eliminate or cut back on sugary beverages including sports and energy drinks and sweet coffee and teas, as well as sodas. But the challenge shouldn’t stop after just one week, Drain says. “Reducing sugary beverages over the long term is an effective strategy for avoiding obesity and the health problems that are linked to obesity.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of satisfying alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks.
1. Drink plenty of water.
- Nothing quenches thirst better than water.
- Water is naturally sugar-free and calorie-free.
- OKC water tastes as good as bottled water, or better – and it’s free.
- If you crave fizz, try seltzer.
2. Choose fat-free or 1% milk.
- Fat-free and 1% milk contain protein, calcium, vitamins and other nutrients.
- Unlike sugary drinks, milk is good for your bones!
- Almost everyone over age 2 should drink fat-free or 1% instead of whole milk.
- If you prefer soy milk, choose low-fat, light or unflavored.
3. Switch from juice to whole fruit.
- Most kids get too much juice and too little fruit.
- Fruit juice isn’t as healthful as most people think. It’s loaded with calories.
- Whole fruit has fewer calories, and unlike juice, it has fiber. Fiber helps keep you healthy. It also helps you feel full.
- Don’t waste money on punch and fruit-flavored drinks. These are just flavored sugar water.
4. Skip sports drinks and “energy” drinks.
- Most are high in sugar and low in nutrients, and energy drinks are loaded with caffeine.
- Water is all you need to stay hydrated, even while exercising.
5. Watch out for coffee and tea drinks and shakes.
- Check calories on the menu boards. You’ll probably be surprised at the calories in popular drinks.
- If you drink coffee or tea, order it plain (practically calorie-free) and lightly flavor it yourself.
- If you do have a sugar-sweetened drink, cut calories and save money by ordering a “small” instead of a “large.”
- Cut portion sizes by using small, 6-ounce glasses.
- If you do drink juice, add some water or seltzer to cut calories (and make it last longer).