Do you have a problem with sugar?
You’re reading this article, so there’s a good chance you do.
Maybe you’re overweight, hooked on sugar and are looking for a way out.
Maybe you’re just hooked.
The problem with sugar is that it’s everywhere . . . and it’s hiding from you.
It’s in our drinks – even drinks that are widely considered healthy.
With this post (and the next couple of posts) I hope to uncover the hidden sugar in your life.
Why is sugar so bad? Why does it cause obesity and diabetes?
Sugar is more than calories.
Sugar raises your blood sugar, which triggers insulin release.
Insulin is a hormone that get’s blood sugar into your body, but also signals fat storage.
If you can eliminate the fat storage signal, you can eliminate the fat.
I’ll cover the most common sugary drinks causing you to get fat as well as healthy low sugar drink alternatives.
Use it to make a couple of changes in your diet and you’ll start seeing changes. It may take time, but if you stick with it and add some exercise, you can lose significant weight.
In fact, sugary drinks are an easy target.
I jump for joy when my patient’s tell me they are consuming a sugary beverage, because the weight loss solution becomes easy.
In my experience, the simple act of getting rid of sugary drinks is the most powerful and immediate way to lose weight AND prevent diabetes.
As a sugar reference, the World Health Organization now recommends only 10% of calories come from added sugar and strongly consider going as low as 5%.
This is about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for the average person, which is consistent with guidelines from the American Heart Association.
Here’s the 8 sugary drinks along with healthier low sugar drink options to consider:
1. Coffee Drinks (Lattes, Mochas and Frappes)
Syrups in coffee drinks can add sugar rather quickly making you fat (for illustrative purposes you should really check out my post: How a Latte a Day Will Make You Fat).
For instance, a Starbucks Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino Grande (16 oz) contains 58 grams of sugar.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Grande (16 oz) contains 47 grams.
My favorite – Starbucks Caffee Mocha – 34 grams.
Flavored syrups add liquid sugar to your drink.
Just 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup contains 19 grams of sugar.
My wife and I would habitually pump multiple tablespoons of this sugary syrup into our espresso to make mochas.
This habit needed to stop.
Our solution . . . syrup elimination.
We went to straight lattes without the syrup shots.
A cup of milk contains about 12 grams of sugar. So, we used unsweetened Soymilk to keep it sugar-free. You’ll need to decide on your own how little sugar you can handle.
During the summer months we also began making cold press coffee and added unsweetened soy milk to this as well.
You could consider getting snobby with your coffee.
Join the movement to drink coffees on their own accord and avoid flavor shots and creamers. If a creamer or milk is needed your coffee may simply be way too strong for your taste. A lighter, more subtle roast may suit you better.
Consider purchasing a coffee subscription to experiment with different varieties of coffee that emphasize subtle flavors.
Get snobby and enjoy.
To save on sugar in your coffee avoid the sugary flavor shots and consider craft coffees.
Traditional Cow’s Milk contains 11-12 grams of sugar per serving.
However, there is no evidence that sugar naturally present in milk is harmful, at least based on the World Health Organization recommendations.
Our family had eliminated traditional cows milk some time ago, because of lactose intolerance in one of our children.
And chocolate milk was eliminated years prior because of the terribly high sugar content on par with a can of Coke.
Chocolate milk has 24 grams per serving, twice as much as skim milk.
Alternative (non-cow’s) milk has blown up in the grocery aisles recently.
Also known as milk-like substitutes, the sugar in alternative milk is added sugar. Almonds and cashews have little to no natural sugar.
Our fridge is now a potpourri of milk options containing Oat, Almond, Cashew and Soy milk – all of which can pack a sugary punch only slightly better than cow’s milk.
SILK Vanilla Soymilk, for instance, contains 7 grams of sugar per serving.
So, we went unsweetened.
Unsweetened SILK Soymilk contains a mere 1 gram of sugar.
Almond milk is also sugary unless unsweetened, which brings the sugar content to zero.
This simple substitution eliminated at least 6 grams of sugar per serving, which adds up to at least 20-30 grams less sugar per day for each of us.
This adds up to big change.
Now, a quick note on the BEST milk.
There is debate about whether Cow’s milk or milk-like substitutes (such as soy, oat, almond or cashew milk) are better.
Remember, milk is not necessarily humans perfect drink. Unless it’s human breast milk or water, then we may not be made to drink it (a matter of debate).
So, drink water and use milk for variety, but if you are eating well and are fully nourished, don’t think you need milk for the nutritional value.
To avoid the natural sugar in cow’s milk consider drinking unsweetened milk alternatives.
Pop was eliminated from our household long ago and is an obvious target for most households.
One can of Coke contains 37 grams of sugar, which is over 9 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in a single can of coke.
A can of Mountain Dew is 46 grams of sugar. A 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew – a whopping 77 grams of pure sugar. That’s about 18 teaspoons of sugar in one drink, exceeding the WHO and AHA recommendations by 9-12 teaspoons in one drink.
I like flavored sparkling water as an alternative.
We keep Trader Joe’s Sparkling water which has a touch of lemon or lime. Tasty and it makes my tongue tingle . . . giving me a Pavlovian soda-pop response.
No calories, fat, sugar, sodium or artificial flavors.
4. Sports drinks
Sports drinks are another sugary beverage heavily marketed towards kids and adolescents to get them hooked.
Gatorade is the most identifiable of the sports drinks with a large marketing budget and a long-lived brand.
Gatorade is scientifically proven of course and endorsed by major athletes.
It must be healthy.
A bottle (591 ml) of the orange stuff has 34 grams of sugar. The first ingredient is water while the second ingredient is . . . you guessed it . . . sugar.
Sports drinks are as sugary as juice and pop.
A healthier option: WATER.
Unless you are a professional athlete, you can get by with water to rehydrate after a workout.
Slice up lemons and cucumbers to put in your water for flavor (or any fruit). For parties we fill up a large water dispenser or pitcher with ice water, lemons and cucumbers.
It’s so Pottery Barn . . . and totally refreshing.
Heck, check out a fruit infuser water bottle.
5. Fruit Juice
It still amazes me how many people still believe that juice is healthy. The juicing craze drives me crazy.
Juice is not natural.
By removing the rind, pulp, seeds and all the fiber you are essentially “processing” the fruit.
Squeezing out the juice leaves you with a drink high in fructose – a natural fruit sugar.
This is no different than drinking a pop with added sugar.
This includes orange juice – a cup of which has 21 grams of sugar. I prefer you eat an orange to get the roughage.
I also consider V8 to be a fruit juice.
V8 has less sugar, about 12 grams per serving, but is primarily a tomato juice. A tomato has seeds and is a fruit botanically speaking (though the supreme court ruled the tomato a vegetable in 1893).
If you absolutely must, drink juice in small amounts, but mostly try to eat the the fruit to get the fiber.
6. Energy drinks
Energy drinks are the new kid on the block. They have exploded in popularity especially among kids and teens.
These are drinks filled with combinations of sugar, caffeine, taurine, guarana and B vitamins that claim to give you extra energy.
These drinks are branded to attract adolescents with hip packaging; sporting names like Monster, Wired, Full Throttle, Red Bull and Rock Star.
This is modern day Camel smokes marketing to get teens hooked on the next cool thing.
Unfortunately, there have been a few links to bad health outcomes with energy drinks.
Rock Star Energy Drink contains 30 grams of sugar in an 8 oz can. Monster Energy Assault as well as Red Bull contains 27 grams per can.
I would simply avoid energy drinks.
7. Fruit Smoothies
A Fat Free Green Passion Power Smoothie at Panera has 47 grams of sugar. The Low Fat Mango Smoothie has 54 grams of sugar.
Often fruit smoothies are marketed as a healthy treat.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Commercial smoothies are often made with frozen fruit juice, non-fat yogurt and even sherbet – ingredients loaded with sugar.
Even “all natural” smoothies such as Jamba Juice Banana Berry Smoothie contains a load of sugar – 59 grams in a 16 ounce smoothie . . . twice the daily WHO recommendation.
The Aloha Pineapple Smoothie has 67 grams in a 16 ounce and 114 grams in a 28 ounce serving!
A healthier option would be to control your ingredients and make your own. At our household we treat ourselves with a smoothie using whole fruit blended in a Vitamix. We add baby spinach leaves and use unsweetened Soy, Cashew or Almond milk.
By blending the whole fruit you retain the pulp, fiber and seeds. This helps temper the blood sugar spike from the natural sugars in the fruit.
For more information check out how to make a perfect green smoothie.
8. Bottled Sweet Tea
When I’m in clinic with a patient and trying to get at what’s wrong with their diet, I frequently discover they’re drinking tea
It’s often referred to as a healthier drink option.
It’s tea doc. It’s good for you.
Tea is known for it’s health benefits, one of which may be losing weight (but that’s for another article).
However, bottled commercial tea is infused with lots of sugar to sweeten it and get you hooked.
Lipton Sweet Tea contains 23 grams of sugar in 8 ounces. The 20 ounce Lipton Lemon Iced Tea contains 31 grams of sugar.
These flavored sweet teas from your local convenience store are no different than drinking a pop.
Herbal teas are made from plant leaves, flowers, bark and seeds. Green tea in particular is filled with antioxidants and may help prolong your life.
There are numerous healthier drinks low in sugar to choose from.
Always check the label to look for added sugars. Think twice before drinking and consider one of the alternatives mentioned above.
In my experience, eliminating sugary drinks is one of the fastest ways for people to lose weight, prevent diabetes and quickly get healthy.
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