When you think about your meal plan for the day, you probably think of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and maybe dessert. But you probably don’t think much about the drinks you drink and how they contribute to (or take away from) your health goals.
“Unfortunately, in this country, a lot of the added sugar we consume comes from sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Heather Nass, a registered dietitian and director of operations at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine in New Orleans.
Nass said that too much added sugar is bad for our health for a number of reasons: There is a relationship between added sugar and diabetes, a relationship between added sugar and cardiovascular disease and it can be linked to cognitive problems.
“We know it’s not good for us, [but] “It can be hard to avoid,” Nas said.
But experts aren’t saying you should cut sugar-sweetened beverages completely from your diet. You can still have a soft drink here and there.
“I think there’s a time and a place for everything to fit into a healthy diet,” Nas said, “but if you’re someone who drinks soda as your main drink throughout the day, that’s something to keep in mind.”
Why? there are many reasons. Below, experts share the drinks they tend to avoid and the reasons behind their choices.
“For me personally, I don’t like diet drinks and diet sodas,” said Carlie Saint-Laurent Beaucejour, registered dietitian and owner of Crave With Carlie, a virtual nutrition practice.
Depending on the artificial sweetener in these drinks, she said she doesn’t enjoy the aftertaste.
It’s “also the side effect…just because it can cause bloating and other digestive issues that may not be good – I see that a lot in the people I work with,” she said.
Research has shown that artificial sweeteners can affect digestion. Plus, artificial sweeteners affect your sweet tolerance and make you want sweeter things, said saint laurent beausejour.
But, again, you also think that all food and drinks can fit into a meal plan — so, for most people, if you’re going to have soda, go for a half can rather than a full can of diet soda.
Saint-Laurent Beaucejour added that dietary advice is individual, however, for people with diabetes, diet soda is the best option because it will not have a significant impact on blood sugar.
In addition to diet soda, regular soda isn’t a frequent beverage choice among the experts who spoke to HuffPost.
“Soda would be the best for me,” Nas said, citing added sugar as one of the main reasons for this.
“A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 39 grams of sugar,” she said, and current dietary guidelines say 10% of your total daily calories should come from added sugars — so, for a 2,000-calorie diet, a can of soda Equivalent to 10% limit. It is very common to have more than one 12-ounce soda in a day.
Janet Andrade, a clinical nutritionist in the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, added that the soda “doesn’t contribute any kind of health benefit to me…it doesn’t really have a lot of vitamins or minerals in there.”
“The interesting thing about energy drinks, though, is that most people… think of them as, ‘Oh, that’s good for me.'” people said. “They often overlook the fact that they also have a lot of this added sugar.”
She said one 8-ounce can of Red Bull contains 27 grams of sugar, which equals about 7 teaspoons of sugar.
According to the American Heart Association, women should limit themselves to 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. For men, 9 tsp. One can of Red Bull contains more sugar than a woman should eat in a day, which is roughly the daily allowance for men.
The smoothies also align with experts’ concerns about being high in sugar. For example, Minute Maid’s fruit drink contains 24 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce glass, which is equal to the high amount of sugar in Red Bull.
This is why she avoids drinks like apple juice, Hawaiian punch and sugar-sweetened lemonade, said Jennifer Shearer, a nutritionist and fitness professional and president of Fredericksburg Fitness Studio in Virginia.
“I just believe you have to have the whole fruit itself, which has the fiber,” Scherer said.
When she craves something sweet, she reaches for an orange instead of orange juice.
Alcohol…with a warning
At first, alcohol seems like something to avoid — it’s often high in sugar, linked to liver damage and an increased risk of cancer.
Plus, some people have negative reactions to alcohol and can’t tolerate it at all, Andrade said.
She added that research suggests that some types of alcohol – namely red wine – are likely to have a small health benefit.
“Dark red wine—not necessarily rosé, that won’t give you a lot of antioxidants—but really rich, dark red wine,” she said.
The exact benefits of red wine still need to be explored, Dr. Don Pham, a cardiologist in Houston, previously told HuffPost. Some believe that resveratrol, an antioxidant in red wine, can reduce inflammation and the risk of blood clots, Pham said, but more research is needed because the data has been mixed.
Other than wine, Andrade said mixers that accompany cocktails add to a beverage’s calorie and sugar contents (like the margarita mix in tequila or the rum in rum and Coca-Cola). For example, a 4-ounce serving of Margaritaville margarita mix contains 26 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of a can of Red Bull.
What’s more, people often don’t disclose precisely how much alcohol they’re really drinking, Andrade said.
“It’s a taboo subject that no one really wants to admit. If they admit it, Andrade said, they usually underestimate how much they consume.
When you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, you also reduce the amount of sugar you drink along with dinner.
As the experts have pointed out, drinks that are high in sugar can sometimes be acceptable, but drinking them should not become a habit.