How much sugar is hiding in your drink?

Did you know that the average American consumed 44 gallons of soda last year?

Master Food Volunteers (MFVs) in Arlington and Fairfax joined 173 other groups of health advocates across the state to raise awareness about the dangers of sugary beverages.

Rev Your Bev” day, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, sensitized citizens about the high sugar content in popular beverages and encouraged them to lower consumption of these drinks. MFVs set up tables in Fairfax and Arlington County Extension Offices, displaying the amount of sugar in various beverages, including sodas, sports drinks, sweet tea, and energy drinks.

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This photo of the Rev Your Bev display shows the sugar content of some popular drinks.

Interested bystanders were asked to fill out a survey to gauge their knowledge of the issue and the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages in their diets. The MFVs talked with people about the astounding statistics on sugar consumption in the U.S. and offered strategies for making healthier beverage choices.

  • For each sugary drink consumed per day, a child’s risk of becoming overweight increases by 60%.
  • It takes over an hour of walking to burn off the 240 calories in a 20-ounce bottle of cola.
  • By drinking just one 20-ounce cola per day, you could gain 25 pounds in one year.

Why were MFVs so interested in educating the public about these beverages, which some health practitioners have called “sugar delivery systems”?  Sugar sweetened drinks are a primary cause of the obesity.  Yet, it is difficult for many people to avoid over consuming them because they are cheap, ubiquitous, and tasty. And, many drinks are marketed as healthful—promising improved sports performance, vitamin and mineral delivery, etc.—yet packed with sugar.

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Kristin at the Fairlington Community Center

To help reduce sugar in your beverages, buy smaller portion sizes, buy lower calorie drinks, and of course make water your default beverage. You can also make your own drinks, such as coffee, tea, or water sweetened with a splash of fruit juice. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to these drinks only adds 15 calories. In contrast, a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 240 calories or 16 teaspoons of sugar. 

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Melanie at the Pennino Building

For more tips on making smart beverage choices, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet, Make Better Beverage Choices.

–Mike Perel, Master Food Volunteer

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