Sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and yes, even fruit juice, are the wolf in sheep’s clothing of unhealthy foods. They’re not advertised as junk food, but for the amount of sugar they contain, they’re pretty much equal to candy and ice cream.
Why say no to sweet drinks?
Sugary drinks don’t give you the same sense of fullness as food does; your body is still hungry once you consume a sugary drink. Researchers have found that people who regularly consume sugary drinks – including fruit juice like orange, apple, and pineapple juice – have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, gout, kidney stones, osteoporosis, obesity, and nutrition deficiencies.
There are other reasons to pass on sugary drinks, not all of which are health-related.
- They might make you crave unhealthy food: Research suggests that drinking sugary sodas makes people crave sweet, high-carbohydrate foods.
- If they have caffeine, they’re made to be addictive: All but one of the most-consumed soft drinks have caffeine, which is a mildly addictive substance.
- They’re only getting bigger: In the 1950s, the standard size of a soft drink bottle was 6.5 ounces. After that came the 12-ounce can. Today, bottles are anywhere from 20 ounces to 64 ounces, and there’s no sign of them stopping.
- They damage your teeth: Refined sugar is a major cavity culprit. One analysis of data from 1971-1974 found that drinking soda was the strongest predictor of whether or not children would have cavities, and how many they would have (those who consumed more would have more cavities).
- They have suspicious additives: Caffeine is one of these, but there’s also yellow dye and red colorings that have been known to cause asthma, hives, runny noses, and, more rarely, life-threatening reactions. Artificial sweeteners like saccharin and acesulfame are also questionable, and have been linked to increased cancer risk.
- The perils of the soda industry: It’s worth noting that the soda industry itself is fairly questionable. It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to put big brand soda names in vending machines in schools and school stores, in television programs and movie advertising, and even on children’s toys. The nutrition labels are sometimes inaccurate or misleading, as well, along with a few other not-so-great things. It’s completely justifiable if this isn’t a concern, but it’s definitely the tipping point for some people who are considering giving up soft drinks.
- You’ll set an example for Baby: You’re going to have a pretty big influence on Baby‘s life. If you’re already a heavy sugared-beverage drinker, why not start cutting back now? It will be much easier to encourage Baby to have healthy habits when he gets old enough to pick his foods and drinks.
- You’ll save money: Even just cutting in half the amount of sugary drinks that you buy will have an impact on your finances.
How much is too much?
The best way to monitor your sugar intake is to pay attention to how many grams of sugar you consume in a single day. You can rank the quality of sugary drinks based on how much sugar they deliver in a single serving.
- Best: Drinks that have anywhere from zero grams of sugar to five grams of sugar in a 12 oz serving are your healthiest choice.
- Okay: Drinks that have between six and 12 grams of sugar aren’t great, but they won’t be detrimental if you drink them infrequently.
- Worst: Any drinks that have more than 12 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving should be avoided; they definitely shouldn’t be something that you drink on a regular basis.
How sweet it is…is it?
Sugary drinks often contain large amounts of calories and sugar, and little to no nutrition, which is why it’s best to restrict them to special occasions or a rare treat. Even if drinking sugary drinks wasn’t a problem for you, pre-pregnancy, now more than ever it’s important to monitor your sugar intake to make sure that you don’t consume more than the recommended amount in a day.
- “Sugary drinks and obesity fact sheet.” Harvard. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2017. Accessed 7/3/17. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/.
- Michael F Jacobson. “Liquid candy: How soft drinks are Harming Americans’ Health.” CSPINET. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2005. Accessed 7/3/17. Available at https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/liquid_candy_final_w_new_supplement.pdf.
- Vasanti S Malik, et al. “Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review.” Am J Clin Nutr. 84(2): 274–288. Web. Nov 2011.
- Liwei Chen, et al. “Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 85(5): 1299-1306. Web. May 2009.
- Frank B Hu. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 33(11): 2477-2483. Web. Nov 2010.
- Adam Drewnowski, France Bellisle. “Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight.” Am J Clin Nutr. 85(3):651-661. Web. Mar 2007.
- Susan J. Rodearmel, et al. “Small Changes in Dietary Sugar and Physical Activity as an Approach to Preventing Excessive Weight Gain: The America on the Move Family Study.” Pediatrics. 120(4). Web. Oct 2007.
- “How sweet is it?” Harvard. Harvard University, 2009. Web. Accessed 7/3/17. Available at https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/10/how-sweet-is-it-color.pdf.
- “Sugary drinks.” Harvard. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2017. Web. Accessed 7/3/17. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/.