Campaign Encourages People to Rethink Their Drink

SPRINGFIELD — Many people don’t realize how much sugar content and how many calories are in common beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda and flavored drinks, are now the largest source of added sugar in American diets and can account for a large percentage of a person’s daily calorie intake.

Choosing the right beverage is important to maintain a healthy diet and staying hydrated and energized. In 2015, Baystate Health Food and Nutrition Services joined the Health Healthcare Initiative’s (HHI) Health Care Without Harm, pledging to help reduce the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease.

“Since joining forces with (HHI), we have succeeded in reducing sodium levels in entrees and sugar in beverages,” said Sandra Kozciak of Baystate Health Food and Nutrition Services. “We are now working with Mass in Motion, a group of organizations in Massachusetts who are coming together to reduce sodium and sugar throughout the state, with special interest in healthcare systems and schools and vending machines.

Kozciak says a system based on traffic-light colors is a guide to help choose healthy beverages.

‘Green’ drinks — including water, seltzer water, and low-fat milk — are those that contain zero to five grams of sugar per 12 ounces. These drinks have no added sugars and artificial sweeteners. These are the healthiest choices, especially tap water. Water not only hydrates the body and quenches thirst, it also supports other bodily functions necessary for overall health. Low-fat milk contains natural sugars and healthy nutrients. However, because it does contain sugars, it should be consumed in portions that are 8 ounces or less.

‘Yellow’ beverages — like diet soda, diet iced tea, 100{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} fruit juice, low-calorie sports drinks, and flavored 1{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} milk — contain a moderate amount of sugar and sodium, anywhere between 6 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. They also contain artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners, like those found in diet and light drinks, may be doing more harm than good and could actually be contributing to weight gain. Although they’re lower in calories, these sweeteners actually taste sweeter than sugar and may make you crave more sweets. However, they’re are a better choice than high-sugar drinks and can be used to help you transition from red to green.

‘Red’ drinks — including regular soda, energy soda, sports drinks, pre-sweetened coffee and tea drinks, juice drinks with added sugar, and whole or 2{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} milk — are high in sugar and contain more than 12 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving. Many of these beverages also contain high levels of sodium and/or fat. Many of these drinks contain empty calories and have little to no nutrients. Drinking them can contribute to weight gain and other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If you’re not sure which color category your drink falls in, check out the label. It’s important to look at the nutritional facts on the package. Paying close attention and reading the label is the best way to really know what you’re drinking. For example, a standard serving size is 8 ounces, so a 20-ounce soda is actually 2.5 servings.

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