How much sugar are you drinking?


The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day.That adds up to about 67 pounds of added sugar each year! At first glance, it seems like we are eating a lot of candy, cookies and cake. But in reality, many of us are drinking, rather than eating, all that excess sugar.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugar to about 10% of our total calorie intake.2 For someone on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, that’s about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per day. But what we pour into our cups and glasses leads us to exceed those limits routinely.

Did you know?

  • A typical non-diet 12-ounce can of soda has about 151 calories and 39 grams of sugar.3 In 1822, it took the average American five days to consume the amount of sugar found in one of these sodas.4
  • Energy drinks have the same amount of sugar as soda, if not more.5
  • While fruit juice contains beneficial vitamins and minerals that soda does not, fruit juice lacks the fiber found in whole fruits and can contain large amounts of added sugar.6

Plus, check out these surprising comparisons:

  • A 16-ounce iced caramel latte from a popular coffee chain has more sugar than three glazed donuts.7,8
  • One can of a best-selling soft drink has the twice the sugar as a cream-filled chocolate snack cake.9,10 
  • One bottle of a leading sports drink contains more sugar than peanut butter and chocolate candy cups.11,12

And we drink them all down without a second thought, despite the fact that the leading source of our added sugar intake is sugar-sweetened drinks.2

The Bitter Truth About Added Sugar

It’s important to differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are found in sources like whole fruit and milk (fructose and lactose), while added sugars can be found in processed foods and drinks like breakfast cereal, canned fruit, granola, canned baked beans and sodas, among many others.13 It is generally not necessary to avoid naturally occurring sugar, as it is digested slower, keeps your metabolism stable and comes from sources that have other necessary nutrients like fiber and vitamins. However, added sugars add on nutrient-lacking calories and cause a blood glucose level drop soon after eating, known as a sugar crash, which then leads to cravings and harmful habits.14 Unfortunately, many of our favorite drinks are full of these added sugars.

Regularly consuming excess added sugar can lead to obesity and negatively affect the liver, leading to Type 2 diabetes.15 It is also a contributing factor to heart disease, and excess body weight from overconsumption of sugar can increase your risk of cancer.16

So, what can we do to avoid overindulging in liquid sugar?

Here are five tips to help you dial back on this sweet problem that’s adversely affecting our collective health.

  1. Read nutrition labels: If your drink of choice has enough sugar to put you over the USDA recommended limit of 50 grams a day, look for an alternative. Make sure to check the ingredients too. Many drink packages show pictures of fruit, but a quick look at the label reveals that some of these drinks are about 5% juice, while the other 95% is water, sugar, corn syrup or other artificial sweeteners.
  2. Limit fruit juice: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice intake to four ounces per day for children ages one to three, six ounces for children ages four to six and 8 ounces for children seven and older.17 Better yet, encourage them to eat the whole apple, orange or berries, which come with the dietary fiber juice lacks. 
  3. Expand your options: Serve water and milk to children. Try making your own smoothies instead of buying premade smoothies with added sugar. Replace your soda with tea. Set a good example by drinking plenty of water yourself.
  4. Avoid the upgrades: Adding flavored syrup or creamers to your coffee or tea ratchets up the sugar content quickly. Coffee drinkers can doctor up their drink with natural flavors, such as cinnamon, and swap out the sugar-infused creamers for milk. Tea drinkers can add slices of citrus fruit, such as lemon, lime and orange, to boost flavor without added sugar.
  5. Treat sugary drinks like candy: While sweet treats are enjoyable in moderation, eating ten cookies or five snack cakes every day isn't advisable. Treat sugar-filled beverages the same way and enjoy them as a special indulgence instead of a daily habit.

Eliminating liquid sugar from your diet takes a little planning and a lot of willpower. However, aligning your habits with the nutritional needs of your body helps improve your overall health and decrease risk of disease, making the effort well worth it. 

GuideStone® cares about your health. We believe that when the body of Christ is healthy, it is free to transform the world. That’s why each of our health plans includes wellness tools and resources designed to keep you healthy and ready to serve. See how GuideStone’s Christian health plans are designed to meet your needs and allow you to maintain your biblical beliefs.