Replacing Sugar Sweetened Beverages

November 21, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Health, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

I just stumbled upon a study published in Obesity on November 14, 2017. It was published just in time for this article that I’ve been planning to write about beverages. Since it’s good news, it was an especially welcome find. What the Harvard professor Sara N. Bleich et al found when they examined National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 to 2014 was a significant trend – declining consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) in both adults and children. In addition, they found water drinking increased. Now there’s something for which to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day; especially if you’re a public health nutritionist/dietitian.

The reason that I was thinking about writing about beverages is that beverages can be a menacing means for insidiously adding many calories into the already calorie-laden eating fest. Drinking sugar sweetened drinks doesn’t slow your hunger the way solid food does; so it’s easy to have one more drink of Aunt Martha’s cider punch or grab another sugary soda or juice.

Although there is plenty of evidence that SSBs are linked with an increase in obesity; heart disease; diabetes; strokes; decreased brain volume; increased brain aging; Alzheimer’s and dementia in general, today I only want to focus on what we can do to position ourselves to decrease our risk.

Although energy drinks are often loaded with sugar and caffeine, and have been linked with heart rhythm and blood pressure problems, today I’m not trying to address substitutes for them. I don’t consider the energy drinks to be a healthy choice; far from it. But my focus in this post is just going to be on regular SSBs.

Don’t forget; seemingly healthy 100% fruit juice has little fiber and can raise your blood sugar very quickly. If you’ve decided that you enjoy juice, are going to drink juice and not eat the whole fruit, then my advice is to limit the juice to a half-cup per day.

The big soda pop companies saw this decreasing consumption of SSBs coming for years and they entered the market with all kinds of flavored waters; some are very costly and some are sweetened with artificial sweeteners that many of you are striving to avoid.

If like me, you were trying to keep your liquid intake up, while also endeavoring to do it without taking sugar or artificial sweeteners, then maybe you’d enjoy some ideas to get your creativity flowing.

Besides using herb tea and regular tea blends, you may want to peruse the little list below and experiment with the ideas. There’s a certain satisfaction that I feel when I know exactly what’s in the drink or food that I’m consuming; and this is one way to do it. You can add any of the following to regular drinking water, or sparkling water, depending upon what you enjoy.

Mash or thinly slice the fruits, vegetables or herbs to get the flavor into the water. Alternately, put the sliced or finely chopped fruits and veggies into an ice cube tray or a snack baggie; and freeze. You can plop a couple of the colorful cubes into a glass of water; or blend them with water.

If a drink is not quite sweet enough, I sometimes add a little lo han guo (monk fruit extract) and a little erythritol. Even a few drops of honey or half teaspoon of sugar would be an improvement over the commercially sweetened beverages. (There are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of cola. If you can perfect your low-or no-sugar added methods, you will probably feel very successful. The following are ideas to experiment with.

  • Crushed berries (especially raspberries and strawberries) are very nice for adding a bit of flavor and color. Even whole berries floating in water can add a little flavor and lots of eye appeal.
  • Oranges, lemons and limes, washed with the rinds left on, sliced and floating in the glass makes a nice water flavor and visual presentation.
  • If you’re serving mangos, papayas, or pineapple, save some back to freeze for water flavoring.
  • Melons offer a very nice touch to plain water.
  • Just using any juice to flavor water increases the appeal; but using pomegranate adds that beautiful natural red color.
  • Slices of kiwi; peach; cherries; plums all add flavor and interest to water.
  • Mint is a time-honored addition to water; sometimes it’s teamed with cucumbers or citrus.
  • Don’t forget that some enjoy savory herbs like sage leaves, rosemary sprigs, or basil leaves.
  • Adding a little apple or other fruit to the blender containing veggies is one way to sweeten up the veggie drink.

These are just a few ideas to get you started in replacing SSBs and improving your nutritional and hydration status.

Happy Thanksgiving from us to you!