This spring Enviro Girl taught a class of 2nd graders about nutrition and one of the activities they did involved reading the labels on various beverage containers: a can of soda, a bottle of sports drink, a juice box, a pint of milk, a pint of chocolate milk, a pint of orange juice. They were collectively astonished at how much sugar was in all of the drinks. A can of soda had as much sugar as the energy sports drink (so much for Gatorade being a “healthy choice”) and slightly more than orange juice. To really drive this home, we measured out the amount of sugar in each drink serving so we could see it. The soda and sports drink each had about a quarter cup of sugar per serving! That’s WAY more than the recommended amount for a 2nd grader.
The following day the 2nd graders brought in packages of their favorite snacks and foods for us to examine. The only food that rivaled the amount of sugar in beverages was equally surprising: full-fat banana-strawberry yogurt had a whopping 39 grams of sugar per serving–that’s almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. We learned that a pop-tart had 12 grams of sugar, while a serving of orange juice had 38 grams of sugar. Nacho chips had no sugar. (Approximately 4 grams of sugar is 1 teaspoon.)
The take-away from this 2nd grade classroom study was that if you want to reduce the sugar in your diet, the easiest target is drinks, not food. Hands down, drinks have much more sugar content than food. We all agreed we’d rather eat an ice cream treat and drink water than drink Gatorade and call that our “treat.”
So, how do you quench your thirst on a hot summer day? Ice water is the best bet, but what do you serve to people who want a little kick in their cup? Enviro Girl suggests adding slices of fruit to a pitcher of water–citrus always tastes good–oranges, lemons, limes. You can add berries to water, mint leaves, slices of cucumbers, frozen chunks of watermelon.
Another option is to brew iced tea and sweeten it yourself, so you can control how much sugar you’re consuming. A bit of fruit juice mixed with seltzer water makes a crisp, bubbly drink with only a fraction of the sugar found in most sodas.
Not only are these drinks healthier for your body, they’re cheaper than buying high-sugar drinks packaged in plastic. A sliced orange and tap water in a pitcher costs less than $1, roughly the cost of a single serving of any other beverage the 2nd grade class studied. Infused ice water or home-brewed tea or lemonade is better for the environment because it doesn’t create trash or require the chemicals used to make artificial sweeteners used in packaged beverages.
Tell the Eco Women your healthy summer drink suggestions–what low-sugar drinks are on your table?