Rethink Your Drink

Choosing water over sugary drinks supports a healthier weight, body, and brain!

Story by Sarah Gold, TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist

Summer is finally here! As we spend more time with our family and friends outside enjoying the warm weather, it’s easy to drink more sweet tea, sports drinks, and other beverages that have more sugar than we expect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average Oklahoman ages 18-34 drinks at least one sugary drink per day, which adds up to nearly 21 million pounds of sugar each year, or 38 pounds per person. This is more than any other state. 

Shape Your Future and TSET Healthy Living Program are sharing new messages on why Oklahoma should “Rethink Your Drink,” and choose water over sugary drinks. 

The Shape Your Future Rethink Your Drink messaging aims to reduce high obesity rates through simple ways: increasing awareness of the amounts of sugar in sweetened beverages, and highlighting the benefits of drinking water.

Messages from Shape Your Future and TSET Healthy Living Program are geared to adults, especially parents and caregivers of children. These individuals have the best opportunity to influence what Oklahoma children are drinking and to help children make healthier choices to avoid the onset of obesity.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are by far the biggest source of added sugar in the average American’s diet, accounting for more than one-third of the added sugar consumed. Soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juice boxes contain shocking amounts of sugar. A typical 12-ounce soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar—or about 10 sugar packets—amounting to 160 calories. 

The additional calories consumed through these sugar-sweetened beverages are ‘empty calories’ that have little to no nutritional value, increase hunger, and push people over their recommended daily calorie intake.  

The problem is that many Oklahomans just aren’t aware of how much sugar is hiding in sugar-sweetened beverages. Many parents believe that drinks like juice boxes and sports drinks are healthy for children. The truth is, these drinks have high amounts of added sugar. Drinking these sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to a variety of adverse health effects, including weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, as well as liver disease, gout, and tooth decay.

Studies have shown that:

  • Each additional 12-ounce soft drink consumed per day by children increases their odds of becoming obese by 60%. 
  • People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Men who drink one can of a sugary beverage per day have a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack.
  • Women who consume one can per day of a sugar-sweetened beverage have a 75% higher risk of gout.

In Spring of 2016, the FDA finalized changes to the nutrition facts labels on packaged foods to help consumers understand the amounts of added sugar in their foods. The new labels, due in 2020, make it easier for consumers to make better-informed choices when it comes to their added sugar intake. 

The hope is that a newfound knowledge of the high amounts of sugar in these everyday drinks will get adults and children to choose water over sugar-sweetened beverages. Hopefully, this can help to show Oklahomans that choosing water is the healthy—and easy—choice. 

In a perfect world, sugary drinks would not be so ingrained into everyday life and it would be easy and practical for us to completely give them up. However, this is not the case. It’s good to enjoy a soda or a sweet tea if you are craving one. Realistically, it’s more effective to concentrate on making sustainable changes to your everyday routine. For example, if you normally drink one sugar-sweetened beverage per day, concentrate on cutting out one or two per week for a month, and then reevaluate and create new goals. Cutting out sugar all-together isn’t sustainable. Give yourself grace and enjoy these drinks in moderation. 

More information about Rethink Your Drink can be found at ShapeYourFutureOK.com. There, you will find downloadable posters to help spread the word, water intake recommendations, ideas on how to make your water ‘mouthwatering’ and more. You can also connect with Shape Your Future on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@ShapeFutureOK) to access other exciting tools.