Before your kiddo starts that lemonade stand, you may want to read this...

In one of my free health groups, I was talking to challengers about how much soda they drink in a day. Some consumed 2-3 cans per day, while many others drink diet soda. And suddenly, I thought, I need to write a blog on this! I never realized how bad diet soda was for me or how much sugar was in regular soda until I became a health and fitness coach.

I used to be that girl that drank a diet soda a day. I loved the carbonation. And I didn’t want the extra calories from regular soda and I thought I needed the caffeine. But I didn’t realize how horrible artificial sweeteners were for me—you would think I would have known better as a nurse practitioner. Click here for a great Harvard article on the use of artificial sweeteners, it’s fascinating (and alarming)!

I started doing some research and found that 5 in 10 adults consume at least 1 sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) daily. Does that surprise you? This means, 50% adults are consuming approximately 145 calories per day from an SSB.

A study was released earlier this year by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics that stated almost 2/3 of children consume at least 1 SSB on a daily basis and 30% of children consume 2 or more SSB’s per day.

Let’s Talk Sugar

How much sugar is recommended on daily basis?

The current US dietary guidelines recommend consuming less than 10% of your daily caloric intake in the form of added sugars. It’s also recommended that sugar-sweetened beverages are limited or eliminated from your diet.

Men: 9 tsp = 36 grams of sugar

Women: 6 tsp = 25 grams of sugar

What about your children?

On average, U.S. children consume 19 teaspoons of added sugar daily (approximately 76 grams), and this sugar comes primarily from soda, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, & desserts. The American Heart Association has made three recommendations:

  • Children over age 2 years should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar each day.
  • Children should not drink more than one 8-ounce (1 cup) sugar-sweetened beverage per week.
  • Children under 2 years should avoid consuming any added sugar since they need nutrient-rich diets and are developing taste preferences.

Remember when I mentioned the lemonade stand earlier? One 8-ounce glass of lemonade contains 7 tsp of sugar. That is more than the daily recommended sugar intake for both women and children.

sugar in kids drinks

Where is Sugar Hiding?

The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks, desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk), and some grains.

There are four calories in one gram of sugar, so if a product has 15 grams of sugar per serving, that means you’re consuming 60 calories from sugar alone!

How to look for hidden sugars in food

To tell if a processed food contains added sugars, you need to look at the list of ingredients. Sugar has many other names. Besides those ending in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose (aka table sugar).

There are two types of sugars in American diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.

  1. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).
  2. Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation, such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal.

Common Added Sugars:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar
  • Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose, etc.)
  • Syrup

It is important to get into the habit of reading labels and limiting products made with white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose. Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners.

Sugar Content in Drinks You’re Consuming

sugar in sports drink vs soda

While a soda or sports drink may sound tasty, the sugar content can be very high, and might not help quench your thirst. In fact, they might even make you thirstier. If you can help it, stick to water. Remember, water is the cheapest drink out there! Plus, choosing to drink water instead of soda could save you around $300 every year!

Let’s talk Starbucks...

Don’t get me wrong, I love a special treat every now and again, but this blog got me thinking... “How much sugar is in one Starbuck’s drink?” I remember the craze over the Unicorn Frappucino at Starbucks a few months ago, and hearing how much sugar was in it—59 grams of sugar in a grande (16 oz) drink and a whopping 76 grams of sugar in a venti (24 oz).

Then summer hit, and Starbuck’s started promoting their S’mores Frappuccino. Did you know that a S’mores Frappuccino has 67 grams of sugar in a grande (16 oz) beverage and 88 grams of sugar in the venti (24 oz) drink?


Starbucks S’Mores Frappuccino Grande (16 oz Serving): Calories 490, Total Fat 20g, Cholesterol 70mg, Fiber 0, Total Carbohydrates 73g, Sugars 67g, Protein 5g

My Healthy Starbucks Frappuccino Alternative


So, you may ask, what is a good and healthy alternative to these fun, summer drinks? For me, it’s Shakeology!

Recently I made my own Smore’s “Frappucino.” Here’s what it contained…


  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Vegan Shakeology
  • 2 tsp ground whole wheat graham cracker crumbs, divided


  1. Place almond milk, ice, extract, Shakeology, and 1 tsp graham cracker crumbs in blender, cover and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a serving glass and garnish with remaining 1 tsp graham cracker crumbs, serve immediately.

Shakeology S’Mores “Frappuccino”: Calories 182, Total Fat 5g, Cholesterol 5mg, Fiber 4, Total Carbohydrates 17g, Sugars 8g, Protein 17g


low sugar beverages

One scoop of Shakeology has 8-9g of sugar, but the difference is that it’s not refined sugar. It’s an all-natural sweetener blend of non-GMO fructose and Stevia. Fructose is a natural sweetener from fruit. Shakeology is loaded with whole food ingredients from all over the world, including many fruits, beets in particular. The non-GMO fructose found in Shakeology is derived from beets, and has a low-glycemic index.

Learn more about Shakeology here.

What does low-glycemic index mean?

The glycemic index, or GI measures how a food containing carbohydrates raises blood glucose. A food with a high GI raises an individual's blood glucose more than a food with a medium to low GI. When planning a meal, a food with a high GI can be paired with a low GI food to help balance the meal. Learn more here.

The Sweetest Poison of All

This is how sugar has previously been described, but why? For many reasons...

  • Sugar is an unnatural chemical
  • Because it is a food, many don’t think of it as being harmful to the body
  • It is addictive
  • Excessive amounts of sugar are consumed on a daily basis in the United States by both adults and children
  • It can cause deleterious effects on the body

Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, asthma, allergies, tooth decay and cavities, gout to name a few. Read more here.

William Duffy, in his book Sugar Blues said this, “Refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans because it provides only that which nutritionists describe as ‘empty’ or ‘naked’ calories. It lacks the natural minerals which are present in the sugar beet or cane. In addition, sugar is worse than nothing because it drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination make upon one's entire system.”

Sounds pretty frightening, right?

So, what are some “clean” alternatives to sugar?

Natural sweeteners such as pure maple syrup, raw unfiltered honey, and Stevia are great!

Tips to Use When it Comes to Sugar

  • When possible, choose unsweetened vs sweetened products. However, be cautious because sometimes “sugar-free” means they are unhealthy artificial sweeteners.
  • Unsweetened applesauce works great for many recipes, and you may even need less oil!
  • Make your own dressings and condiments! I find that homemade marinara sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauces and salad dressings taste so much better when I make them, and don’t contain added sugars
  • Swap sugar-sweetened beverages for plain water or sparkling water flavored with fresh fruits, herbs, or vegetables such as cucumber.
  • Swap a traditional “dessert” for fresh fruit. I especially love to bake or grill fruit (particularly apples, pineapple, peaches & pears). It satisfies the sweet tooth and is incredibly delicious.
  • When drinking tea or coffee, avoid adding sugar. Instead, use a little bit of honey, pure maple syrup, or even a teaspoon of coconut oil!
  • Make your own snacks and/or granola. Buy unsalted, unsweetened raw nuts and seeds, whole grain rolled oats, and unsweetened dried fruits
  • BREAD: Ezekiel bread has no added sugars, while many of your commonly bought breads contain added sugars.
  • CEREALS: Be sure to check the sugar content before pouring your kiddo that bowl of cereal. Did you know in just ¾ cup of Lucky Charms there is 10 grams of sugar?
  • NUT BUTTERS: Opt for no added sugar, no added salt nut butters. Ideally, you want the only ingredients to be the nuts/seeds. Check out my blog on choosing the best nut/seed butter.
  • YOGURT: Go for plain yogurt and add your own honey or fruit! Read my blog on the best yogurt brands.

You don’t have to totally eliminate sugar from your diet!

That would be absurd. If you follow me on social media, you will know that I am all about balance—everything in moderation. I am a kettle corn lover. I put a little brown sugar on my sweet potatoes. I love a good dessert every now and again. But unfortunately, the majority of us are consuming sugar in excess. My hope is that this blog helps you to be more aware of the added sugar in the foods we are buying and consuming, so that you can improve the health of you and your family.

I would love to hear from YOU. What was your biggest take-away from this blog, and what changes do you think you’ll make in the future? Leave a comment below!