Sugar Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain

posted Oct 25, 2011, 7:30 AM by Jeanna Tachiki   [ updated Nov 3, 2011, 6:55 AM ]
Consumption of sweetened beverages by youth increased significantly over the past decade contributing to the increase in overweight and obesity in youth.  In order to burn enough calories to make up for drinking one 20 ounce bottle of regular soda, an average weight person would have to walk at least 46 minutes at a moderate pace.  Most Americans do not meet the recommended physical activity level of at least 30 minutes per day.    

How many calories are in the beverages you drink every day?  To find out, take a look at the Nutrition Facts label.  Below is an example of how calories from beverages can really add up with alternative options to help reduce the number of calories you drink.   


Instead of….




Mourning coffee shop run

Medium Coffee latte

(16 ounces) made with whole milk


Small coffee latter (12 oz)made with fat-free milk


Lunchtime combo meal

20- ounces non-diet soda with your lunch


Bottle of water or diet soda




Sweetened lemon iced tea from vending machine  (16 ounces)


Sparkling water with natural lemon flavor

(not sweetened)


Dinner time

A glass of nondiet ginger ale with your meal (12 oz)


Water with slice of lemon lime, or seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice


Total beverage






(USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)


This table shows that you can cut 650 calories per day just by choosing low calorie drinks in place of sugar-sweetened beverages. One 20-ounce soda contains about 250 calories, which is equal to17 teaspoons of sugar.  An extra 250 calories per day can lead to an extra 24 pounds of weight gain per year!
On top of providing extra calories leading to weight gain, sugar sweetened beverages like soda do not provide other essential nutrients.  Studies have found that people that drink soft drinks consume less milk, which means less calcium, protein, vitamin D and other nutrients. 


Reading labels can be tricky since sugar and other calorie containing sweeteners have many names!  Look in the ingredients list for calorie containing sweeteners other than sugar like honey, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose and dextrose.
By Ioulia Klemens, Loyola University Dietetic Intern