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Read the Label

Soft drinks (soda, “fruit” drinks, sweetened teas, sports drinks, etc.) are the largest source of refined sugars in Americans' diets. Would you ever sit down and eat 17 teaspoons of sugar? That's how much sugar is in a 20-ounce bottle of soda. That's more refined sugar than is recommended for an entire day.

People who drink more sodas and other soft drinks consume more calories and are more likely to be overweight. The calories they drink don't seem to register as well as the calories they eat from solid food. So people who add a 20-ounce soda to their lunches probably won't make up for it later by eating 250 fewer calories of solid food.  Drinking just one 12 oz. can of soda every day is equivalent to 55,000 calories, or 15 pounds a year. 

In addition to the risk associated with gaining weight, new studies suggest that having too many sugar-sweetened drinks can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes in adults and children.  People who drink a can of soda a day, even if they are not overweight, have a greater chance of getting type 2 diabetes. 

Soda also can crowd out healthier foods, like low-fat milk, which can reduce the risk of bone fractures (osteoporosis) or 100% fruit juice, which can reduce the risk of cancer. Twenty years ago, teenage boys drank two times more milk than soft drinks, and girls drank 50 percent more milk than soft drinks. Today, teenagers drink twice as much soda pop as milk.

Soda is also hard on teeth. The sugar in soft drinks can cause tooth decay and sodas have acids in them that eat away at the enamel coverings of teeth.

Most people don't drink soda and other sugar sweetened beverages because they are thirsty. It has become a habit and a way of socializing.

Learning good eating and drinking habits starts early for kids. To assist parents and other caregivers in giving the right information, the Boston Public Health Commission has developed Delicious Drinks!, a free booklet to help teach children about making healthy and delicious drink choices. Delicious Drinks! has an interactive design for parents and young children to read together. It highlights healthy beverage selections, such as low-fat milk, plain and flavored waters, as well as a healthy fizzy drink that can be made easily at home. The booklet is being distributed to first graders in public and parochial schools across Boston.

Download the Delicious Drinks booklet

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How can you break the habit?

  • Make healthy beverages more flavorful: Mix sparkling mineral water and 100% fruit juice. Diluting high-calorie fruit juices with water provides a refreshing beverage alternative.
  • Make healthy beverages easy to reach: Keep refrigerated water and water-abundant fruits (watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe) easily accessible at home. Place children's cups and drinking glasses near the water instead of the soda.

  • Make small changes: Substitute 100% juice for sugared drinks and place water in children's lunch boxes a few times during the week.
  • Make healthy beverages appealing: Drinking a beverage is as much a social activity as a way to quench thirst. Single-serve bottles of water in a variety of flavors can be just as appealing as soft drinks.
  • Drink milk: Both whole and skim milk is a better choice than soda – especially for children. It provides plenty of calcium and vitamin D necessary for strong bones and teeth.

  • Drink water: Instead of soft drinks or fruit punch, select water most of the time. Water will quench thirst without increasing calories. Try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime for flavor.

  • Read the label: Make sure to read the label for fruit drinks. Many brands can have as much extra sugar as soda. One six ounce glass of 100% fruit juice per day is enough to provide nutrients for healthy growth.  

Nutrition labels hold a lot of information in a small space. Learn how to get the most out of them from the people who wrote the rules, The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: