Carolinas HealthCare System
Print This Page Print    Email to a Friend Email
Hard to Swallow - How Much Sugar is Hiding in Kids’ Drinks?

Looking for a Primary Care Doctor?

Call 844-881-2180
for an appointment.

Or, complete an online request form.

Doctor Spotlight

Erin Haynes, DO

Ana-Maria Temple, MD


Charlotte Pediatric Clinic-Blakeney
6235 Blakeney Park Drive,
Suite 100
Charlotte, NC 28277

Medical School
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill

Hershey Medical Center

Board Certified

Although our bodies need sugar for energy, we don’t need 180 pounds of the sweet stuff. That’s the average amount of sugar eaten by Americans in a year. And that’s a whole lot of sweetness.

The major sources of added sugars in American diets are regular soft drinks and fruit drinks along with candy, cakes, cookies and pies. “While most parents routinely limit the amount of candy consumed by little ones, they may not be as vigilant when it comes to drinks,” said Ana-Maria Temple, MD, from Charlotte Pediatric Clinic-Blakeney, part of Carolinas HealthCare System.

As part of the 5-2-1-0 movement (5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of recreational screen time and 1 hour or more of physical activity), the 0 stands for sugary drinks, meaning it’s best to eliminate them in favor of more water and low-fat milk (If your child is 2 or younger, whole milk is recommended).

“Cut back slowly on sugar-filled drinks, juices and sports drinks – both for children and grown-ups, and read the labels on beverages,” said Dr. Temple.

“A common misconception is that 100 percent fruit juice is healthy, that it has vitamins that kids need and is better than other juices," Dr. Temple said. “However, the process of creating these juices removes any health benefits.” First, fruits are juiced, removing pulp and peels which contain fiber. Second, the juice is boiled at 210 degrees for pasteurization (so it can last on the shelf until 2018). This heating process kills any vitamins that may be present in juice. Any nutrient mentioned on the packaging is added by the processing plant. By the time it hits the grocery shelf, sugar is the only thing left over.

For children, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 130 to 170 calories (3 to 4 teaspoons) per day of added sugar. A good rule of thumb to remember is that roughly 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Even drinks that sound healthy may have too much sugar. For instance, some canned teas contain more than 50 grams of sugar and most smoothies are a minefield of sugar and calories.

Common Drink Choices
Drink Size Total Calories Sugar gr. Sugar tsp.
Cola 20 oz 250 cal 65 g 15
100% Apple Juice 15.2 oz 220 cal 48 g 11
Energy Drinks 16 oz 200 cal 54 g 13
Sports Drinks 20 oz 130 cal 34 g 8
Vitamin Water 20 oz 125 cal 32.5 g 8
Water 20 oz 0 cal 0 g 0

“Consider how frequently you or your child enjoy these beverages and what nutrition, if any, they provide. And, remember, water is the best thing to drink if you’re thirsty,” said Dr. Temple.

Take the Pledge

Join the 5210 League, by taking the pledge and showing your commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle.