Sodas get a lot of bad press for the amount of calories they contain from sugar. Even natural sodas made with cane sugar contain calories.

A typical 16-ounce cola has 140 calories and 41 grams of sugar — that’s 10 teaspoons of sugar.

A typical 16-ounce root beer has 203 calories and 52 grams of sugar — that’s 13 teaspoons of sugar.

While many of us don’t drink sodas, we can still get calories from a variety of beverages. Remember that caloric sweeteners aren’t limited to sugar. We need to think about honey, agave syrup, coconut sugar and others, since they all contain calories.

What’s in my drink?

Let’s take a look at commonly consumed beverages. How much sugar and calories do they contain? Note that these are estimated calorie amounts based on commonly consumed beverages. The specific beverages you consume may differ.

Coffee beverages — While black coffee has no calories, once you start adding in creamer, whole milk or sweeteners like sugar, agave nectar and syrups,  the calories from fat and sugar start increasing.

Consider a 16 ounce mocha frappuccino with whipped cream. It has 410 calories and 61 grams of sugar — or 15 teaspoons. Some of that sugar — possibly 12 – 18 grams or 3 – 4 teaspoons — naturally occurs in the milk.

Here’s how to keep sugar and calories in check. Keep coffee drinks simple and smaller. Opt for a tall rather than a grande. Instead of whole milk or cream use reduced-fat dairy milks or reduced-fat plant milks, or drink coffee black.
At home,  stir in nonfat dry milk powder to get creaminess without the fat.
If ordering out, ask for fewer pumps of syrups or select sugar-free syrups.
Or, increase flavor with cinnamon or a dash of cocoa powder instead of high-calorie syrups.

Juices — While 100 percent bottled, squeezed, or pressed juices from a juice bar may have no added sugar or sweeteners, they have plenty of natural sugars — called fructose — from the fruit.

A 16-ounce glass of 100 percent apple juice has 240 calories and 56 grams of sugar. A 12-ounce bottle of a “fresh” juice smoothie has 200 calories and 34 grams of sugar.

If you don’t want to cut out juices, here’s how to keep sugar and calories in check. Consider fruit juices with added water and low- or no-calorie sweeteners; these have reduced calories. Opt for a smaller glass — perhaps 4 or 6 ounces instead of an 8-ounce glass or  12-ounce or 16-ounce bottle. Make a fruit spritzer by mixing 100 percent fruit juice with calorie-free club soda.
Try a low-sodium tomato juice or vegetable juice instead of fruit juice for fewer calories and less natural sugar.

Energy drinks and shots — Energy drinks can also contain sugar in addition to caffeine and herbal stimulants. A typical 16-ounce energy drink has 200 calories and 54 grams of sugar — that’s 13 teaspoons of sugar.

Children and teens should not be drinking energy drinks anyway; if they are tired they need sleep, not stimulants.

The bottom line

Think about what you drink. And, when possible, drink water!

Talk to Leah

Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at, 800-334-4936 or at

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