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 – with some sour effects on our health.

Child Health, Family Health, Your Health | 10 months ago

How Much Sugar Is Hiding in Kids' Drinks?

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 – with some sour effects on our health.

It’s no secret that most candies, cakes, cookies and pies are loaded with sugar. Most parents routinely limit the amount of these sweet treats their little ones consume. But they may not be as vigilant when it comes to sugar-laden drinks, like soda and fruit punch, that can pack more than a full day’s worth of sugar in a single bottle.

Even drinks that sound healthy may contain a boatload of sugar. One common misconception is that 100 percent fruit juice is healthy, because it has vitamins that kids need and is better than other juices. But the truth is, the process of creating these juices removes most of their health benefits – and leaves all the sugar.

For children, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (or 6 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.

How much sugar is hiding in kids’ drinks? Let’s take a look at some popular choices and see how 12 ounces (the size of a standard soda can) stack up.

Common Drink Choices

Drink Total Calories Grams Sugar
Teaspoons Sugar
Sports Drink
80 cal 21 g 5.25 tsp
Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
214 cal 34 g 8.5 tsp
Apple Juice
160 cal 37 g 9.25 tsp
Lemon-Lime Soda
140 cal 38 g 9.5 tsp
Water 0 cal 0 g
0 tsp

So, if a child has apple juice with breakfast, low-fat chocolate milk with lunch, a sports drink after school and lemon-lime soda with dinner, they could consume 130 grams of sugar in drinks alone. That’s more than five times what pediatricians recommend for a child’s total daily sugar intake.

To help kids stay healthy, it’s best to eliminate sugary drinks in favor of water and low-fat, unflavored milk (or whole milk if your child is 2 or younger). Consuming excess sugar has been linked to health issues from obesity to liver disease – even among children. If sugary drinks are a part of your child’s diet, or your own, start to read the labels on beverages and work toward cutting them out. The simplest tip? Don’t keep them in your home.


Looking for more ways to help your family stay healthy? By eating more fruits and vegetables, being physically active for at least one hour per day, limiting recreational screen time, and avoiding sugary drinks, your family can join the 5210 League and make the pledge to be healthy together. Learn more about the 5210 League