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Healthy Alternatives to Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages

New research from The Obesity Society (TOS) has concluded that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) contribute to the obesity epidemic in the United States, especially among children. The Obesity Society defines SSBs as sodas, sports drinks, and other beverages that are primarily made up of water and added sugar. These drinks comprise 6 to 7 percent of Americans’ overall calorie intake.

“There’s no arguing with the fact that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. are troubling for our nation’s health, specifically the recently reported rise in severe obesity among children in JAMA Pediatrics,” said TOS spokesperson Diana Thomas, PhD, Professor at Montclair State University and Director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research.

“Following a thorough review and analysis of the existing research, TOS concludes that, by adding more non-nutritious calories to the American diet, SSBs have contributed to the U.S. obesity epidemic,” Thomas added.

According to Dr. Thomas, evidence also shows that individuals with a higher body mass index (BMI) consume more SSBs than individuals with a lower BMI. Decreasing SSB consumption may reduce overall calorie intake and help individuals who are overweight or obese maintain a healthy weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 and 34.9 percent of adults are obese. Among American youth, childhood obese has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The CDC also notes that SSBs are the largest source of added sugars in the diet of U.S. youth, and that consuming these drinks increases the intake of calories. In fact, a study that came out last year, said SSBs cost 180,000 lives worldwide, 25,000 of which in the United States.

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Although there is no standard definition of a healthy drink, there are several alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.


According to the Cook County Department of Public Health, at least half of your daily fluid intake -- 5 cups for kids, 10 cups for adults -- should come from water.

100% fruit juice

While 100% fruit juice has the same nutrients as fruits, it has more calories. The CDC recommends drinking limited amounts – no more than 6 ounces -- as an alternative to SSBs. If you prefer flavored water, you can add lemon or lime. It is important to note that some beverages claiming to be 100% fruit juice use a juice blend as a sweetener.

Non-fat or low-fat milk

Unflavored non-fat or low-fat milk is another alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. Consumption should be limited to no more than 8 ounces for children ages 2-10, and no more than 12 ounces for youths, adolescents, and adults. Plant-derived milk, such as soy milk, is also an alternative.