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Think Before You Drink – Calories Add Up

Here we are—the fourth column in honor of National Nutrition Month.

This week we’ll look at how calories can sneak into our bodies in our beverages. So easy to enjoy without real awareness of the quality and energy value of the beverage in question!

But first a reminder of the topics already covered:

Be Healthy:

Watch Out for Trans Fats

Choose Foods with Unsaturated Fats

Eat Out Less and use Ingredients You Recognize

Learn About Ultra Processed Food and Use Less

After looking at the benefits and hazards that lurk in our favorite beverages, we’ll take a look back at this National Nutrition Month series. What are the take-home messages?

Think Before You Drink – Calories Add Up

When trying to lose weight, we often hear about water as a helpful way to begin to fill an empty stomach, maybe saving you from overeating during a meal. However, researchers have observed that regardless of what beverages are consumed at mealtimes, we’re likely to eat the same amount of food (Journal of the American Heart Association, Feb 26, 2020).

Whether drinks are consumed with or between meals, they can be loaded with more calories, mostly from sugar, than you imagine. A 12-ounce regular soft drink has between 35 and 45 grams of sugar (9 to 11 teaspoons) for 140-150 Calories.

For example, let's look at these drinks . Note gram to tsp conversion: *4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp:

  1. McCafe Mocha Frappe (medium) 54 grams of sugar *13.5 tsp sugar

  2. Minute Maid Cranberry Grape (12 fl oz) 71 grams of sugar *17.75 tsp sugar

  3. Tropicana Twister Soda, Orange (20 fl oz) 87 grams of sugar *21.75 tsp sugar

  4. Sunkist Orange Soda (12 fl oz) 44 grams of sugarUI *11 tsp sugar

  5. Newman’s Own Virgin Limeade (8 fl oz) 34 grams of sugar *8.5 tsp sugar

  6. Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha Frappacino (16 fl oz Grande) 69 grams of sugar *17.25 tsp sugar

  7. Mountain Dew (12 fl oz) 46 grams of sugar *11.5 tsp sugar

  8. Rockstar Energy Drink (8.4 fl oz) 33 grams of sugar *8.25 tsp sugar

What about the many “tea” beverages on grocery shelves? Gold Peak Iced Tea (16.9 fl oz) has 44 grams of total sugars *11 tsp sugar, for 170 Calories.

We quickly touched on energy drinks with Rockstar, also called sports drinks….that’s a huge topic by itself. Another day, perhaps.


  • If you are able to maintain a moderate alcohol intake, enjoy it. But if a little leads to a lot, consider crossing it off your list.

  • Bring foods into your home as close to their natural state as possible! Then you’ll have no worries about trans fats, ultra-processed foods, commercial beverages loaded with sugar.

  • Look for opportunities to share meals. Packing a lunch for yourself, your partner, the kids (the evening before, since morning can be so hectic!) this is one more way to “share” a meal.

Even the act of planning a menu is part of sharing food, in my opinion. My husband and I have planned weekly menus for decades, every Sunday evening. This does away with the paralyzing “what’s for supper?” struggle as one arrives home from work or school—or whatever. And, in our case, we share a conversation about the menu.

As always, it’s important to stay positive! Food really is a “connector of people”. From field to market to kitchen to table. Enjoy!

Tamworth Community Nurse Association

Related Articles:

Be Healthy

Eat Out Less & Use Ingredients You Recognize

Learn About Ultra-processed Foods and Use Less

Think Before You Drink – Calories Add Up

Author: Maureen McCarthy Diamond is a retired Registered Dietitian. She spent most of her professional life working with people with end-stage kidney disease. A year ago, she joined the Board of Tamworth Community Nurse Association.




Pepsico Partners:

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Newmans Own:

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group:


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