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Tara Dunker

Tara Dunker

Sugar is added to three out of four products found on grocery shelves today, making it nearly impossible to avoid.

 But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to decrease your intake for better health.

Make the healthy choice, the easy choice

When it comes to packaged foods and drinks, one of the best things you can do for your health is to become a label reader. Let’s be real though, you’re not going to spend your time poring over every little detail.

Start by looking at the ever-sneaky serving size listed at the top of the label. The main question you’re trying to answer is, “How many servings are in this container?”

You may be surprised to find your favorite bottle of lemonade actually contains three servings, instead of one. This would mean those 150 calories listed on the label increase threefold to 450 calories per bottle.

Apply this math to each component of the label, and you can see how quickly things like calories, sodium and added sugar multiply. Speaking of added sugar, you’ll want to become familiar with this part of the label if your goal is to make better drink choices.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories. For women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about six teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about nine teaspoons of sugar.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider many drinks—pop, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas—can have as much as 15 to 20 teaspoons of added sugar per bottle.

Drink one 20-ounce bottle of Coke for an afternoon pick-me-up, for instance, and you’ve consumed 16 teaspoons of added sugar. That’s significantly more than the recommendation for either gender and can have a big impact on health when repeated over weeks, months and years.

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Make the healthy choice, the easy choice

If you’re starting to rethink what you drink, consider these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

-Choose water, diet or low-calorie drinks most often.

-For a quick and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a reusable water bottle and refill it throughout the day.

-Don’t stock up on sugary drinks at home. Instead, keep a pitcher of cold water or unsweetened tea in the fridge.

-Serve water with meals, and try jazzing it up by adding cucumber slices or fresh fruit.

-Add a splash of 100% fruit juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing drink, without the added sugar.

-When you do opt for a sugary drink, choose the smaller size. Some companies now sell 8-ounce cans of your favorite pop, saving you on calories and added sugar.

-Be a role model by serving healthier drink options at the next event you host.

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If you have any further questions, please contact Tara Dunker at 402-223-1384, tara.dunker@unl.edu, or visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu.

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