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Sweet Talk: Healthy Replacements for Sugary Drinks

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This information has been reviewed and approved by Andrew Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP and Michelle MacDonald, MS, RDN, CDE (May 2016).

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Summary: Sweet Talk Healthy Replacements for Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are sweet nothings: no nutrients, high in calories and may contribute to many serious health conditions.
Did you know that many Americans consume 22 teaspoons or 92 grams of added sugar each day?


Daily Recommended Limits for Added Sugar*

Men: 9 teaspoons or 37 grams
Women: 6 teaspoons or 25 grams
1 teaspoon = 4 to 5 grams of sugar
63 grams of sugar = 244 calories


The Surprising Truth about Sugar in Drinks:

Some drinks contain a whole meal’s worth of calories.

12 ounce Drink

Grams of Sugar*

Grape Juice


Coffee Shop Frappuccino


Cranberry Juice Cocktail


Orange Soda


Fruit Smoothie


Orange Juice


Apple Juice




Canned Energy Drink


Bottled Sweetened Tea


Sports Drink


Flavored Water


Coffee with 1 Sugar Packet


*Estimated grams of sugar per 12 ounce drink


What Are Low- or No-Sugar Drink Options?

• Water flavored with slices of your favorite fruits and veggies
• Green tea with a few drops of honey
• Seltzer water with a splash of 100 percent juice
• Sparkling or seltzer water with slices of lemon or lime
• Low-sodium vegetable juice
• Iced tea, unsweetened
• No sugar added juices
• Unsweetened soy or almond milk, or low-fat or fat-free milk


Make Your Own Flavored Water

Add slices of your favorite fruits and veggies to a pitcher or glass of water. You can also add chopped fruits and veggies to ice cubes to add a colorful kick to your drinks. Try these combinations with 64 ounces of water:
• 1 cup each blueberries, blackberries and peaches
• 4 kiwi sliced
• 1 strawberry, 3 basil leaves and 5 cucumber slices
• 2 cups raspberries, 1 lemon
• 1 cup fresh pineapple and 1 piece fresh ginger
Use umbrellas, crazy straws and other decorations to add some fun to healthy drinks.

*American Heart Association