“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Elena Hollander, Nutrition Program Senior Manager


As part of our Healthy Food & Beverage Policy, we will no longer distribute sugar-sweetened beverages by 2019. So what exactly is a sugar-sweetened beverage and why are we picking on them?

They are any liquid beverages that are sweetened with added sugar. They include soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened milk/coffee/tea. The reason we’re not so sweet on these drinks is that they are the number one source of added sugar in the U.S. diet and they have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Why?

Here are three of the ways that these beverages can contribute to weight gain and increase risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease:

Sugar-sweetened beverages add a lot of empty calories, causing weight gain.

On average, these beverages have 140-150 calories per 12 oz serving. The interesting thing about sugary beverages is that some studies show that your body doesn’t recognize those calories. With 150 calories of solid food, your body would naturally feel full and you would likely eat 150 calories less during the day. But with sugar-sweetened beverages, your body doesn’t feel full so you still eat the same amount you would without the SSB, but are now adding on the extra calories of the sugary drink, thus leading to weight gain.

Sugar-sweetened beverages spike blood sugar, which could lead to insulin resistance, which is linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Sugary beverages have a lot of sugar and no fiber to slow down the absorption of that sugar in the body. As soon as you drink a sugar-sweetened beverage, your body gets hit with a ton of sugar at once and blood glucose rapidly increases (a high dietary glycemic load). A high glycemic load diet can stimulate appetite and cause insulin resistance, which is linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.

Sugar can lead to toxic fat, which is associated with a number of health issues.

The sugar, or fructose, in sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to an increase in “visceral adiposity,” which is the “deep fat” inside your body that is wrapped around your major organs, like the liver and kidneys. This fat is dangerous because it leads to inflammation, higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, and may make it harder to lose weight by interfering with your metabolism.

Instead of distributing sugary beverages, we’re working on distributing healthy unsweetened beverages like water, plain milk, and unsweetened coffee and tea. These are great thirst quenchers, delicious, healthy, and hydrating.

Thanks for helping us keep our clients healthy!