It’s likely when people think about sugar consumption, foods like candy, cakes, cookies, or other desserts come to mind. However, sugar can be found in a lot of drinks too.
Sugary drinks account for about one-quarter of the added sugars consumed by the average American. The recommendation for women and men is to consume fewer than 100 and 150 calories of added sugar per day, respectively.
However, it’s OK to enjoy sugar in limited amounts. That means you don’t have to cut out all sugary drinks and foods based on their sugar content.
Below is information about various drinks, including calories and sugar content per cup. This information is provided to help you make decisions about consuming each of the drinks.
Fruit juice drink: 109 calories, 25 grams of sugar
Fruit juices can help you get your daily recommended servings of fruit if they are 100% juice. However, if you opt for 100% fruit juice and avoid juices with added sugar—like cranberry or grape cocktails—the juice could still have high sugar content.
You can make your juice at home to reduce the sugar you consume. When preparing to make juice, you’ll want to:
- Wash your hands before and after handling fruit
- Remove any damaged or bruised fruit parts and discard rotten fruit
- Rinse produce well
- Scrub firm fruits, like melons, using a brush
- Dry the fruit with clean paper or cloth towels
When you make fresh juice, these directions will help you avoid getting sick from bacteria on your fruit.
Also, when looking for juice options in the store, it’s OK to stick with 100% fruit juices. Just ensure the juice is pasteurized or diluted with water and without added sugars.
Hot cocoa with whipped cream: 255 calories, 36 grams of sugar
Hot cocoa is one warm and delicious drink—perfect for a cold day. Still, hot cocoa can contain a lot of sugar. The added sugar may come from the cocoa or other ingredients and toppings like sprinkles, whipped cream, and syrups.
One way to minimize sugar is to make hot cocoa from scratch with cocoa and sugar. When you make the mix yourself, you have more control over the amount of sweetness.
You can start with one teaspoon of sugar, which contains about four grams of sugar, and gradually increase the amount to taste. Adding spices like cinnamon or cayenne will add even more flavor.
Sweet tea: 89 calories, 21 grams of sugar
Teas can be good to drink for health purposes. For example, dark teas have been associated with antioxidant properties and offer heart- or digestion-protecting benefits. Still, some sweet teas may come with a high amount of sugar.
If you like the taste of tea in general, unsweetened iced tea contains zero added sugar—whether bottled or poured at a restaurant. If plain tea is too bitter, try adding a teaspoon or a packet of sugar yourself.
You could also use a low-calorie or zero-calorie sweetener, like monk fruit or stevia extracts. Squeezing a lemon or orange on top can give you an additional flavor boost.
Coconut water with pineapple: 45 calories, 15 grams of sugar
Coconut water is packed with electrolytes—like potassium—that keep your body functioning well. One cup supplies nearly 10% of the mineral you need daily. Also, with 233 grams of water per serving, the drink can be hydrating.
Flavored versions, like pineapple, may have five times the amount of sugar than unsweetened coconut water. Some may have less if they use calorie-free sweeteners.
You might also want to consider trying plain or unsweetened versions of the drink.
Drinkable yogurt with probiotics: 109 calories, 18 grams of sugar
Probiotics can help keep your gut healthy, so you may be trying to get more in your diet. Probiotic yogurt drinks or kefir can be healthy choices. Yet flavored versions can contain sugar to help tone down yogurt so that it tastes better or has a certain color or texture.
Plain versions will only have sugar from the milk itself. If you don’t want plain yogurt, watch the nutrition label. Consider going for whole-fat rather than non-fat or low-fat varieties, as they often contain less sugar.
Sweetened vanilla almond milk: 91 calories, 15 grams of sugar
Non-dairy milk like almond milk, cashew milk, and soy milk are some of the alternatives for cow’s milk. People who avoid dairy or follow a vegan diet will use these types of milk. In general, some non-dairy milk will be low in sodium and saturated fat, and others can be fortified with vitamin D and B12.
Read the ingredients and nutrition panel before you buy, as plain or original versions may have added sugar. Look for unsweetened, unsweetened vanilla, or reduced sugar flavors. You can try different types of plant milk until you find an unsweetened one you like.
Tonic water: 80 calories, 16 grams of sugar
People typically sip on tonic water as part of an alcoholic drink, not on its own. However, if you did decide to drink it on its own, it would count towards your daily recommended amount of water intake. The recommended amount of water people need varies based on factors like age, sex, and activity level.
Though you’d get some added hydration with tonic water, you would also get the sugar content. When ordering a boozy beverage, ask for a seltzer instead: It’s sugar- and calorie-free.
Iced mocha with milk: 159 calories, 24 grams of sugar
Many people drink coffee to give them some energy. However, the drink can also have potential health benefits like reducing symptoms of depression and protecting against some cancers or dementia.
Also, while some drink it with nothing added, others may go for coffee drinks with whipped cream, sweet syrups, and deliciously-flavored creamers. Added sugars come from some of these additions.
You could always drink your coffee black. If that’s not up your alley, consider:
- Drinking coffee with milk
- Adding a packet of sugar yourself
- Sweetening it up with a shake or two of cinnamon or nutmeg
Citrus energy drink: 108 calories, 25 grams of sugar
Energy drinks can be fortified with B vitamins, which help the body function properly. At the same time, other than having a high sugar content, these drinks can also raise blood pressure.
If you need energy, plain or flavored water, milk, or unsweet tea can give you a boost. Also, eating regularly can help with energy levels.
Sports drink: 64 calories, 13 grams of sugar
In most cases, people will drink a bottle of sports drink—typically 32 ounces—rather than a cup’s worth. When that’s the case, the contents can include more than 50 grams of sugar.
When someone is training for a marathon, for example, the sugar content supplies carbs that help keep up their energy during the tough workout.
Sports drinks also contain many electrolytes, and some sports drinks include amino acids and B vitamins. However, the purpose of sports drinks is to provide hydration for athletes who are losing those nutrients through sweat.
Even if you exercise several times a week, water is recommended to keep you hydrated. Still, it’s OK to have a sports drink now and then.
Margarita, one drink: 274 calories, 36 grams of sugar
In its most basic form, a margarita only has three ingredients: tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, a sweetened distilled liquor. While the alcohol in the drink may not have nutrients, the lime juice might offer some vitamin C and potassium.
Margaritas may include additional ingredients, like other juices, nectars, or syrups. Depending on which ingredients those are and how much, the sugar in the drink can lean toward the higher side.
Having an occasional margarita is OK. Try to order one in a smaller glass or find a low-calorie version of the ones you typically make or order.
You can also try other cocktails without worrying about high sugar content. Your favorite booze plus soda water and a squeeze of lemon or lime is a great option because the combination is almost sugar-free.
Flavored water with vitamins and minerals: 52 calories, 13 grams of sugar
Flavored waters can sometimes come with vitamins and minerals added to the mix, like vitamin A and calcium. However, one of the primary ingredients of these flavored waters is carbs in the form of sugar and sucrose.
There’s nothing wrong with not loving plain water, and there are ways to enhance its flavor. You can add natural, sugar-free flavor by infusing water with lemons or fresh fruit. Do that using a water pitcher with a built-in infuser or simply putting cut-up fruit in a water jug and enjoying.
Lemonade: 101 calories, 27 grams of sugar
There’s nothing quite like a refreshing glass of lemonade that’s both tart and sweet—especially when made with lemon juice. Like lime juice, lemon juice can offer vitamin C and potassium.
Even though the main ingredient is lemon in this beverage, sugar and water may make up most of the drink.
Powdered lemonade drink mix also usually has sugar and fructose—another sugar—as the first two ingredients, plus artificial colors. Some lemonade brands may use high fructose corn syrup as another part of the drink.
To cut down on sugar, mix up your lemonade. Consider using fresh or bottled lemon juice—checking the label for sugar content, if need be—and adding sugar until it’s sweet enough to your liking. Low-calorie or zero-calorie sweeteners could be helpful here for lemonade as well.
Fruit smoothie: 124 calories, 24 grams of sugar
A smoothie can pack a lot of nutrition in a handy container you can run out the door with on busy mornings.
Based on what’s in it, you might have a smoothie that contains anything from protein and fiber to vitamins and minerals. However, checking nutritional facts for bottled smoothies—or even store-made ones—can reveal high sugar amounts.
You can still treat yourself to a bottled smoothie at the store or a fresh smoothie from a smoothie shop. However, making smoothies at home gives you more control over the ingredients. For instance, you can balance out the sweetness of ingredients by adding others like:
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Unsweetened protein powders
- Flax, hemp, or chia seeds
- Nut butter
- Leafy greens
Many of us are diligent about reducing sugar in the foods we eat. Still, it can be easy to forget how much sugar is hidden within our favorite drinks. Hot cocoa, tonic water, and sweet tea are some beverages that can carry surprising amounts of sugar.
Fortunately, delicious alternatives exist, such as seltzer and fruit-infused water. And preparing your beverages at home, instead of buying them premade, will let you limit the amount of sugar they contain.