Yesterday I received a newsletter from the Harvard School of Public Health talking about the link between sugary beverages and obesity.  It’s a really good newsletter and a great way to stay informed. It’s hardly a secret that sugar is eaten in massive excess, and it is, in fact, one of the primary culprits in obesity. Sugary beverages are especially dangerous. When we drink something, we don’t feel the same sense of fullness that we would if we had eaten something with the same amount of sugar. This makes it easy to guzzle a sugary beverage, then follow it up with an equally sugary food.

Portion sizes of sugary beverages are also out of control. Not one single man, woman or child on this planet needs to drink a 7-Eleven Big Gulp (32 ounces), much less a Super Gulp (38 ounces), but because they’re sold for mere pennies it’s easy for many to justify buying. Little do most realize that they’ve just drunk between a quarter to a half of their calories. Dead, sugary, nutrient-void calories.

Big Gulps have earned a much-deserved reputation in the Hall of Gluttony. They’re cheap, big and easily accessible 24 hours a day (at least in most stores). There are a lot of beverages that aren’t so far behind the Big Gulp, but because of super slick marketing, many sugary beverages are…well, considered acceptable.

Before I dive into how long it will take you to sweat off what you drink, I have to say I DO NOT encourage anyone to exercise off their calories. It’s ridiculous! We should enjoy what we eat – and if it’s healthy (with a very occasional indulgence) our body should be able to handle a little extra sugar. Our diets greatly dictate the shape and health of our body much more than exercise ever could.

I really just wanted to give some perspective on how much of a deficit we put our body in when we consume sugary beverages regularly. And if you drink even half as fast as I do, it’s easy to accumulate extra sugar. Excess sugar gets stored as fat, and wreaks havoc on our health. It’s important to know how much sugar you’re consuming!

The Dirty Dozen of Sugary Beverages

Here are a dozen dirty beverages, the amount of sugar they contain and the length of time you’d have to jog to burn the nutrient-void calories off.
1. Cup of Orange Juice: 112 calories/21 g sugar/13 min jog to burn off
2. Cup of Apple Juice: 117 calories/27g sugar/13 min jog to burn off
3. Can of Coke Classic: 143 calories/40g sugar/16 min jog to burn off
4. Starbucks Grande Carmel Macchiato: 190 calories/35g sugar/22 min jog to burn off
5. Panera Mango Smoothie: 230 calories/48g sugar/26 min jog to burn off
6. Starbucks Grande Chai Latte w/Soy: 240 calories, 47g sugar/27 min jog to burn off
7. Dunkin’ Donuts Large Coffee w/ cream and sugar: 240 calories, 38g sugar/27 min jog to burn off
8. Starbucks Grande No-Fat, No-Whip Frappuccino: 300 calories/66g sugar/34 min jog to burn off
9. McDonald’s Large Sweet Tea: 300 calories/72g sugar/34 min jog to burn off
10. McDonald’s Large Strawberry Banana Smoothie: 329 calories/68g sugar/38 min jog to burn off
11. Steak-n-Shake Chocolate Milk Shake: 630 calories/90g sugar/72 min jog to burn off
12. Dunkin’ Donuts Large Vanilla Bean Coolatta: 840 calories/173g sugar/96 min jog to burn off
(source of calorie calculation from

I realize that the Coolatta at the bottom looks infinitely worse than the orange juice or Coke on top, but remember, all those sugary calories have a compounding effect. One teaspoon of sugar is about 4.2 grams, which means regardless of what you drink from the list above, you’re drinking at least four teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot! Unless you’re just finishing a very vigorous workout, it’s highly likely all those calories will get stored as fat.

Your body can only use so much carbohydrate/sugar at a time. Anything excessive (most of the above) will end up around your waistline, on your backside or behind your arms. If you’re looking for a healthy drink that’s easy to make at home  – try my Clean and Green Smoothie. I love it!

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