Healthier choices are as easy as 1-2-3

Our Healthier Choices 123 materials provide a simple way to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes. The three step concept is perfect for all audiences, from busy, budget-conscious adults to short-attention-span kids.

Set up a health fair or table display with the Healthier Choices 123 poster or banner as the focal point. Then add an activity to go along with each step. Here are some ideas:

Step 1 – Drink water instead of sugary drinks.  

  • Fill an empty 20oz soda bottle with 16 teaspoons of sugar. Compare that to a bottle of water that has zero teaspoons of sugar.
  • Energy drinks, teas, and sports drinks can have as much sugar as soda. Display bottles and cans of these beverages so people can check the grams of sugar per serving.
  • Choose alternatives: water (add fruit or herbs) or unsweetened tea. Have a pitcher of ice water, small cups, and some cut up fruit for people to add.
  • Replacing one can of soda per day with water saves more than 50,000 calories in a year. Think of the money you’ll also save (tap water is free!).

Step 2 – Choose activity instead of screens.

  • How many more calories do you burn by moving instead of sitting? At least twice as many!
  • Replacing 30 minutes of screen time with 30 minutes of brisk walking will help you burn an extra 40,000+ calories per year.
  • Write different 10-minute activities on small pieces of paper or index cards (walk the dog, do laundry, vacuum, shoot baskets, etc). Fold them and put them in a large bowl or jar. Let each person take out three. When they do all three in a day, they’ll have moved for 30 minutes.

Step 3 – Choose fruits and veggies instead of sugary or fried foods.

  • Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories but more nutrients compared to foods like chips, French fries, and cookies.
  • Replacing a bag of chips with an apple will save you 25,550 calories per year.
  • Use food models, pictures, or real food to compare calories in fruit- and vegetable-rich meals vs higher fat choices. For example, you could show two meal choices at McDonald’s: a southwest grilled chicken salad (350 calories) vs a double cheeseburger & medium fries (770 calories).

As a take-home message, set out blank index cards and colorful markers. Ask people to write or draw the healthier choice they plan to make for each step. Tell them to keep the card in their wallet or on their refrigerator – wherever it will remind them of the changes they want to make.

Click here to get 15% off this collection for the first week of April 2019.

Are You Drinking Candy?

Sugar is always a popular topic and beverages are a major source of added sugar in the American diet. So why not put together a sugary drink display for your next health fair or class? Our materials make it easy!

You’re sure to catch everyone’s attention with our Are You Drinking Candy? Sugar Awareness poster, banners, and tearpad handout. Using a lollipop as a reference point for a teaspoon of sugar, people can see just how much ‘candy’ they drink when sipping on soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, and more. The back side of the tearpad handout and the free printables that come with our posters and banners provide even more information on sugar and better beverage choices.

Our colorful materials are bound to attract a crowd around your display. Get them thinking about what they’re drinking with these five conversation starters:

  • Do you see your drink of choice on the poster? How many teaspoons of sugar are in it? If you have this drink every day, how many teaspoons of sugar is that each week? Month? Year?!
  • Water and unsweetened tea are great choices to replace sugary beverages. How can you spruce them up a bit? How about adding fruit or fresh mint? Have you tried green tea, chai tea, or herbal tea?
  • When is tea as unhealthy as soda? When it’s sweet tea! Did you know a large sweet tea has more sugar than a large soda? Do you drink canned or bottled tea? Check the label – you might be surprised by the amount of sugar per serving, and the number of servings per container.
  • Do you drink smoothies because you think they’re healthy? What’s in your favorite smoothie? How big is it? Watch out for smoothies made from a mix or with juice or added sugar. And check how many servings are in that big smoothie-shop smoothie!
  • How many teaspoons of added sugar per day do you think most Americans eat? The answer is 28-32 teaspoons. How many do experts recommend? The American Heart Association says we should have no more than six (for women) to nine (for men) teaspoons of added sugar daily. Based on the examples on the poster/banner/tearpad, how many teaspoons of added sugar do you drink every day?

That’s just the beginning! Check out our entire collection of handouts, banners, posters, PowerPoint shows, wristbands, and stickers. Whatever you need for your display, we have you covered!


8 Things We Learned About Sugar

Sugar Math PosterWhen the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released their recommendations about sugar intake, we thought they made a lot of sense. After all, the World Health Organization has been recommending a 10% calorie limit on added sugars for over a decade. The DGA committee now recognizes that sugar makes up about 30% of daily calories in our country, so changes are needed to cut down on sugary beverages, snacks, and desserts with added sugars. Treat foods and beverages are no longer treats but daily staples, which in turn is a significant cause of obesity when people are not getting enough physical activity and when high-sugar foods are replacing high-fiber foods that can help people feel more satiated.

Yet if you tell people to keep their sugar intake to 10% of their daily calories, this advice doesn’t necessarily have much real-world meaning.

People would have to do a bit of math to figure out how much sugar that that recommendation is allowing for each day. To calculate it, they would first need to land on a daily calorie intake. A 2,000-calorie-per-day eating pattern is pretty typical, so in our example let’s use that as a base number. 10% of 2,000 calories is 200 calories each day. There’s the maximum in an easier format to apply to day-to-day life.

Of course, some people prefer to calculate their sugar needs in grams. To do that, divide the daily total calories from sugar by 4 (calories per gram). For a 2,000-calorie diet, the max is 50 grams.

Just for kicks, let’s set that out in teaspoons too. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. That means that the daily cap is set at roughly 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day.

I hope those mathematical measurements can help your clients apply the DGA’s sugar recommendations to their daily lives. You can find all these measurements in the Sugar Math poster, which is what started this entire mathematical exercise.

Of course, the importance of sugar math isn’t the only thing we learned as we were putting the poster together. Here are the top 8 lessons that really made us think as we created that resource…

  1. One 12-ounce soda can have about 40 grams of sugar. That’s almost a full day’s supply of added sugar. Kid-sized sodas at most fast food places are 12 ounces — the same amount as that can of soda!
  2. Regular and large sodas at fast food places are usually equivalent to 2 or more cans of soda.
  3. Sweetened iced tea contains a surprising amount of sugar, roughly 22 grams per cup. Most bottles contain a couple cups or more, which in turn makes it easy to consume a day’s supply of sugar in one bottle of iced tea.
  4. Sweet treats are not only high in sugar but they are also high in calories. The average large cookie contains over 400 calories and a day’s supply of added sugars.
  5. Coffee drinks, tea, sodas, snacks, sweetened yogurt, and dessert can easily supply three days or more’s worth of sugar. It all adds up.
  6. A surprise to our team was that a can of soda is equivalent to a serving of candy!
  7. 50 grams can add up quickly, but if we could get to dinner without putting sweetened beverages in our day, then we had a little of our sugar budget left over for a half cup of frozen yogurt. In a typical day, I used the rest of my budget on a cereal bar and jam for a sandwich. Overall, the guideline helped us lower our calories, especially in beverage calories.
  8. It’s a great idea to track what you eat and drink in a day so you can make better choices.

And there you have it! 8 things we learned while putting together the Sugar Math poster. I’m really proud of this poster — it’s a great resource for nutrition and health educators because it lays out key lessons about added sugars in a fun and memorable way.

Want to share these lessons with your clients? From our collection of free printable nutrition education materials comes a new PDF handout all about added sugars!

Free Added Sugars Handout

And here are some other fantastic sugar education resources, straight from the Nutrition Education Store!

The Sugar Poster Story

Are you drinking candy?


After getting numerous requests to publish a poster that shows the sugar content of beverages, we decided to oblige.

First we made a list of the most common beverages with added sugar that you can typically find in grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants. Then we started brainstorming ways to make a memorable infographic that would tell the whole story in just one glance. We learned many humorous lessons along the way. We’re also very proud of our pictures, thanks to a new camera. If you are a friend on Facebook, then you already know that we are smitten with pictures. (If you are not a friend yet, we promise  that you will want to like our Facebook page to see all of the fun things we do all day)!

We found that several small lollipops contain 3.5 to 5 grams of sugar each. Suddenly, we had an illustration connection. One lollipop could represent 1 teaspoon of sugar! We felt that candy was more compelling than a plain image of a teaspoon of sugar. Isn’t it Mary Poppins that sings, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way?” And besides, our graphic artist loved making all of those lollipops… or so he told us.

Anyway, here’s what we learned while we made the poster…

  • The biggest shock to us was that the average  juice box has the equivalent of 6 lollipops worth of sugar (though some contain as little as 4). Juice boxes are ubiquitous in the land of children. They get put into lunch boxes, after-game coolers, birthday and classroom party coolers, and home refrigerators. They freeze well and keep a lunchbox cool. They are handy because they don’t have to be refrigerated, and they even come with a free retractable straw. Plus, they don’t spill easily, they are easy to open, and easy to hold. Wow, we sound like a juice box commercial!And 100% juice is good for kids who won’t eat fruits or vegetables. However, chances are that most juice drinks served to kids are not always 100% juice. These boxes can be overused to the point that they displace the calories from real food, which contain more nutrients and fiber while making a balanced diet.



  • Sports drinks contain almost as much sugar as a can of soda. Now, if you are doing Ironman training (where you swim, bike and run for hours and hours each day), the liquid calories are perfect because eating real food would cause digestive distress. But, for most people who struggle to put in enough time at the gym, these drinks are not necessary sport fuel. And we cringe when we think about all the overweight kids who sit on a soccer bench for an hour and then drink “sports drinks” and eat bags of pretzels before dinner. The colors of these drinks suer are beautiful, though. We had a hard time choosing a for the poster, but then we decided that orange was lovely with the pink background:



  • Energy drinks and large flavored sweetened coffees are very similar in sugar content. We thought this was handy, since people drink them for the same reasons. Plus, they’re very photogenic together.The caffeine content in some energy drinks can be downright scary.



  • Another surprise was that sweetened flavored tea could be a lot higher in sugar than the a soda of the same size. Who would have thought that a passion fruit iced tea would come in as the winner for our sugar show with 71 grams of sugar per 40 ounce cup?



  • Frozen sweetened drinks contain a surprising amount of sugar. There are even worse cases than the one we show on the new poster. You can go up to 85 grams of sugar in a large fruit smoothie. Large is the operative word, but it is not as large as you think! A 20 ounce cup filled with a frozen fruit smoothie can get you to 85 grams of sugar because syrup is added in the blender. We used a slush type of drink for the poster, because they are more common in convenience stores and it is mesmerizing to watch them go around and around and around and then come out of the machine in a swirl.



  • But the biggest and greatest surprise of all was the SIZE of the large drinks: 40 ounces. I think we puzzled the man in the drive through when we ordered one of each of the largest drinks and we already had a full bag from a few other places. But 40 ounces is HUGE. I had to carry them to the studio one at a time so they wouldn’t spill along the way. And one of them filled 4 of my large water glasses, which is a great size recognition exercise all by itself. It was hard to find a clear glass that would hold all of it and still fit in the frame for the picture. One of these drinks contains 71 g of sugar, which is the equivalent of almost 18 small lollipops. I would not even eat that many lollipops between Halloween and spring break, but on a hot day this drink could go down fast.
  • A 40-ounce soda contains almost 400 calories, which is practically a full meal. Of course, this “meal” isn’t balanced or healthful and there is no fiber whatsoever.



I can already picture the displays that you could make with this poster. You could put 18 lollipops in a jar and ask how many drinks they would make? (The answer is 1 — I bet no one would guess that all day). Or you could fill all sorts of cups and jars with the lollipops and make your participants guess which jar goes with matches which drink. There is a lollipop company on the internet who says they are combating obesity because one pop is a treat and it only contains 26 calories. I will leave the opinion on that theory up to you! I guess it is better than a big candy bar that has 500 calories. Maybe that is what they mean?

Making refrigerator tea at home is a great idea. It is fast, inexpensive, and tastes great! And of course water is always a great idea, too.


The CDC just published a new report in May 2013. This report shows that, for adults, one third of the calories they consume from added sugars (33%) came from beverages. In children and adolescents, 40% of calories from added sugars came from beverages. This is almost the same as a previous report from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That report showed that over half the amount of added sugar calories comes from beverages. Apparently the new finding is that foods eaten at home can add a lot of sugar to the diet. I am sure you will see this update in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

If you read the section about discretionary calories on, the amount of discretionary calories for most adults is around 150. That is only 37 grams of sugar a day.

See the story about our fat poster here.

You can buy the fat and sugar poster together and save a great deal of money with our introductory offer:



Nutrition and Math Lesson

Now that summer is here, it is time to keep using your math skills in a practical way — with nutrition. See the fun activity below that is great for kids and families or anyone who wants to realize what is in their beverages. But first you have to learn how to use a new tool by Google which displays nutrient information on the search results page.

Google now has the ability to find and display calories and other nutrients in foods from the USDA database. Take a look at our apple query:

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How do you find these displays?

Go to and type in the word “calories” followed by a food or beverage name that you want to see. For example you can type in “calories cookies” and you will see a cookie and a drop down box on the left (red rectangle) with many kinds of cookies. You can also ask, “how many grams of protein in a banana” or “how much saturated fat in butter.” The data shown comes from the USDA database with a description feed from Wikipedia. This feature also works with Google Voice. It is currently only available in English.

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Many browsers like Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer have a Google plugin so you can search with Google in the top of your browser.

And here are four tips for success using the Google Calorie Search Tool:

  1. Brand names are not usually found. For example if you type “calories Oreos” you won’t find a Google calorie display for that item. But you can usually find the nutrition data in most brand name foods by going to the manufacturer’s website or by using, a grocer in the NE section of the US who has most nutrient information for items that they carry.
  2. Generic searches yield more results. You won’t find chicken wings but if you type “calories chicken” you will find a bunch of choices. You won’t find your favorite brand of soda like “Coke” or “Sprite” but you will find soda.
  3. Use the boxes on the left to narrow description and size. You can view the drop down box on the left to see the specifics of the generic search. For example, the chicken search will show many chicken choices and you can adjust the sizes using the boxes on the left.
  4. Research further for restaurant or brand items. Always compare specific store or restaurant foods by manufacturer’s data versus the USDA database. We have found through many of our searches (we use the USDA database for our recipes) that a generic “stuffing” from USDA will not always be the same as a brand name box of stuffing on the store shelf which often has more sodium. And restaurant food can be higher in sodium.

And here is a little Nutrition and Math experiment for you:

  • How many cups (8 ounces) of soda are in a can? Or a bottle? (this is available from searching on Google)
  • How many cups of soda are in a large soda at your favorite fast food place? (visit or to see large serving sizes)
  • How many grams of sugar are in a large soda at your favorite restaurant? (view nutrition information for each beverage on the fast food site)
  • Divide the number of grams of sugar by 4 and that is how many teaspoons of sugar are in that soda. Is it different for sweetened tea found on
  • What is the difference in fiber between an apple and apple juice? (use the Google tool)
  • Now, tell us, what do you think about what you just found? Do the restaurants and convenience stores make a “large cup” appear normal? Some large drinks have 15 teaspoons of sugar!!

Can you come up with some non-calorie drinks to enjoy? Of course water is the top choice but what if you added some lemon circles to your water? Or if you turned it red with a little cranberry juice?

Here is an interesting tidbit: 1 kilo calorie (1000 calories) represents the energy needed to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree.

Update – thank you to Chef Jasun Zakro, MBA, CDM, SNS, who wrote to us to recommend this app:

You can use it online (search box top left) and type in all the ingredients for a recipe at once and it allows you to specify each one and it shows you the analysis. I have never seen a recipe analysis work THAT fast. Although I will have to play with it for a while to see how it does with all of our ingredients.

That app is available through any browser or for a smart phone.

Thanks, Jasun!

Here is a shot of the Grilled Potato Salad I made on the grill for dinner:

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I was able to specify the golden potatoes AND the exact brand of mayonnaise. That would be a great way for kids to develop a recipe and then see what they eat!

(That is a great potato salad by the way – the potatoes were crispy golden on the outside and tender on the inside and the mayonnaise just melted over them and so I used a lot less. The fresh chives from the garden were all you needed for a light onion flavor.)