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: