Monday Medical: Join the Rethink Your Drink challenge

Take the YVMC challenge, and reduce your sugar intake

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Resources and instructions for the Rethink Your Drink Challenge are available on www.yvmc.org. You’ll find the link on the homepage. For the next four weeks on YVMC’s Facebook page we’ll also feature videos and daily posts featuring facts, tips and recipes.

— Sugar is sneaky. There is just no other way to say it. When we reach for a glazed doughnut, cookie or candy bar, most of us know what we are consuming, but the amount of sugar you may be sipping throughout the day isn’t just surprising, it’s shocking.

Simply put, America is drinking itself fat. Here in Colorado, one out of every two people is considered overweight or obese. That’s a frightening statistic, especially since Colorado is the thinnest state in the country.

So what role do sugar-sweetened beverages play in the obesity epidemic? It’s hard to say for certain, but the facts point to a startling conclusion.

“We need to take this seriously,” said Yampa Valley Medical Center Wellness and Community Education Specialist Heather Rose. “People are consuming 200 to 300 calories more per day than Americans were 30 years ago, and the beverages we’re drinking account for half of those calories.”

To put this in perspective, a single 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 17 teaspoons of sugar. If you drink one soda every day, it can lead to about 25 extra pounds of weight gain a year.

If you prefer to burn off the 250 additional calories provided by a single soda, you’ll need to walk briskly for about an hour.

It’s estimated that the average person consumes 52 gallons of carbonated soft drinks every year. While soda is definitely a culprit, it’s not the only sugar-sweetened beverage to keep on your watch list. Other beverages to watch for include: energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened coffee, juice drinks and whole or 2 percent milk.

YVMC is undertaking a new initiative to reduce employee consumption of these sugar-sweetened beverages. It’s called the Rethink Your Drink Challenge. If you’d like to join us for this challenge, we’d welcome your company.

“Our intention is not to tell you to cut out all of your sugar, but we would love to see people reduce their sugar,” said Rose. “We want people to be aware of what they buy and what they drink.”

YVMC has set up a program based on a stop light. Every drink is categorized into a red, yellow or green light based on its sugar content. Red indicates unhealthy choices, yellow indicates better alternatives that you can drink occasionally, and green indicates the best options for healthy hydration.

“Our preference for sweetness stays with us forever,” said Steamboat Springs registered dietitian Roberta Gill. “We are so addicted to the taste of sweet. We are going to have to retrain our taste for a different preference.”

Participants don’t need to change their habits for the first week of the challenge, but they will need to track how many red, yellow and green drinks they consume. This will give you an idea of the number of sugary drinks you are consuming. The goal will be to cut your red drink consumption by half during the next three weeks.

At the hospital, every beverage in the cafeteria now is color-coded with a sticker to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Making smart decisions in the grocery aisles may require a bit more thought, but it’s not impossible.

Look for the sugar content on the label; don’t be confused if it’s measured in grams. Simply take the number of grams and divide it by four, and you’ll have the number of teaspoons of sugar.

“Read the ingredients. If sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, you’ll want to avoid that product,” explains Gill.

“But you’d better read the entire label. There are 35 names for different kinds of sugar, and sometimes manufacturers use smaller amounts of more types of sugar, which make them appear lower on the label.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages should be an occasional treat rather than a daily staple. We know this challenge won’t be easy, but if you can give up these wasted and unwanted calories now, you might save yourself from an expanding waistline in the future.

Melissa Phillips Boldman is a communications specialist at YVMC. She can be reached at melissa.phillips@YVMC.org.

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