Limiting Sugary Drinks Can Help You Lose Weight

If you need help managing your weight, cutting back on sweet drinks can make a difference.

Pouring water into glasses

Updated on March 7, 2024.

When it comes to your health and trying to maintain a healthy weight, one switch can make a big difference: Cut down on calories in your drinks by having water and plain tea instead of soda, juice, and sweet coffees. Why? As a major source of added sugar in the typical Western diet, sugary drinks play a significant role in the development of long-term conditions, including obesity.

The result of drinking fewer sugary  beverages can be dramatic; it could lead to weight loss and help lower your risk for several chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Sugary beverages and weight gain

A single 12-ounce bottle of soda or fruit punch contains about 150 calories, nearly all of which come from added sugar. That means if you drink one can of soda each day for a year, you’ll have consumed an extra 32 pounds of sugar after 12 months. This could add up to several extra pounds in extra weight. Numerous studies have found a strong link between regularly drinking sugary beverages and weight gain.

About half of U.S. adults have at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and many drink more than that. But some research suggests that replacing these sugary drinks with certain low-cal orie or zero-calorie options can help slow or prevent weight gain that is linked to drinking sugary beverages. 

Other research has suggested that cutting back on the calories in your drinks may even be more effective than cutting back on food calories, since solid food commonly does a better job of satisfying hunger than liquids. In other words, sugary liquids can fill you with empty calories, but they aren't good at making you feel full.

Kids and sugary beverages

Children can also gain excess weight from regularly having too many sugar-sweetened beverages. One 2023 review published in Nutrients even suggested that kids' two top risk factors for being overweight or obese are high intakes of fast food and sugary drinks. 

If you have kids and need another reason to kick your own soda or juice habit, a separate 2023 review published in Nutrients found that children’s eating and drinking patterns tend to follow their parents’ patterns. If you reduce your consumption, there’s a good chance your children will, too.

Try tea

If you’re used to flavored drinks and need to make a switch, unsweetened tea is a wise choice. Available in a wide range of flavors, tea is naturally low-calorie and can even be an effective weight loss tool. That’s partly because beneficial plant nutrients in tea, called polyphenols, may help the human body suppress fat storage. Drinking certain types of tea could also help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and perhaps some kinds of cancer.

More tips for cutting sugar

It’s a smart idea to start slowly when reducing your sugary drink consumption. Start by cutting back a little bit and build on your progress, drinking fewer sugar drinks over time.  It's also wise to skip or limit diet sodas, since research suggests they may present their own potential health issues.

When you're choosing a beverage, the American Heart Association recommends the following tips:

  • Be sure to read ingredient labels so you know how much sugar is in your drink. Pay special attention to serving size, since there are sometimes multiple servings in a single container.
  • Flavor water with fruit or veggies such as lemon, lime, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, or cucumbers. Herbs like rosemary and mint can also make for delicious additions. 
  • Try sparkling water or seltzer if you like the bubbles in soda. 
Article sources open article sources

Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Sugary Drinks. Last reviewed August 2023.
Mayo Clinic Health System. Rethink your drink: Beware of hidden sugar. March 20, 2019.
Malik VS, Hu FB. The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the global epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2022 Apr;18(4):205-218.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition: Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption. Last reviewed April 11, 2022.
Pan A, Hu FB. Effects of carbohydrates on satiety: differences between liquid and solid food. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jul;14(4):385-90.
Jakobsen DD, Brader L, Bruun JM. Association between Food, Beverages and Overweight/Obesity in Children and Adolescents-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Nutrients. 2023 Feb 2;15(3):764.
Calcaterra V, Cena H, Magenes VC, et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Metabolic Risk in Children and Adolescents with Obesity: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2023 Jan 30;15(3):702.
Sirotkin AV, Kolesárová A. The anti-obesity and health-promoting effects of tea and coffee. Physiol Res. 2021 Apr 30;70(2):161-168.
American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Health Benefits of Tea. Reviewed December 11, 2023.
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Tea. Last reviewed April 2023.
American Heart Association. Rethink Your Drink: Reducing Sugary Drinks in Your Diet. Page last reviewed April 16, 2019. 

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