Sugary drinks

Sugary Drinks Explained – Do You Know What You’re Drinking?

There has been much attention given to the sugar content of our food and drink following the recent ‘Sugar Tax’ debate. It’s a hot topic which has attracted much public opinion in the wake of further delays by the Government to introduce a tax on sugar, in a bid to cut down on obesity and its associated illness. There could be a significant wait for confirmation whether or not the measures will be introduced by 2018 as planned. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to take some time to familiarise ourselves with some of the most sugary foods and drinks, to help us avoid them so we can all make healthier choices when it comes to our diet.


What is the Sugar Tax?

The ‘sugar tax’ is a levy which is being proposed by Chancellor George Osborne on soft drinks which contain 5g or more of sugar per 100ml. The measure will not be applied to fruit juices or to drinks which are milk-based. This could mean that 18-24p per litre could be added to drinks, or 6/8p to the average 330ml can of drink.


Sugar Smart with Change4Life

You may remember earlier in the year that Public Health England launched a new Sugar Swap app to help families make better choices when it comes to their diets. The app is a useful tool for working out the sugar content of some of our favourite foods and drinks and helps us to reduce our risk of developing illnesses and conditions such as:

  • Gaining weight or becoming obese
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Some types of cancers
  • Tooth decay

Whilst launched as a tool for families, it can be used by anyone wanting to find out more about the sugar content of what they’re buying and is a great way to make simple lifestyle changes by switching to lower sugar options.


Sugar content in fizzy drinks

It’s no secret that fizzy drinks are popular in the UK. Last year alone, Britons consumed more than 14.8 billion litres of soft drinks, which equates to 232.9 litres per person. Whilst some of us prefer to drink soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners, many of us will continue to consume drinks which are not only high in sugar, but calorie content too. This contributes to weight gain in a way many of us may not be aware of. Some of the worst offenders on the market, and will certainly be subjected to the higher sugar tax rate include:

Fizzy drinks incurring higher-rate tax – grams of sugar per 100ml (information provided by BBC News)

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer Extra Fiery – 15.7

Rockstar Punched Guava – 15.6

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer – 15.2

Mountain Dew – 13.0

Coke Cherry – 11.2

Pepsi Cola – 11.0

Red Bull – 11.0

Monster Origin Energy Drink -11.0

7 Up – 11.0

Coca Cola – 10.6

Fentiman’s Cherrytree Cola – 10.5

Irn Bru – 10.3

Cherry 7-Up – 10.0

San Pellegrino lemon – 8.9

Vimto Regular – 9.1

Lucozade Energy Original – 8.7

At the top of the table, Old Jamaica Ginger Beer features 15.7g of sugar, which is just under four teaspoons per 100ml. This means that a 330ml can of the drink would feature 13 teaspoons of sugar in total. Meanwhile, soft drinks which would not incur the levy at all include:

Lilt – 4.6

Shandy Bass – 4.6

Schweppes Lemonade – 4.2

Tango Orange – 4.3

Tango Blood Orange – 3.0

R Whites Lemonade – 2.4

Tango Apple – 2.1

Even though these products won’t be subject to the levy, they still contain unnecessarily high amounts of sugar, and people should still look to cut back on these items. It is hoped by the time the levy is introduced, manufacturers will have changed their products.


What will the levy be spent on?

It has been proposed that the sugar levy, which could raise as much as £520 million, will go towards improving school sports within primary schools. Whilst this is a positive step towards tackling childhood obesity, Action on Sugar believes drinks manufacturers should face penalties if they fail to make changes to their products.


Soft drink alternatives

If you’d like to cut back on the amount of sugary soft drinks you consume, you could try making the switch to diet or sugar-free alternatives instead. Switching to plain water, however, is the best thing you can do and will provide the biggest boost to your health. If you feel that’s too hard for you, unsweetened teas and other hot drinks can make great alternatives, whilst natural sweeteners like honey is a healthier way to add a sweeter flavour to your drinks.

Read more about reducing your sugar intake via the Action on Sugar and the NHS websites to help you make positive choices when it comes to your diet.