Special Report

See How Much Sugar Is in These Popular Holiday Beverages

Sugar is bad for you. Or, maybe it’s not. Like salt and fat, the debate about how much sugar people should eat ranges from “it’s good for quick energy” to “it is a primary trigger for heart disease, obesity, and weight gain”.

Then, there is good sugar and bad sugar. Natural sugar is what people eat when they eat berries or drink skim milk. This kind of sugar comes attached to foods containing minerals and vitamins. “Added sugar” is the problem. It is what you stir into your coffee, and what cereal companies pour onto products like Cap’N Crunch. 

Any “bad sugar” food list almost always includes sugary beverages. Most of these are widely sold soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. Critics say these can push the body toward Type 2 diabetes and drive tooth decay

Holiday festivities often include sugary drinks, and fast-food and coffee-shop chains add elaborate holiday-themed examples to their menus this time of year. Chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Peet’s Coffee are leaders in promoting these seasonal beverages. (These are the unhealthiest items in the most popular fast food chains.)

To determine the calories and amount of sugar in popular hot and cold holiday drinks from 10 prominent chains, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the results of research conducted by YorkTest, a health and wellness company specializing in food sensitivity testing. YorkTest drew nutritional data from each chain’s website, current as of Nov. 19, 2021. For consistency, 16-ounce drinks were compared across all chains. Dunkin’ sizes its drinks at 14 and 20 ounces and one Starbucks beverage, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino, is served in 20-ounce cups. In these cases, calories and teaspoons of sugar were prorated to the equivalent of 16-ounce servings.

Click here to see how much sugar is in 23 holiday beverages

In addition to noting the amount of sugar in each of these drinks, we’ve also recorded the calories they provide – which, not surprisingly, are excessive. All are over 300 calories, and some have over 600. That’s a hefty proportion of the daily levels recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – 1,600 to 2,400 for women, 2,000 to 3,000 for men. (Speaking of sugary drinks, here are 24 milkshakes with more calories than an entire meal.)

It won’t be hard to find one of the sugary drinks. Starbucks, for example, has 13,000 locations in the U.S. You can damage your liver, heart, and pancreas with no trouble at all this holiday season. Afterwards, maybe make a New Year’s resolution not to eat, or drink, any sugar at all for a while.

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