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Beware the sugar load of those iced coffee drinks


Ah, summer. Time to relax, hit the patio, and cool off with your favourite frosty drink.

For many of us, it becomes easier to eat healthy in the summer – fresh berries and veggies are in season, and the grill masters in the family can fire up some chicken breast or salmon on a cedar plank.

But often, piles of unhealthy calories aren’t hiding in what we eat, they’re in what we drink.

Take, for example, the iced coffee beverage.

That sugary syrup lurks everywhere

Let’s start with a Starbucks classic – the Caramel Frappuccino. “Buttery caramel syrup meets coffee, milk, and ice for a rendezvous in the blender. Then whipped cream and caramel sauce layer the love on top.”

Sound delicious. It is. But even a small (or Tall, in Starbucks speech) is 300 calories, mostly from sugar. In fact, that 12-ounce cup packs 46 grams – more than eleven teaspoons – of sugar. That trumps even a can of Coke, which has 39 grams.

Then there’s the Iced Cap from Tim Horton’s. Its 10-ounce small has fewer calories, but it’s still high in sugar – 35 grams, almost 9 teaspoons.

At the very least, your best bet is to always take the small, which, in our super-sized world, really isn’t that small.

A better option is to do a little research and see if there are better alternatives. All cafes and fast-food outlets have their nutritional information readily available if you ask. It’s also easy to find online.

At Starbucks, for example, you can get a Frappuccino Light with non-fat milk and reduced sugar. A Tall is 100 calories instead of 300, and half the sugar of a regular one.

But even “light” options that reduce the amount of milk fat for less saturated fat and may cut the sugar, still contain a relatively high amount of sugar. That includes Starbucks’ new “Sunset Menu” with its Granita drinks.

‘Reduced sugar’ can still be too much

As we’ve written before, sugar is bad – bottom line. A couple of years ago, researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who get 10 to 25 per cent of their daily calories from sugar increase their risk of cardiovascular problems by 30 per cent.

The World Health Organization has recommended that people aim to limit their consumption of added sugar to five per cent of their total caloric intake. For an average adult diet of 2,000 calories per day, that’s only 100 calories.

What’s that look like? It takes 6.25 teaspoons of white sugar out of the bowl to equal 100 calories. Even the “light” version of an iced coffee beverage can put you at that daily max with a single serving.

So what should you do?

Ask for less sugar, if possible.

Even better, consider other cold coffee drinks that don’t involve piles of sugary syrup or whipped cream. If the total calories are no more than 100, odds are, the sugar content is relatively low. For example, Starbucks’ Iced Skinny Flavoured Latte has only 60 calories and eight grams of sugar. At Tim Horton’s, go for a flavoured iced coffee (also eight grams of sugar).

Or consider iced tea, which you can ask for without sugar and sweeten to your own taste.

Regardless of what you like to drink, you always have choice. In many cases, if it’s not on the menu, you can ask for a custom drink to suit your health goals.

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