The New York City Health Department launched a new ad campaign in September
2009, targeting liquid calories. In an attempt to get New Yorkers to think
twice about what and how much they drink, the ads go right for the gross-out
effect, showing soda and other sugary drinks turning into revolting frothy
chunks of fat.
The press release says, “It’s hard to overeat without noticing
it. By contrast, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can sneak up
on you, adding hundreds of calories to your diet each day without ever
filling you up. In a new effort to highlight the health impact of sweetened
drinks, the Health Department is confronting New Yorkers with a bold question:
Are you pouring on the pounds? The agency’s new public-awareness
campaign includes posters in the subway system and a multilingual Health
Bulletin.” The ads are scheduled to run for three months.
The campaign’s signature image - in which a bottle of soda, “sports”
drink or sweetened iced tea turns to a blob of fat as it reaches the glass
- is a stark reminder of how these products can lead to obesity and related
health problems. The ads urge New Yorkers to cut back on sugary beverages
and quench their thirst with water, seltzer or low-fat milk instead. Many
people may stir a teaspoon or two of sugar into their coffee, but few
realize that a 20-ounce bottle of soda can contain 16 ½ teaspoons of sugar.
“Sugary drinks shouldn’t be a part of our everyday diet,”
said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley. “Drinking
beverages loaded with sugars increases the risk of obesity and associated
problems, particularly diabetes but also heart disease, stroke, arthritis
On average, Americans now consume 200 to 300 more calories each day than
we did 30 years ago. Nearly half of these extra calories come from sugar-sweetened
drinks. When Health Department researchers surveyed adult New Yorkers
about their consumption of soda and other sweetened drinks, the findings
showed that more than 2 million drink at least one sugar-sweetened soda
or other sweetened beverage each day - at as much as 250 calories a pop.
Rethink Your Drink
It’s no secret that soft drinks have gotten bigger over the years.
Soda used to come in 6.5-ounce bottles. Today, 12-ounce cans are considered
small and 20-ounce bottles are typical. A single super-sized soda can
pack as many calories as three to four regular cans of soda.
Fruit juice is more nutritious than soda, and rarely consumed in such large
portions, but it is just as rich in calories. Whole fruit has fewer calories
and has plenty of fiber.
The NYC Health Department advises parents not to serve their kids punch,
fruit-flavored drinks or “sports” and “energy”
drinks. Most of them are low in nutrients and high in empty calories.
The best way to stay hydrated while exercising is to drink water. Coffee
and tea drinks also pack more calories than many consumers realize. New
Yorkers are often surprised when they see how many calories are listed
on menu boards for these popular drinks.
The Health Department recommends these simple strategies to avoid pouring
on the pounds: If you drink coffee or tea, order it plain and flavor it
yourself. If you order a sugar-sweetened beverage, ask for a “small.”
When you shop for beverages, read the labels and choose products with
fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving. And if you enjoy sugar-sweetened
beverages, make them an occasional treat and not a daily staple.
“When people count calories, they too often forget to include the
liquid ones, said Cathy Nonas, director of the NYC Health Department’s
Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs. “We need to start thinking
of the sugar in sweetened drinks as unwanted, wasted calories. These calories
provide no nutritional benefits and can lead to weight gain. Water and
other zero-calorie beverages are a better choice.”