Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is water the best drink and how much water is recommended daily?

Water helps you digest food, stay hydrated, carry nutrients (like vitamins and minerals) to different parts of the body and much more. Dietitians of Canada recommends (2014) about 12 cups of fluid for adult men and 9 cups for adult women each day. Water, along with plain milk and unsweetened milk alternatives, are the best choices to stay hydrated. 

2. What is sugar?

Sugar is found in many foods, both naturally or added. Sugar provides energy (calories) but has no nutritional value on its own. Added sugar comes in many forms: white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, corn sweeteners, and fruit juices. It may be listed on the ingredient listing on food labels as: glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose or sucrose. If any of these added sugars are listed as the first or second ingredient on a food label, the food is likely high in sugar. Some foods that naturally contain sugar, such as vegetables, fruit and milk, grains and other plant-based foods (e.g. legumes and nuts) are an important part of a healthy diet, because they also contain important nutrients. 

3. How much sugar is in a cube?

There are about four grams of sugar in one sugar cube. You should also know that one packet of sugar and one teaspoon of sugar is equal to one sugar cube. To sum it up 4 grams = 1 teaspoon = 1 packet = 1 cube.

4. How much added sugar is safe to consume every day?

Heart & Stroke recommends you consume no more than 10% of calories per day from added sugars and ideally less than 5%.  Added sugars are those added to foods and beverages or those not bound to whole foods. For a diet of 2,000 kcal per day, 10% is about 12 sugar cubes (12 teaspoons) of free sugars. One can of pop contains approximately 10 sugar cubes; it adds up quickly!

5. How do I determine how much sugar is in my drink?

Check the nutritional fact label. First, check the portion size. The serving size listed might not be the full container. For example, some beverages contain 500ml but only list nutrition fact label for 250ml, so you need to double the amount of sugar listed on the nutritional label. To convert grams of sugar into cubes just divide by 4 (e.g. 41 grams of sugar = 10 sugar cubes). When calculating plain water and plain milk, these beverages have 0 cubes of added sugars.

6. Aren’t fruit juices, including 100% fruit juice healthy (or at least healthier than pop)?

Fruit juices often contain as many calories as pop. In fact, some fruit juices contain up to 33% more sugar than pop. Children’s fruit drinks also often feature nutrition-related messages and ingredient claims on packaging that may make them seem healthier than regular soda, when they are not. The best option for nutrients is eating whole fruit which includes vitamins and fibre. The sugar in fruit is bound within fibrous structures that break down slowly during digestion, and fruit is fulfilling, hence it is hard to eat a lot.

7. Plain and chocolate milk both have sugar. Should I avoid these drinks as well?

Both plain and chocolate milk have nutrients such as protein, calcium and vitamin D. Plain milk would be the better choice as it contains only bound natural sugar whereas chocolate, and other flavored milks also contain added sugar.  

8. I drink milk alternatives such as almond milk or soy milk. Are these healthy?

Milk alternatives such as almond and soy milk have nutritional benefits if they are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D. Original or “unsweetened” varieties are the best choices as they contain the least amount of sugar.

9. There is no sugar listed in “diet” drinks. Are these healthy?

Diet drinks that utilize artificial or other sweeteners do not contain any added caloric sugars. The effects of artificial or other sweeteners is still not fully understood; that being said, diet drinks do not contain any nutritional value, and most diet soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which is an ingredient that can contribute to risk of bone loss. Heart & Stroke encourages the consumption of water and unsweetened milk over diet drinks.

10. Smoothies are a good option since they’re made with fruits, right?

Homemade smoothies allow you to control the ingredients whereas store-bought smoothies are usually made with sweet syrups, sugar, honey and/or fruit juice and don’t provide the beneficial effects of dietary fibre. Smoothies often have multiple servings of fruit which can be a large amount to consume all at once. When making your own smoothies, consider how many servings of fruit you would usually eat in one sitting and avoid adding additional sugar. Remember, it is still better to eat fruit, not drink it.

11. I thought sports drinks were healthy when I am active and play sports?

Only a small portion of the population exercises hard enough to need a sports drink. Water before, during and after physical activity is the best choice. Most children and youth do not need sports drinks when engaging in sport activities.

12. Do I count the amount of sugar I put in my coffee or tea?

Yes. One sugar packet or one teaspoon of sugar is equal to one sugar cube. Be careful with the spoon you use as the amount of sugar can vary. A larger kitchen spoon could have up to 12 grams of sugar or 3 sugar cubes. And those sugary syrups added to coffee drinks are full of sugar too!

13. What about alcoholic drinks?

Alcohol is not a part of the Count Your Cubes challenge. However, sugary drinks are commonly used as a mixer, and some alcohols contain sugar. It is important to count the sugar consumed in sugary drinks that are added to alcoholic beverages. When consuming alcohol Heart & Stroke recommends following Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.

14. Is coconut water a good choice? 

Coconut water is the liquid that comes out of the fruit when we open it while it’s still immature.
It contains about the same amount of sugar as a sport drink. 

The online sugary drink challenge concept originated in PEI through provincial government funding.The project has also been made possible through generous support from Cando Rail Services and The Winnipeg Goldeyes Field of Dreams Foundation.

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