Search Google Appliance

Healthy Drink Choices

August 11, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

Make the Switch to Better Beverages

It's better to eat calories, than to drink them. Here are some great tips to help you and your family reduce sugary drinks.


When Out and About

At Restaurants:

  • Ask for water or sparkling water with slices of lemon or lime.
  • Order a smaller size drink.
  • Skip the free refills.
  • Order milk instead of sugary drinks at meals.
  • Many restaurants, including fast food restaurants, provide nutrition information about their products online. Look for the Informed Dining program in the food establishments you visit. Choose drinks with no added sugar most of the time.
  • Limit sugary drinks such as iced tea, lemonade and pop - they are high in calories and added sugar, but contain little nutrition. Less is best.
  • Enjoy coffee or tea with little or no added sugar or syrups. Many coffee shops provide nutrition information about their product online. Visit Health Canada's website for recommended limits for caffeine.
  • Diet drinks are calorie and sugar free, but still contain acid that can harm the teeth. Enjoy them once in a while, but make healthier choices like water and milk most of the time.
  • Milk shakes, especially larger sizes, often contain more calories and sugar than any other menu item. If you choose one, order the smallest size.
  • Fruit smoothies found in restaurants and food courts can be high in calories and added sugar, and sometimes contain very little fruit. If you choose to have one, look for those that list fruit as the first ingredient and choose the smallest size.
    Choose Most Often... Choose Least Often...
    Coffee With Little or No Added Sugar - A latte or cappuccino with no or little added sugar is a good choice. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add flavour and are calorie and sugar-free. Specialty Coffees or Iced Coffees Made With Added Syrups and Whipped Cream - If you have one of these coffees, choose versions made with sugar-free syrups and no whipped cream.
    Tea With Little or No Added Sugar - Enjoy black, green or herbal teas. Sweetened Bubble Teas, Iced Teas and Sugary Specialty Teas - These drinks can be high in calories and added sugar.
    Flavoured Waters - Choose those that are calorie and sugar free. Soda Water Mixed With Sugary Syrups - Drinks made with sugary syrups, such as Italian sodas, are high in calories and added sugar.

On the Go

  • Water is the best beverage for most people to satisfy thirst and stay hydrated. Carry a reusable water bottle in your vehicle or sports bag and refill it throughout the day. Staying hydrated will decrease the temptation to drink sugary drinks.
  • If you bring lunch, pack healthy drinks such as milk.
  • At the movies, mall or community centre... order water or drinks that are calorie and sugar free or share a small beverage.
  • At the recreation center use the water fountain, bring your own bottle of water, or buy bottled water.
  • At social gatherings or parties bring along sparkling water and add fresh lemon or lime. It's a great low-calorie way to stay hydrated and drink something with fizz!
  • At school always pack a water bottle in your kid's school backpack.

When At Home

    • Keep the fridge stocked with milk and a pitcher of cold water.
    • Keep sugary drinks out of the house most of the time.
    • Be a role model for healthy habits. When we make healthy drink choice, our friends and family are more likely to make those choices too.
    • Do it yourself. Make your own smoothies, shakes, fizzy drinks or iced tea. Try this recipe for Sunny Orange Shake.
    • Drink herbal tea at night before bed - a great way to relax.
Choose Most Often... Choose Least Often...
Water- Satisfy your thirst with water. To boost the taste of water, including sparkling water, try these ideas once in a while:
  • a splash of 100% fruit juice
  • slices of fruits or vegetables, such as cucumber, lemon, lime, orange or watermelon
  • fresh herbs, like basil, mint or rosemary
Water With Powdered Drink Mixes - These drinks can be high in calories and added sugar and can take the place of healthier choices.
Plain Milk or Soy Beverage - Milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverages contain lots of nutrients your body needs, including calcium and vitamin D. Chocolate, Strawberry & Other Flavoured Milks - Flavoured milk contains added sugar and calories. If you make it at home, add a small amount of syrup or powder. Less is best.
Homemade Fruit Smoothie With No Added Sugar - Blend unsweetened fresh, frozen or canned fruit with milk or unsweetened yogurt. Store-Bought Fruit Smoothie - These drinks often contain mostly added sugar and very little fruit. If choosing one, look for those that list fruit as the first ingredient and choose the smallest size.
Homemade Iced Tea With No or Less Added Sugar - Add sliced lemon, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves or fresh mint for more flavour. Store-Bought Iced Tea or Iced Tea Made With Powdered Drink Mixes - These drinks can be high in calories and added sugar.

At the Grocery Store

  • Nutrition labels can help you make healthy drink choices. Check the ingredient list and choose drinks with "no added sugar" most of the time. These words on the ingredient list mean sugar has been added: sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, sugar/glucose-fructose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, honey molasses, maltodextrin, agave syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup and syrup.
  • Sugary drinks should not be in your shopping cart every trip to the grocery store. Sugary drinks include energy drinks, fruit drinks, milkshakes, pop, sports drinks, tea drinks, slushies and vitamin-enhanced waters. Less is best!
  • The beverage industry is developing new product lines all the time. Check it out - you can find flavoured waters in the grocery store, including some that are free of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  • Chocolate, strawberry and other flavoured milks, as well as flavoured soy beverages and yogurt drinks contain added sugar and calories. Read labels and buy brands that contain less sugar.
  • Drinks that are labeled "fruit beverage", "fruit cocktail", "fruit drink", "fruit punch", "fruit blend", "fruit splash" or end in the word "ade", such as "lemonade", often contain mostly added sugar and very little fruit juice.
  • Drinks that contain added vitamins, like vitamin-enhanced waters, often contain added sugar and calories. Get the nutrients you need by choosing a variety of food and drinks from Canada's Food Guide.
  • Energy drinks can be high in calories, sugar and caffeine. Get the energy you need by choosing a wide variety of foods and drinks from Canada's Food Guide and leading an active lifestyle.
  • Choose smaller package sizes or portion sizes. Most beverage manufacturers offer smaller packaging options.

Fast Fact

A 591 mL bottle of vitamin-enhanced water contains 8 sugar cubes.


The information on the Healthy Eating pages of the HealthyFamilies BC website is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a physician or other qualified healthcare professional.


  1. Activity & Lifestyles
  2. Aging Well
  3. Pregnancy & Parenting
    1. Pregnancy & Birth
    2. Babies (0-12 months)
    3. Toddlers (12-36 months)
    4. Preschool (3-5 years)
    5. Children (6-11 years)
    6. Teens (12-18 years)
  4. Food & Nutrition

HealthyFamilies BC Tools

Breastfeeding Buddy

Breastfeeding Buddy


Sodium Sense

Sodium Sense


Your Virtual Shopping Tour

Shopping Sense


How Much Sugar Are You Drinking?

Sugary Drink Sense