True Story Tuesday: Vending Machines to Show Calorie Count, & Sugar 101

It is no recent discovery that sugary drinks, especially pop (or “soda” as our friends down south call it), are linked to the growing obesity epidemic in the United States and Canada. Soda companies have tried to combat the issue by releasing no sugar drinks, no calorie drinks, diet drinks, and even created new brands, like Vitamin Water, to appeal to the health concious consumer. However, no recent efforts have helped to curve the obesity trend, so the American Beverage Association is trying something new.


Big-time industry players Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., and other corporations will begin displaying the calorie information of their drinks in vending machines as soon as next year across the US.
When a customer selects a drink at the machine, the calorie count will appear as well as a message suggesting a “low calorie drink”. What’s the big fuss about sugar calories?
Sugar 101: Simply speaking, sugar is a carbohydrate. It is only found in foods of plant origin, like cane sugar, beets, corn, and grapes, and is processed before being added to the foods we eat. Sugar often gets labelled as a “bad food”, but it is important to understand that there are two types of sugar, one worse than the other: naturally occuring and added sugar. Naturally occuring sugar is that which you find in fruits, vegetables, honey, milk, and other natural products. Though the body cannot tell the difference between natural sugar and added sugar, natural sugar comes along with important vitamins and minerals. Added sugar is that which you find in unnatural products, like some juices, pop, candy, certain coffee drinks, and pretty much all packaged items. This type of sugar is often referred to as “empty calories” because it does not contain any vitamins or minerals.
When you look at the nutritional information on a food product, both naturally occuring and added sugars fall under the “sugar” category, but only added sugars will appear in the “ingredients” list. How do you know, then, if your food contains added sugar? If you see the following under ingredients:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose

So, what happens if you eat too much sugar? The first, which everyone is likely to notice, is that sugar tastes so good that it often enduces overeating. The excess calories, either from this overeating or from the “empty calories” in sugar, will eventually lead to weight gain and possibly obesity if you’re not careful. What could be worse than weight gain is the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health issues. The consumption of sugar can also have an addiction-like effect, making  it harder overtime to break from those sugar-loving habits. See Beth Trelease’s 30 Day No Sugar Challenge to see what sugar addiction is like.
What happens if you don’t eat enough sugar? Nothing! Except you might be missing out on the joys of desserts, alcoholic beverages, and other treats that make meal time fun. Our suggestion? Be concious of how much sugar you are eating, but don’t try to cut it out completely. Have a pop once in a while, but never every day. Cut the syrups from your coffee order. Substitute ice cream for a bowl of your favourite fruit. Plan to treat yourself once or twice a week to cut the cravings. There is a myriad of options out there for you!
That’s all for this week’s True Story Tuesday! Check back next week for more ridiculously real happenings around the world.

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