Curbing your sugar consumption may just be the single most important dietary change you can make. Because of the link between excess sugar and heart disease, the nation's top killer of both men and women, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that added sugars -- the types used to sweeten foods and beverages -- be capped at no more than six teaspoons' worth per day for women and nine for men. One of the most ubiquitous sources of added sugar is what you sip. A single beverage can easily pack more sugar than a typical serving of candy, cookies or ice cream and exceed the AHA's daily advised limit. To cut back -- without sacrificing fancy coffee drinks, cocktails and the like -- put these 10 simple swaps into action.
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1. Icy Frap
A 16-ounce iced chocolate-chip frap topped with whipped cream from a popular coffee shop contains about 50 grams of sugar and 420 calories. This icy frap is a sugar bomb; based on calories alone, it looks more like a meal. To make your own creamy but low-sugar concoction, try whipping together a cold-brewed coffee drink with coconut milk and dark chocolate and coconut whipped topping instead. You'll save about 225 calories and more than 46 grams of sugar!
2. Fruit Smoothie
Smoothies are generally perceived as good-for-you choices -- and they can be. But many contain a whole lot more sugar than smoothie lovers realize. That's primarily because they pack far more servings of sippable fruit than you would likely chew and eat in one sitting. The sweetened yogurt or sorbet they're whipped with also add to the syrupy bottom line. For example, a 32-ounce "medium-size" banana-berry version from a popular chain provides more than 110 grams of sugar and 540 calories. To save 149 calories and knock the sugar down by more than 75 percent, try a lightened-up version with bananas, berries, Greek yogurt and almonds. Cinnamon is added to enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit and contributes a layer of flavor that will leave you feeling satisfied -- no added sugar needed.
3. Hot Cocoa
One serving of this cold-weather staple can blow your sugar budget for an entire day (and then some). A 12-ounce mug of cocoa from a coffee shop can clock in at nearly 41 grams of sugar and 280 calories. Try a lighter version with honey, organic cocoa, almond milk and vanilla for a healthier but still-creamy drink that's just as chocolaty.
No doubt slushy drinks are fun thirst quenchers, but they can cause a sugar surge. A medium slushy from a fast-food joint contains about 270 calories and more than 70 grams of sugar -- the amount in about 70 gummy bears. To make your own, without any added sugar, try using naturally sweetened fruit.
Even without add-ins like strawberry or mango, a classic restaurant margarita on the rocks contains 28 grams of sugar (the amount in 14 sugar cubes) and 240 calories. To make a juicy version of your own with no added sugar, use green tea and fresh-squeezed juice.
6. Grape Soda
Grape soda is a childhood favorite, but the 160 calories and whopping 42 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can (the amount in about 55 small jellybeans) now makes it a nutritional no-no -- or at most a not-that-often indulgence. Fortunately, it's easy to re-create the experience of soda without drowning in sugar by using sparkling water, real fruit juice, herbs and spices.
This summertime classic is so refreshing and appears to be healthy (after all, lemons are loaded with vitamin C). But the truth is that some premade lemonades are comprised of less than 15 percent lemon juice and a whole lot of sugar -- 56 grams in two cups. This is equivalent to 34 sweet tarts and 220 calories. To up the vitamin C and lemony flavor and knock down the sugar, try using honey and fresh-squeezed lemon juice with mint instead.
8. Pina Colada
With 245 calories and more than 30 grams of sugar in a four-and-a-half-ounce portion, this quintessential vacation cocktail should really be considered a dessert. For a lightened-up version, pull out your blender and whip together rum, pineapple juice and coconut milk with frozen banana.
9. Energy Drink
In addition to the caffeine and other stimulants they may contain, a typical 16-ounce energy drink contains a massive 36 grams of sugar and 174 calories. To get a more natural boost with a fraction of the sugar, combine sparkling water and fresh-brewed unsweetened green tea with 100 percent pomegranate juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
10. Frozen Mudslide
A cocktail in a milkshake is literally a recipe for waistline disaster. A typical restaurant-crafted recipe packs 80 grams of sugar and a staggering 755 calories. For a homemade version with just 311 calories and 9.5 grams of sugar, blend vodka, chilled brewed coffee and coconut milk with chocolate hazelnut butter (yum!) and vanilla, and then top with coconut whipped topping.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you struggle to consume less sugar, especially from your favorite beverages? Leave a comment below and let us know. Share how you've cut back on the sweet stuff -- your experience may help motivate and inspire others!
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