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Put down the juice: Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories

What's the biggest calorie contributor to your diet? The weekly Baconator run? Your 3 p.m. trip to the vending machine for a Coffee Crisp fix? The bag of chips you wolf down while watching True Blood?

It might be something you don't even consider when tallying up your daily calories: sweetened drinks.

In a new release, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reports sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. Half of all the added sugars Americans drink come from them. The release is tied to a new advisory from the American Heart Association to limit the number of servings of these beverages filled with empty calories to 450 calories per week.

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Pop and sport drink-filled vending machines have been a recent target of school boards and governments, which are concerned about the impact of those sugary drinks on child development. When Ontario students head back to school next week, they'll be greeted with vending machines full of milk, water, 100 per cent juice and vegetable cocktails.

But while kids have been at the centre of efforts to curb sugary drink consumption, an American Heart Association study of 17,000 Americans found adults between 20 and 39 knocked back almost as many of these beverages – an average of 336 calories from them each day (which would mean 2,352 per week – five times the recommended amount).

While it's no secret that the calories you gain from drinking pop or beer come with few health benefits, Health Canada also advises people limit their intake of sports drinks, energy drinks, punches, sweetened tea and coffee and juice, which offer few nutrients for what can often be sky-high calorie counts (sometimes even higher than pop).

The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. prepared a list of calories found in various drinks (per 591 mL serving) :

Fruit punch: 192

100% apple juice: 192

100% orange juice: 168

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Lemonade: 168

Regular cola: 136

Sweetened lemon iced tea (bottled, not homemade): 135

Regular ginger ale: 124

Sports drink: 99

Fitness water: 18

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Unsweetened iced tea: 2

Water: 0

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About the Author

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter who writes about race and ethnicity. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in the 905 region. Previously, she was a feature writer for Globe Life. More

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