Eating Better

Fizz Free February: Tips for reducing sugary drinks

By Isobel Cox

As ‘Fizz Free February’ comes to an end, Bristol Food Network volunteer Isobel Cox looks at ways that can help us all cut down on sugar and sugary drinks. Fizz-Free February is a national campaign encouraging people to give up fizzy drinks for February while raising awareness about the negative effects of high sugar consumption.

I’ve always thought my sugar intake was pretty low – I’m much more of a savoury gal (in terms of food anyway). But as I’ve recently discovered, there are high amounts of sugar in many products from our favourite brands in the UK, but especially in drinks. For example, one can of coke contains 35g of sugar or seven teaspoons and even some enhanced waters can contain up to 15g of sugar – that’s just over three teaspoons.

Sugar comes in many forms, but can be divided into natural occurring sugars (in fruits, vegetables and milk) which are fine in moderation, and free sugars (sugars added to foods and drinks, and sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices) which we should limit to up to 30g a day or seven sugar cubes. Too much free sugar can drain your energy, lead to weight gain or obesity, increasing your chances of Type 2 diabetes. It can also cause tooth decay. I certainly know that I feel worse on a day when I noticeably overindulge in sugar – drained, shaky and my teeth hurt. But how do we cut down if the sneaky snuff is everywhere?

Cutting free sugars out of what you drink daily is a great place to start – and that’s exactly what Fizz Free February is all about. On average cutting out fizzy drinks reduces your daily sugar intake by 29%. But the action should by no means be restricted to February – I’m going to carry on cutting the fizzies into March, April and beyond! Incidentally, this fulfils one of the key eating better actions of cutting down on sugar.

I find my liquid consumption is the easiest place to start with cutting down sugar, so here’s some more tips:

  • Carry a water bottle with you – if you carry a water bottle with you can fill it up at one of Bristol’s many water refill stations throughout the day, and you’ll be less tempted to pop into the shops to buy a sugary drink when the thirst hits.
  • Try herbal teas – rather than your classic black tea which most people add milk and sugar to, expand your horizons to some fun herbal teas – one of my favourites is Pukka’s lemon, ginger and manuka honey.
  • Skip the fruit juice in the morning – although they taste delicious and seem healthy, many fruit juices are actually super-high in sugar (learn from my experience – I was never allowed sweets as a kid but because I loved fruit juice so much I had to have eight fillings!). If you really can’t do without, restrict yourself to a much smaller glass.
  • Be aware of sugar in alcohol – did you know that 11% of the UK population’s daily intake of added sugar comes from alcoholic drinks? Also, carbonated spirits mixers can make the sugar content in your drink skyrocket.

Isobel Cox is a volunteer for Bristol Food Network. She lives in Bristol and is studying towards a Food Studies MA at the University of Exeter. Her academic and personal interest is about how to develop food systems that are sustainable for all.

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