What are sugar sweetened beverages (SSB’s)?

Beverages with added sugars, such as carbonated (fizzy) soft drinks, energy drinks, flavoured waters, fruit drinks and cordials, sports drinks, fruit juices and flavoured milks and breakfast drinks.

How much sugar do they really have?


Serving size

Teaspoons of sugar

Soft drink



Sports drink



Fruit juice



Energy drink



Flavoured milk



Flavoured water



Why is it recommended not to drink SSB’s?

Sugary drinks are different from food in that they are consumed in massive quantities, have no nutritional value, and are clearly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Additionally, unlike other foods with sugar, sugary drinks don’t make us feel full.  Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the NZ diet

Do SSB’s harm teeth?

Sugary drinks contain large amounts of sugar which dramatically increases the risk of tooth decay.  All sugary drinks, including sugar-free or "diet" versions contain acids that irreversibly damages teeth through the erosion of tooth enamel.

Is it OK to drink fruit juice?                     

Even unsweetened natural juices contain sugars and acids, so if you are thirsty, it's better to drink water.  The main problem with fruit juice is that it contains no fibre and is very high in sugar.  Eat your fruit, not drink it.

What about sports drinks and energy drinks?

Energy drinks and sports drinks contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks.  The Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency state that energy drinks should not be consumed by children or adolescents and routine consumption of sports drinks should be avoided. 

Are diet drinks ok?                    

Although diet beverages contain no calories, they have a high acid content which harms teeth.  They have the potential to displace water and milk which are the best drink choices for children.  They also maintain a desire for sweet food and drinks.

How about sparkling water?

Unfortunately, sparkling water is acidic due to the carbonation which can combine with the water to form carbonic acid.  This means that this beverage also has a high acid content which can harm teeth.

What are the other health effects of drinking to many SSB’s?

The consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.  For children and youth, an increase of one serving of sugary drinks per day increases the odds of being obese by 60%.  A can a day leads to a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with people who rarely consume such drinks.

Water - the best choice of drink

  • Make plain water the first choice over other drinks. Besides having zero calories, water is a no-sugar thirst-quencher and is free from the tap
  • Milk is also good as it provides energy, protein, and many vitamins and minerals including calcium.

Over the past decade, the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) has dramatically increased both globally and in New Zealand. SSB’s are cheap, readily available and accessible, and are one of the most widely advertised products.

New Zealand has one of the highest consumption rates of sugar in the western world. New Zealanders, on average, consume 53.8kgs of sugar per person per year, equivalent to 37 teaspoons of sugar per person per day. 

The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum daily sugar intake of 3 teaspoons for children and 6 teaspoons for adults.  Sugar sweetened beverages are the leading source of sugar for New Zealand children. 

Ministry of Health figures show that 1 out of 9 children are obese and a further 2 overweight.  For adults 3 out of 10 are obese, and a further 3 overweight.  The World Health Organisation has long identified major links between childhood obesity and chronic diseases in adulthood.

Quick Facts

  • Water is the best drink - it quenches thirst and is free of calories
  • Unflavoured milk is also a good beverage option
  • Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB’s) contain high amounts of sugar and are a major risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and a number of other diseases
  • Artificially sweetened beverages (ASB’s), fruit juices and smoothies displace healthier beverage options and maintain a taste for sweetness which often leads to poor diet choices
  • ASBs have no nutritional value - they are free of calories but not of consequences
  • Fruit juices and smoothies contain natural fruit sugars which become concentrated when made into juice or smoothies. Even though these products contain some nutrients, they have more sugar and calories than SSBs
  • The acidic nature of ASBs, fruit juices and carbonated beverages can cause tooth decay through erosion of the tooth enamel surface, and additionally for fruit juices through their high sugar content
  • Almost one-fifth of the total sugar intake of New Zealand adults (17%) comes from non-alcoholic beverages. Younger people in particular derive a substantial proportion of their sugar intake from non-alcoholic beverages; 27–29% of total sugar consumed by 15–18 year olds comes from these drinks*. Younger children (5–14 years) obtain nearly a quarter (24%) of their daily sugar intake from beverages.**

* University of Otago and Ministry of Health. A focus on nutrition: key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand adult nutrition survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health, 2011.
** Ministry of Health. NZ food NZ children: key results of the 2002 national children's nutrition survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health, 2003.