MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis - Food and Fitness


Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control


Soft Drinks and Weight Gain

Molly Vetter, Dietetic Intern, University of Missouri

Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, Associate State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri

What causes weight gain? Skipping meals and gorging later in the day, eating out frequently, eating larger portions and drinking large amounts of non-diet soft drinks.

Drinking soda will not directly cause you to gain weight. The flavor of soda makes it easy to drink too much. Ounce per ounce, soda contains a high amount of sugar making a few big gulps worth a lot of calories. One 12-ounce can of regular (non-diet) soda contains about 150 calories, and one 20-ounce bottle, contains about 250 calories.

With soft drinks it is easy to consume many extra calories in addition to regular meals and snacks. The fact is if you eat more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight. A study done at the University of Minnesota showed that school-aged children who drank nine or more ounces of soda a day consumed 300 more calories a day than those children who didn't drink soda.

All of the calories in soda come from added sugar. The USDA recommends that for a healthy, balanced 2,200-calorie diet, 12 teaspoons of added sugar can be consumed per day. One can of non-diet soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 15 teaspoons of sugar! This exceeds the recommended limit for a whole day. Look at the following chart to see how soda compares to other foods that have added sugar.


Type of Food Amount of Sugar
(in teaspoons)
Muffin      1
Cookies, 2 medium 1
Doughnut, 1 medium 2
Frosted cake, 1/16th 6
Fruit pie, 1 med slice 6
Soda, can (12 oz) 9-11
Soda, bottle (20 oz) 15-18



Instead of drinking a can of soda, try eating your calories in the form of food and see if you find it more satisfying. For the amount of calories in one can of soda you could eat one of the following nutritious choices:

  • 2 cups of fresh pineapple
  • 3 cups of watermelon
  • 1 bananas
  • 3 large peaches
  • 2 small oranges
  • 3 kiwis
  • 2 apples
  • cup ice cream
  • 2 small pancakes
  • 2 graham cracker squares
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 medium bagel
  • 1 English muffin
  • 3 cups of popcorn

Soft drinks along with all other foods and beverages can fit into a healthy diet if used in moderation.






Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009



University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri