‘Think Your Drink’ teaches middle schoolers healthy beverage options

Courtney Boes, a health educator with Project Healthy Schools, shows students how much sugar is in their favorite beverages.
Courtney Boes, a health educator with Project Healthy Schools, shows students how much sugar is in their favorite beverages.

By Tara Cavanaugh

Middle school students are starting to make their own food decisions, so it’s important to learn just how much sugar is in their favorite drinks –– and some healthy substitutes.

That’s the idea behind the “Think Your Drink” campaign, a national effort to help students make healthy beverage choices. Representatives from Chartwells and Project Healthy Schools, a ten-week program that teaches middle school students about nutrition and exercise, teamed up to visit AAPS middle schools over the past week. 

At Forsythe Middle School, a long line of students waited to try two kinds of infused waters: orange and cucumber mint. Students could also take recipe cards that explained how to make the infused waters at home.

“This is stuff they wouldn’t have thought to try on their own,” said Chartwells manager Carrie Hall. At home, Hall is mom to three teen boys and stepmom to two younger boys. “I know how hard it can be to get them to try something new,” she said. But in the Forsythe cafeteria, students seemed eager to join their friends in trying out the healthy infused waters. As of second lunch, the students had consumed more than 400 samples.

As students picked up samples and recipe cards, they also saw just how much sugar was in some of their favorite beverages. A 20-ounce Coke has 65 grams of sugar and a 20-ounce Mountain Dew has 77 grams. A 20-ounce Vitamin Water, a drink that’s marketed as a health beverage, has 32.5 grams of sugar.

To put these numbers in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends teens eat no more than 25 to 40 grams of added sugar each day.

“They’re starting to make their own decisions about what they eat, and they have a lot more freedom,” said Carol Durgy, the wellness coordinator for Project Healthy Schools. “We can encourage them to make healthier choices.”

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