AUG
01

Cook County Soda Tax Affects Northbrook Sunset

After a hold-up in the courts, a new Cook County soda tax will go into effect tomorrow, August 2nd. The tax will collect $0.01 per ounce of sweetened beverages. This works out to $1.44 for a 12-pack of soda. The tax is expected to generate over $200 million dollars for Cook County each year. 

While soda taxes are controversial, I encourage shoppers to drink less soda. A robust amount of evidence links sugary drinks with a host of detrimental outcomes, such as obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, and dental disease. While sugary drinks are certainly not the only place you’ll find sugar in the diet, Americans do drink most of their sugar.

However, the Cook County tax is unique from most other soda taxes in that it includes artificially sweetened, or “diet”, beverages as well. The scientific evidence of harm from diet drinks is less certain than that of sugar-sweetened drinks.

And the policy doesn’t stop there. Here’s what's being taxed:

  • All beverages sweetened with sugar or a sugar-derivative (like high-fructose corn syrup). This includes soda, sports drinks, flavored water, fountain drinks, energy drinks, pre-made sweetened coffee or tea, and fruit-ades like lemonade.
    Note: It doesn’t matter how much sugar is in the drink —even if it only has 1g, it’s still taxed. When reading labels, remember that sugar goes by many names.
  • Low-calorie or calorie-free drinks that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like Aspartame or Splenda.
  • Low-calorie or calorie-free drinks that are sweetened with natural, non-caloric sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit.
    Note: this means that even brands that are healthy alternatives to soda, like Bai, Hint, and Vitamin Water, are taxed.

Here’s what’s not being taxed:

  • 100% natural fruit or vegetables juice with no added sweetener (e.g. 100% orange juice).
  • Any drink in which the main (more than 50%) ingredient is milk. This includes soy milk, rice milk, and other milk substitutes.
  • Drinks for medical use (e.g. Ensure or Boost).
  • Meal replacement drinks (e.g. Slim Fast).
  • “Drinks” in syrup or powder form that the consumer combines with water to create a beverage.
  • Infant formula

Switching to an unsweetened beverage has always been good for your health. Now, it’s good for your wallet, too. If it’s time to make a swap, I recommend La Croix or Perrier. Both products are calorie-free, sugar-free, carbonated, and come in many tasty, natural flavors. Neither are included in the tax.

Cal Croix and Perrier products

A final note: if you can’t stomach the tax on your favorite drinks, our Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, and Long Grove stores do not tax sweetened beverages. 

Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN 847.681.5513 courtney@sunsetfoods.com

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MAR
21

Sweet Nothings: Facts on Added Sugar

The Nutrition Facts label is getting a face-lift. Among other changes, such as updated servings sizes and more prominent calorie and percent daily values, a major change to the label involves added sugars. On the new label, added sugars will be listed separately from natural sugars. 


original and new nutrition facts label

Manufacturers have until July of 2018 to adopt the new label and declare added sugars. However, you may notice that some food labels are already beginning to adopt the new label.

What are added sugars? Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods and beverages when they are processed or prepared. This includes sugars that are added by manufacturers, as well as sugars you may add at home. Added sugars are linked with a rise in chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

Added sugars are found in processed foods. The largest sources of added sugars in Americans’ diet include: 

  • Soda, soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks
  • Candy
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pies and cobblers
  • Pastries, sweet rolls, and donuts
  • Fruit drinks, such as fruitades and fruit punch 
  • Dairy desserts, such as ice cream

Added sugar goes by many names on ingredient lists. Pseudonyms for added sugar include: 

  • Agave nectar
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Brown sugar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated corn sweetener 
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar 
  • Lactose
  • Liquid fructose
  • Malt syrup 
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectar (e.g. peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose 
  • Sugar cane juice
  • White granulated sugar


Some of these different forms of sugar may seem more wholesome than others, but our bodies generally do not differentiate between them. 

How are added sugars different from natural sugars? Natural sugars occur naturally in fruits and dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Natural sugars are found in smaller amounts in vegetables, beans, and some grains. 

Our bodies process all sugars, no matter the source, in very similar ways. However, there are big differences in the nutritional value of the foods in which those sugars are found. Foods with natural sugars are healthy foods that contain important nutrients. Besides sugars, fruits contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Dairy products contain calcium, vitamin D, and protein. 

So gram for gram, the sugar content of a candy bar may be similar to that of a couple oranges. However, the sugars in the candy bar are “empty calories” (i.e. calories that don’t offer any benefit besides energy), whereas the oranges provide vitamin C, fiber, and other health-promoting pytonutrients. It’s also important to note that the fiber in fruits and the protein in dairy products slow the digestion of sugars, leading to a healthier blood sugar response. 

natural versus added sugar

Why bother to declare added sugars? According to the FDA, the decision to declare added sugars “reflects our greater understanding of nutritional science…including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.” A key recommendation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to reduce intake from solid fats, sodium, and added sugars because all have been linked to chronic disease. Solid fats and sodium are indicated on the nutrition label, whereas added sugars are not. The FDA recognizes that consumers are better able to make informed choices about added sugars when they know how much they normally eat. 

The FDA also notes that mandatory declaration of added sugars may also prompt reformulation of foods high in added sugars. A similar situation occurred with trans fats; once the labeling trans fats became required, manufacturers voluntarily began removing them from their products. 

How much is too much added sugar?
American Heart Association recommends no more than:

  • 6 teaspoons, or 24 grams, of added sugars for women
  • 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams, of added sugars for men

To put that in perspective, one 12-ounce can of soda contains about 38 grams of added sugars. Most Americans far exceed added sugar recommendations.

How can you reduce your added sugar intake? 
In light of National Nutrition Month, try replacing a source of added sugar with a natural sugar. For example:

  • For snacking on the go, swap out a granola bar for a banana or a handful of dried fruit
  • Sweeten plain yogurt with berries in lieu of pre-sweetened yogurt. 
  • Beverages account for almost half of all added sugars consumed by Americans. Switch to a non-caloric beverage, like water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, or carbonated water. 

Remember, our Registered Dietitian is here to help you satisfy your sweet tooth the healthy way. If you have a question about added sugar or the new Nutrition Facts label, contact Courtney at courtney@sunsetfoods.com or 847.681.5513. 

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