You’re eating healthier by asking for more vegetables and less oil in your food when dining out. That’s great! But are you also asking for healthier options when buying drinks?

A healthier diet doesn’t just depend on the food we eat, but also what we drink. Drinking sweetened beverages like kopi and soft drinks is an easy way to unknowingly load up on added sugar with empty calories, which gives you calories with no nutrients.

And too much sugar can lead to weight gain, obesity, and increased risk of diabetes and other diseases. Added sugar should contribute no more than 10% of our daily energy intake.

Drinking Coffee with Sugar?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nutritionally, we do not need any sugar in our diet and we should reduce our sugar intake to as low as possible. However, if we do consume sugar, WHO recommends keeping sugar intake to no more than 10% of total energy intake daily, which is about 10 teaspoons of sugar daily (based on a 2000-calorie diet). 

WHO further recommends that reducing down to 5% of total energy intake or about 5 teaspoons of sugar daily would bring about additional health benefits.

Now, we’re not saying you should deprive yourself of kopi or teh; we all love our daily caffeine fix, especially if it helps us stay active and alert throughout the day.

After all, there are many benefits to drinking black coffee. Caffeine in coffee has been known to improve our memory, mood, and energy levels. It can also help to burn fat and aid weight loss; some studies have shown that it may also reduce our risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

As a rich source of antioxidants, coffee (including decaf coffee) can be considered as a healthy beverage to many coffee drinkers. But this is only true when consumed in moderation and without all that added cream and sugar.

Try Ordering Coffee with Less Sugar

Rather, we should pay attention to what we’re drinking so we don’t unknowingly consume too much sugar. Being aware of how much sugar we add in our drinks is the first step.

For example, did you know that a cup of coffee (kopi) has four teaspoons of sugar? Compare this to a cup of kopi siu dai (siu dai means less sweet), which has 3 teaspoons.

You’ll slash one entire teaspoon of sugar just by replacing your daily cup of kopi with kopi siu dai! One teaspoon doesn’t sound like much but remember that we should limit to no more than 10 teaspoons a day.

What are some other changes we can make to our drink orders to cut down on sugar?

Instead of:

Order this:

Teh, 5 tsp

Teh siu dai, 4 tsp or Teh o kosong, 0 tsp

Kopi, 4 tsp

Kopi siu dai, 3.5 tsp or Kopi o kosong, 0 tsp

Packet fruit juice, 6.5 tsp or Fresh fruit juice, 5 tsp

Packet fruit juice with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS), 3.5 tsp

Bubble tea, 9 tsp

Bubble tea with HCS, 3 tsp

Carbonated drink, 7 tsp

Carbonated HCS drink, 4.5 tsp

Now that you know how sugary your drinks are, remember these tips the next time you’re buying a drink.

Siu Dai, Please

At the coffee shop, ask for siu dai when buying kopi or teh. This lowers the sugar content in your drink by about 1-1.5 teaspoons.

Keep It Kosong

Or try not to add sugar at all and challenge yourself to go sugar-free: replace one cup of kopi or teh a day with kopi o kosong or teh o kosong. Kosong means zero in Malay, which means your drink has no added sugar. This cuts your sugar intake by a whopping four to five teaspoons!

What about Brown Sugar?

Raw and brown sugars are NOT healthier than white sugars. While they may contain some minerals, they provide hardly any health benefits.

Is Honeyed Water Ok?

Though honey can contain other minerals and benefits, it is still sugar and contains similar calories to sugar. Thus, honey needs to be consumed in moderation as well.

Try to reduce the honey to your hot beverages by half. For a lower calorie and lower sugar option, you can opt for natural maple syrup which has about 25% less (natural) sugar than honey and refined white sugar.

See the Symbol

The Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) makes it easy for you to spot the healthier option between two similar products.

When buying canned or packet drinks, pick those with the “Lower in Sugar” HCS; they’ll have at least 25% less sugar than drinks without the symbol.

Be on the lookout as well for drinks which are labelled “Unsweetened”, “Less sugar”, “Reduced sugar”, or “Low in sugar”. But really, nothing quenches thirst like water or is as healthful.

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