Your Health

New website challenges Manitobans to count their sugar

Photo of bottles of flavoured water.
Photo of Diana Doyle-Zebrun. AMANDA NASH
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, April 6, 2018

Think that bottle of flavoured water is healthier for you than a can of pop?

Think again.

You may be surprised to learn that quenching your thirst with a bottle of flavoured water is really not much better for you than gulping down a bottle of cola.

The reason? Both products contain relatively high amounts of added sugar.    

In fact, many of the flavoured waters and energy drinks on the market today contain a lot more sugar than you may realize. Some are even marketed as healthy choices.

This matters because how much sugar we consume and how we consume it can have a significant impact on our health. For example, fruit, vegetables, milk, grains and other plant-based foods contain naturally occurring sugar. These foods are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibre so eating them helps us feel full and satisfied and nourish the body.

Added sugars are different. These sugars, which include glucose, fructose, sucrose, brown sugar, honey and syrups, are usually added to foods or beverages during the manufacturing process. They provide extra calories but few or no nutritional benefits, and consuming them doesn’t lead to satiety. The main source of added sugar in our diet is sugary drinks. They are consumed quickly, delivering a large volume of sugar to the body in a short amount of time.

Studies show that people who consume too much added sugar are at greater risk for a variety of health issues, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and tooth decay. The good news is 80 per cent of early heart disease and stroke can be prevented by adopting healthy behaviours, like reducing your intake of added sugars.

So how much added sugar is too much?

Heart & Stroke recommends that Canadians limit their consumption of added sugar to just five to ten per cent of their total daily calories. For an average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, ten per cent is about 48 grams, or 12 teaspoons (cubes) of added sugar each day. To put this into perspective:

  • One bottle flavoured water: 9 tsp added sugar
  • One can of pop: 10 tsp added sugar
  • One medium flavoured latte: 11 tsp added sugar
  • One energy drink: 19 tsp added sugar

Clearly, it can be helpful to track how much added sugar you consume over time. As it turns out, Heart & Stroke, with financial support from the Carolyn Sifton Foundation and Cando Rail Services, has been able to develop a novel way for Manitobans to do just that. It’s called the Count Your Cubes challenge, and here’s how it works.

Participants sign up for the challenge, which is endorsed by the Manitoba Dental Association, by visiting Once you’re registered, you will get access to a personal electronic diary and a menu of beverages. Each time you have a beverage, you tap on the appropriate icon, and the website calculates the number of sugar cubes consumed. For example, if you tap the icon for one large energy drink, the website automatically registers 20 cubes on your calendar.

The idea is to calculate your added sugar intake in the first week by consuming beverages as you normally would, and then try to reduce that number in the weeks that follow. As you count your cubes, you can access the website’s resources to learn more about how you can reduce your added sugar intake. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Look for alternatives: Choosing water over sugar-laden drinks is always a good decision. Spice up your water by adding herbs or berries like basil and strawberry. You can also try carbonated water with a splash of citrus instead of pop. Plain milk, and unsweetened milk alternatives are also good choices.

Give cinnamon a shot: Do you need a little something to give your tea or coffee a lift? No problem. Try adding nutmeg or cinnamon instead of sugar or honey.

Watch out for fruit juice: It’s a little known fact that there can be as much sugar in natural fruit juice as there is in pop. Sugar content of some drinks is obvious, but other drinks contain hidden sugars in the ingredients. Choose whole fruit instead of fruit juice.

These are just a few of the tips you will find at Why not log on now and take the challenge to learn more?  

Amanda Nash is Health Promotion and Nutrition Manager for Heart & Stroke Manitoba. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, April 6, 2018.

Bookmark Email Print Share this on Facebook SHARE Share this on Twitter Tweet RSS Feeds RSS
Make text smaller Make text bigger
Traditional Territories Acknowledgement
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

WRHA Accessibility Plan Icon
Wait Times
View the Winnipeg Health Region's current approximate Emergency Department and Urgent Care wait times.

View wait times
Find Services
Looking for health services in Winnipeg?

Call Health Links-Info Sante at 788-8200

Search 211 Manitoba

Explore alternatives to emergency departments at

Find a Doctor
Contact Us
Do you have any comments or concerns?

Click here to contact us
The Winnipeg Health Region has a variety of career opportunities to suit your unique goals and needs.

Visit our Careers site
WRHA Logo Help| Terms of Use | Contact Us | En français