‘Sweet’ alternative

Carly Bokanyi, 19, a senior in Central High School's chapter of Family Career and Community Leaders of America, pours mint-infused water into a paper cup during the school's Rev Your Bev event on Wednesday to encourage students to choose healthier drinks over sugary ones. Josette Keelor/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Everybody knows soda is full of sugar. But Central High School students at a Wednesday Rev Your Bev event said they were surprised to learn the sorry truth of what sweetens some of their other favorite beverages.

Using sugar cube pyramids to illustrate calorie-rich sweeteners in some popular drinks, students in the school’s chapter of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America showed what it takes to sweeten sports drinks, energy drinks, citrus sodas, cola and commercially made sweet tea.

Then the students offered their peers an alternative: bottled water or carbonated water sweetened with fruit.

Strawberry water proved to be most people’s favorite, said FCCLA adviser Raelyn Hamilton, though lemon water also saw some success. Blueberry water would have been better if the berries had been crushed first, but mint leaves and grapefruit found a few fans.

And frozen fruit would work as well, said senior Allyssa Warnick, 18, who praised fruit water for helping students get more produce into their diets.

From left, Central High School family consumer sciences teacher Holly Roberts pours sparkling water for 12th grade students Nicole Kibler and Lyndsi Mauck, both 18, on Wednesday during the school's Rev Your Bev event. The event was funded by a grant through Y Street to encourage students to choose healthier drinks over sugary ones. Josette Keelor/Daily

“I didn’t think about [drinking] it, until I thought about how much sugar is in the other drinks,” she said.

Hoping her peers will spread the word, she noted, “Many people don’t even read the back of the label.”

Locally, Warren County Middle School in Front Royal, Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Shenandoah Valley in Winchester also signed up to participate in the 3rd Annual Rev Your Bev Day, which sponsored more than 300 events around Virginia.

Warren County High School planned its event for lunchtime today.

The effort, sponsored by grants through Y Street, encouraged students and community organizations to become health activists in asking the simple question, “Do you know what’s hidden in your drink?”

Erin Byrd, 16, a junior at Central High School in Woodstock, tries water infused with pink grapefruit on Wednesday during the school's Rev Your Bev event. Behind her, sophomore Caitlin Perrott, 16, spins a prize wheel after filling out a survey on what she thought of information she learned about how much sugar is in typical beverages teenagers drink, while 18-year-old senior Allyssa Warnick looks on. Josette Keelor/Daily

Since 2013, the teen volunteer group for high school students through the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has collected more than 15,000 surveys from around Virginia to gauge residents’ knowledge and opinions on sugary drinks.

Still, Y Street reports through its website http://www.RevYourBev.com that sugary drinks remain the largest source of sugar and calories in Americans’ diets.

At school, where vending machines are stocked mainly with bottled water, senior Courtney Copp, 17, said it’s not always easy finding alternatives.

“We have Gatorade, which as you can see, is not good,” she said.

Labeled a 32-ounce sports drink at the Rev Your Bev event, Gatorade was represented by 23 cubes of sugar. Beside it, a 16-ounce Monster energy drink equaled 24 sugar cubes and 24-ounce sweet tea from McDonald’s 30 sugar cubes.

A 24-ounce citrus soda takes 34 lumps of sugar — about equal to a 64-ounce cola containing 91 lumps.

“We’re not telling them what to drink,” Courtney said. Instead, she hoped to offer alternatives that her peers might want to drink.

“I drink water a lot,” she said. “I put lemon in my water often.”

For her, the biggest surprise of the day was the amount of sugar in sweet tea.

“It’s barely any less than the soda,” she said.

Read about Y Street’s Rev Your Bev event at http://www.RevYourBev.com.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com