The Beverage Guidance System

The Beverage Guidance System was developed by a panel of experts headed by Dr. Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Over the past several decades, levels of overweight and obesity have increased across all population groups in the United States. Concurrently, an increased daily intake of 150–300 kcal (for different age-sex groups) has occurred, with approximately 50% of the increased calories coming from the consumption of calorically sweetened beverages. The panel ranked beverages from the lowest to the highest value based on caloric and nutrient contents and related health benefits and risks. Drinking water was ranked as the preferred beverage to fulfill daily water needs and was followed in decreasing value by tea and coffee, low-fat (1.5% or 1%) and skim (nonfat) milk and soy beverages, noncalorically sweetened beverages, beverages with some nutritional benefits (fruit and vegetable juices, whole milk, alcohol, and sports drinks), and calorically sweetened, nutrient-poor beverages. The Panel recommends that the consumption of beverages with no or few calories should take precedence over the consumption of beverages with more calories.

In an effort to help Americans make better decisions, the beverages are assigned categories from level 1 to level 6. Popkin recommends beverages in levels 1 through 3 while beverages in levels 4 though 6 should be consumed in great moderation.

Water of course, is the best hydration fluid and is level 1.