Have You Replaced Soda with Iced Tea? Read This.

By Published On: 11 June 2013Last Updated: 16 May 2023

If you've recently replaced the soda in your diet with iced tea, you'll want to read this.

What's in this post

Let’s talk tea

June is National Iced Tea Month, and I will be the first to say I enjoy a tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer’s day. Through the years, I have learned to enjoy unsweetened tea—which I know to those Southern friends of mine—the idea of not consuming anything other than “sweet tea” is sacrilegious.

Tea has many potential health benefits, but when you pour in the sugar, you might as well be sucking down a soda.

Arizona iced tea / Source

The low-down on sugar

As a dietitian, I work with various clients, many of whom are seeking weight loss. I cannot tell you how often I have heard people say they “gave up soda and now drink iced tea.” Initially, this sounds like a wonderful thing. When I ask if they are brewing it and monitoring the sugar content, I am often told, “Oh, no. I drink that (insert famous brands here) stuff in the can or bottle. It doesn’t have all the sugar like soda does.” Sorry, that is not true.

Sugary beverages of any sort are no better than one another, especially when it comes to matters of weight loss. A 20-ounce bottle of nearly any major brand of sweetened iced tea will run you about 240 calories and almost 60 grams of sugar, which is on par with a similar serving size of soda and the equivalent of 15 sugar cubes. Yikes!

Soda has zero redeeming qualities when it comes to nutritional benefits.

On the other hand, tea has been shown to have potential benefits to multiple body systems, including cardiovascular and brain health, likely due to its antioxidant content. But, when it is watered down and doused with sugar, most people would be better off eating antioxidants in fruits and vegetables than drinking bottled sweetened tea.

The marketing gurus behind sugary beverages are great at their jobs, and they can spin the PR so that people are convinced the iced tea out of the soda machine is better than the soda itself.

Don’t fall for it.

Glass pitcher of iced tea / Source

Experiment with tea

I am by no means an expert in the world of tea. There are many varieties, including green, white, and herbal, along with various ways to prepare them, like paired with fruit infusions or wine. Despite my ignorance on the subject, I have a teapot collection to die for.

Most days, my tea consumption consists of a mint and ginger combination to ease my aging digestive tract or some iced chai tea if I feel fancy. I’m looking forward to expanding my tea-tasting horizons. It’s a fun way to experiment with what seems to be an endless array of types and flavors while enjoying some nutritional benefits as well.

One tip to remember: Try to drink tea outside of mealtime, as it and coffee have compounds that can inhibit specific nutrient absorption.

Do you drink tea? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


  1. Ted December 4, 2023 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    A can of soda has 40 grams of sugar, while a cup of tea that you brew yourself will taste good with 5-10g, SOOO that is far less + you can use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, all of which are far better than HFCS.

  2. Pam May 26, 2023 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I have been experimenting with my ice tea. Because it is easy to transport I have a bottle of Pure Leaf Raspberry tea which uses real sugar. (46 grams) 190 calories. I put lots of ice in my travel cup and try to mix with water.
    When I am home I make up some sun tea with decaffeinated tea bags. I then add some raspberry syrup to my container and leave in fridge. 90 calories for 2 tbsp. I do drink unsweetened tea in restaurants, just add plenty of lemon.

  3. Luke August 8, 2022 at 11:30 am - Reply

    I drink tea. I mix 18 packers of black tea to 1 cup of suger and then mix in a 2 gallon jug.

  4. Bob July 18, 2022 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Soda will rot your teeth faster than iced tea.

  5. mike June 23, 2022 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    It may have the same number of calories or close to it but it does not have the phosphoric and carbonic acid,Bpa, all the dyes, preservatives and other chemicals found in colas.

  6. Diane May 3, 2022 at 4:29 am - Reply

    I like to put cinnamon bark(Yl essiential oil) in mine for that cinnamon zing.

  7. Katie September 4, 2021 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Don’t think there was enough consideration of: a) the carbonation, b) acidity, c) high fructose corn syrup vs cane sugar. Natural food trumps lab tampering every time.

  8. Michelle Cryer August 9, 2020 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Hi ,i found the southern breeze teas ,tea,peach,mint,watermelon,blackberry they are sweetened with sucrolose i believe ,but soooo delicious ,i quit a very long diet coke habit,the half tea,half lemon all delicous hot to

  9. Bri April 9, 2019 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Not to crap on your hypothesis. But I’m proof it’s incorrect. I suffered from really bad Migraines when I tried to drop caffeine altogether. So I instead went to no soda, just sweet tea and a side effect of that choice was weight loss. It wasn’t the goal. But it happened. Not a grandiose amount. But enough to matter. Food for thought.

  10. Renee Marcum January 2, 2019 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    So the question still remains is tea better for you then soda so what I have learned through this sight is its your choice to make it better then soda the only thing I can say is all I see that’s different then soda and tea is the carbon that soda has in it

  11. Gretchen Tighe July 21, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    I must weigh in. Sweet tea is not the only option when purchasing “premade” tea, from a grocer or a vending machine. There are several varieties with no added sugar or flavoring. Choosing these options help to alleviate the sugar and calories mentioned in original post. The tea itself can be refreshing and give a mild caffeine boost when you need it. Just my two cents.

  12. vera June 18, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    my options for drinks are Soda or Pure Leaf extra sweet tea when I am at home and orange juice when I am at work… .. yeah my teeth are crap… but I don’t have any other choice..city water isn’t safe to drink and why would I spend nearly $2 on spring water; on something that tastes disgusting…

  13. HGStone July 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I use Tejava tea, and I sweeten it with Pure Monk Fruit Powder. This is completely health and has nothing but goodness within it.

  14. Elaine M April 8, 2016 at 10:46 am - Reply

    I would like to know if the lipton kcups sweet tea is better for you than soda…. it only has 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar…. so logic would say yes…… but I still would like validation…..

  15. 7312 October 28, 2015 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    There are some bottled teas on the market that have just as many calories and sugar content than sodas, but not all! For instance i drink 20 oz bottles of Lipton Peach Iced tea at 120 calories a bottle, 30g of sugar compared to a 20 oz bottle of Pepsi at 250 cal, 69g of sugar. So it really all depends on the brand. :)

    • Pais Croiseur November 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      All I got from that post was “I drink Lipton Peach Iced Tea which is pretty bad, but not as bad as soda”. Try Liptons “Unsweetened tea” and you get all the health benefits and zero negatives. Its going to taste like dog sweat the first time you drink it but if you power through you will learn to tolerate and maybe even appreciate the taste.

      • Brad Mundie January 11, 2016 at 6:24 am - Reply

        Zero negatives? Yeah right…every major corporation whose bottling anything that uses their local tap water is poisoning the entire country.

        • Pais Croiseur January 12, 2016 at 12:24 pm - Reply

          Who gets their unsweetened tea from a bottle?

  16. Mitch Alan July 16, 2015 at 4:33 am - Reply

    Comparing 20 ounces of iced tea to 12 ounces of soda is dumb. You need to get your facts straight.

  17. Don Baxley July 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I would think that someone with a good education could answer a simple question instead of changing the question and giving a different answer. Tea is better for you than sodas, period. If you want to add stuff especially sugar maybe not. I was able to answer the question and I never finished the 8th grade.

  18. Carrie July 1, 2015 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    I did enjoy my 1 or 2 cans of diet soda a day but felt a change was in order. First I switched to unflavored sparkling water with just a sprinkle of lemon flavored sugar free drink mix. One day I was out of the drink mix and found a Celestial Seasoning Herbal Tea variety pack in fruit flavors. Made a carafe per directions, chilled it and loved it! I don’t like sweet and these teas are just right for me. I am hoping there is nothing wrong with a couple of glasses per day. All the flavors are wonderful chilled. Red Zinger is my favorite.

    Anya, what do you think? Is this a healthy switch? I have also upped my water intake which I am sure helps overall.

  19. […] those sweetened so called “healthy” iced teas and juices can be just as bad. Look at the sugar content the next time you’re at the market, you’ll be […]

  20. c March 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Chai means tea in Hindi. So you are essentially saying, “tea tea”.

    • Sultan March 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      True! It’s also the same in Arabic (شاي), Persian and Russian I believe!

    • Lori Weiler January 16, 2022 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      So is everyone else, then…. smug much?

  21. Glenda March 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I was actually looking to an answer a student had about “iced tea” versus “ice tea” when I found this article. I have given up a “from the cradle” soda addiction for tea, but I have found that most “sweet” teas are too sweet. I just order unsweetened. If I really want “a little sweet”, I’ll add a packet of splenda and go on my merry way.

  22. Annabella August 26, 2013 at 5:20 am - Reply

    As a former US Southerner living in the UK for 17 years, True Iced Tea has been hard to come by. The British think Iced Tea is just brewed tea gone cold in the mug with milk and sugar. Thankfully my English husband sourced Lipton Cold Brew Iced Tea bags so he makes us a fresh jug each day and we add our own lemon juice and a little Splenda.

    Obviously there is nothing better than sitting in a restaurant in Tennessee being asked if you want ‘sweet tea’ music to my ears!

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…