Photo Credit: Zevia

The Sugar Budget

We caught up with Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia, makers of zero-calorie, zero-sugar sodas and drinks, for tips on how he and his family manage their sweet tooth.

By Rebecca Heaton

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For the past 17 years, Paddy Spence and his wife, Jerra, have been on a journey to live a mostly sugar-free life. He shares tips on how he and his family follow a “sugar budget” to manage sugar consumption without totally cutting out the sweet.

“It’s tough enough to control your own behavior as an adult, but with kids, it’s a whole new world of responsibility,” says Spence. “In our household, we know that it’s impossible to consume zero sugar. So how can we reduce consumption and reasonably and sustainably optimize our health?”

See also Sugar Swaps

Making Choices

Zevia has a whole family of stevia-sweetened beverages.

With any budget, you go over and under. It’s about making trade-offs and choices. “In our house, we try and establish an aggressive goal of 50 grams of total sugar, per person, per day, including both added and naturally occurring sugars, which equates to 200 calories,” Spence explains. “If you’re averaging a 2,000-calorie per day diet, sugar is 10 percent of your calories. Once you start to think of things that way, you can ask yourself, ‘How do I want to allocate that budget and make intelligent trade-offs?’”

Beverages are a great place to start; Spence points out that 47 percent of added sugar consumed is found in beverages. “If you can curb what you’re drinking, that’s almost half of added sugar,” he says.  

“With our kids, ages 6 and 8, they’re early on in terms of math and addition, but they certainly understand looking at various treats,” he says. “We’ll ask them if they want two applesauce squeezes or a single ice cream or a cup of lemonade. Then they decide how to pick their sugar option, and they’re not being completely restricted from eating something with sugar.” 

Spence notes that after you follow this budget awhile, your palate begins to adjust. “You no longer crave sugar the same way,” he says. “For my kids, a little bit of sugar goes a long way.”           

Other tips

Protein as an Antidote

A high-protein snack can be an antidote to sugar cravings. “We eat a lot of organic turkey jerky,” says Spence. 

Cook with stevia: “We bake with it a lot; it especially complements fruit,” says Spence, adding that he makes an amazing blueberry pie. “A little bit of stevia gets you a lot of love!”  

Read Food Labels

This can be a fun process. “My girls have gotten into looking at food labels and noting how much sugar and other nutrients are in a product. It’s a bit like a discovery detective process,” says Spence.

For more on Zevia, visit

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