How can a drink contain carbs but no calories? Find out how food companies can legally fudge the number of calories in their products.
But the presence of sugar alcohols doesn’t completely explain how a drink can contain six grams of carbohydrates per serving and still have no calories. As I said, there’s also some deception involved. Legal deception, that is.
When is a Calorie Not a Calorie?
When a food contains fewer than 5 calories per serving, the manufacturer is allowed to “round down” to 0 on the Nutrition Facts label
The truth is that despite what it says on the Nutrition Facts, this drink is not completely calorie free. Like most soft drinks, it comes in a 20-ounce bottle. However, the information on the nutrition label is based on an 8 ounce serving. In other words, each bottle contains two and a half servings—so you can share it with one and half friends, maybe?
If you look on SoBe’s website, you’ll see that a 20-ounce bottle contains 10 calories. Obviously, if 20 ounces contains 10 calories, then eight ounces will contain four calories. (And if that’s not clear, may I recommend The Math Dude’s terrific podcast?) And here’s where the perfectly legal deception comes in. When a food contains fewer than 5 calories per serving, the manufacturer is allowed to “round down” to 0 on the Nutrition Facts label.
Ten Calories Aren’t Worth Worrying About
Although this misrepresentation might be a little irritating, it’s really not that big a deal. Even if you drink the whole bottle yourself rather than enjoying it in two and half sittings, 10 calories is not a significant amount and probably not worth worrying about.
Of course, if you’re drinking 10 or 20 bottles a day, those phantom calories could start to add up. But you’d probably run into a different problem before you got to that point. Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols can cause a collection of uncomfortable symptoms delicately known as “digestive upset.”