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I recall reading, perhaps 25 years ago, one of those counter-intuitive factoids noting that milk had more calories than soda, ounce for ounce (but of course that this was offset by nutritional benefits of milk). I believe this was referring to skim milk, widely quoted (and presumably stable over time) at 90 calories per 8 ounces, or 135 calories per 12 ounces. And I think I remember noticing that it made sense because a 12-ounce can of (regular sweetened) soda was typically labeled as less than this -- the number I picture seeing is 120 calories.

But in recent times I see 12-ounce cans of soda labeled as at least 140 and sometimes 150+ calories, reversing the comparison that I thought used to be made. I am unable to find mention of lower calorie contents in the past or evidence of the factoid I recall (skim milk > soda). I know it is a bit ill-defined because of variation between brands/types of soda.

So: was a typical 12-ounce regular soda (Coke, Pepsi, etc.) 140-150 calories even 25 years ago? Has it increased (which I can imagine might happen gradually over time due to a stealth "sweetness war")? Or is my recollection off (perhaps the original comparison was to whole milk and so I'm thinking of the wrong numbers)?

  • When you remember product info from 25 years ago, the portion size was probably 8oz. They would list a 12 oz can as 1.5 servings. – Debbie M. Aug 14 '17 at 16:13
  • @DebbieM. You have to go much farther back than 25 years to find 8-oz being the standard bottle size. I recall 12-oz bottles first showing up in the late '60s/early '70s. – Carey Gregory Aug 14 '17 at 19:45
  • I didn't mean can/bottle size. I was referring to the serving size printed on the nutrition label. You didn't read my second sentence did you? ;) – Debbie M. Aug 14 '17 at 23:47
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I am satisfied that the calorie content of soda has been fairly constant over the past few decades. A 1992 newspaper article says "a 12-ounce can of 7-Up, Sprite or Coca-Cola contains 150 calories". I conclude that comparisons claiming more calories in milk than soda (ounce for ounce) were, and are, applicable to milk containing fat rather than skim milk.

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