Step Away From The Sugary Drinks

Step away from the sugary drinks

Step away from the sugary drinks…

This week, Burger King announced that it will no longer display soda as a choice in kids’ meals, instead offering milk or 100% juice. While this is a huge win against restaurants plying kids with sugary drinks outside the home, most children are being given sugar-sweetened beverages by their own parents. Maybe even you. Probably you. I know I am guilty of it. In a recent study released out of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (see link below), 96% of parents of children aged 2 to 17 said that they had given their child sugary drinks in the past month.

Why is this a problem?

Sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar for kids and adults – soda, juice, sports drinks, flavored waters, sweet tea – no nutritional value, lots of calories. Sugar is one of the leading causes of childhood obesity. Obese kids often become obese adults – adults at risk for a long list of chronic diseases. Currently, one-third of all children in this country are obese and our generation of kids is the first generation not expected to live longer than their parents. No one should be ok with that.

Children aged 4 to 8 should only be consuming about 12 grams or 3 teaspoons of added sugar a day. One 6 ounce “pouch” of juice contains 4 teaspoons of sugar – more added sugar than a child should consume all day.  A 12 ounce orange Gatorade contains 21 grams of sugar – more than an adult should be consuming in a day. Soccer games? Little League? Unless your older child is playing hard and sweating for over an hour, there is no need to be giving kids sports drinks. Go old school – what’s wrong with water and orange slices?

Aren’t some drinks better than others?

Fruit drinks contain almost as much sugar as soda (27 g of added sugar in fruit drinks vs 30 grams of added sugar in soda), yet the Rudd study showed that many parents believe these fruit drinks to be a good option for kids.  Companies spend over $57 million dollars a year advertising to parents to convince us that flavored waters, fruit drinks, and sports drinks are healthy alternatives. Companies also carefully craft their labels to healthwash a product with no health value. Most labels are touting vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants, others might just claim their product contains “natural” ingredients. (What’s natural, my friends? That label means nothing!)  Interestingly, defending a lawsuit against false health claims, a lawyer for Vitamin Water said, “No consumer could be reasonably misled into thinking Vitamin Water was a healthy beverage.” Really?

651_3979098Eat Fruit, Don’t Drink It

Dietary habits are established when kids are young. As parents, we have the opportunity to help set our kids up for a future of good health. Teach your kids to eat their fruit, not drink it. Provide easy access to healthy choices – cut up some apples, have baby carrots easily accessible, snip some bunches of grapes. Make some “fruity” water by slicing up lemons or cucumbers or strawberries. Have kids find their favorite homemade flavored water. Does your child bring a water bottle to school? Some of our local schools are now setting up “hydration stations” so kids can easily refill their water bottles throughout the day. It’s cool and good for you. Last of all, lead by example. We all could be drinking more water and less other stuff – be a partner and a cheerleader for your kids as we all step away from the sugary drinks.

What are you doing to help kids and parents make better beverage choices? Comment below…   

Want to read more?

You can read the complete study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity here.

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Erin Brighton

Erin Brighton

Mom to 5. Passion for food. Preferably local & delicious. Director of the Char Meck Food Policy Council. Food blogger. Summer Bostonian.