By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids
Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – Better Beverage Control
Teach Kids that Thirst Means “Drink Water”
Our kids have a “drinking problem” when it comes to sugary beverages. It’s no coincidence that intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity have both increased over the past 30+ years. In addition to soda pop, there is an increasing array of sweetened “fruit” drinks, teas, sweetened water, coffee drinks, and energy drinks on the market. A trip to any grocery store reveals ever-expanding aisles and shelf space devoted to sugar-filled drinks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report stating that in most cases energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents, as some of these products contain caffeine and other substances that could be harmful to children. The report also urges parents to serve water to rehydrate and low-fat or fat-free milk to help hydrate and meet nutrient needs.
At the recent American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference, Dr. Barry Popkin, a distinguished professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, argued that calories from sugary drinks do not fill us up in the same way as solid foods, meaning people that consumed large volumes of soft drinks were at particular risk of taking in too many calories. “If we take in 200 calories in liquid, we won’t eat 200 fewer calories from foods,” stated Popkin.
Parents can help turn this trend around by setting the stage for better beverage control. The following practical pointers will help your family in achieving better drinking habits and better health:
1. Teach children this equation: THIRST = WATER! Make sure your child has a personal (BPA-free) water bottle to take to school, the playing field, during active play or when traveling. This constant reminder will cue kids to drink water when thirsty.
2. Entice your child to drink more water by adding fresh citrus slices to chilled water or add a splash of 100% grape or cranberry juice to sparkling water.
3. Encourage your child to drink low-fat (1%) or fat free milk at meals and snacks. Milk provides many needed nutrients and is also a source of fluid. For a child who is vegan or has a milk allergy, offer a calcium-fortified soy beverage. Lactose-free milk is available for children with lactose intolerance.
4. Buy 100% fruit juice and limit to 4-8 ounces daily. While 100% juice contributes vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants and other nutrients, it contains as many calories as sweetened beverages. Whenever possible, choose whole fruit, which contains fewer calories and more fiber than juice.
5. Order milk or water as the default beverage for your child when eating in restaurants.
6. Don’t make soda pop and other sweetened beverages completely forbidden. Especially as kids get older, restricting choices will make them more desirable. Instead, set a reasonable limit on the portion size and and how often they can consume these “treat” beverages.
7. Most importantly, set a good example for your child by drinking more water and milk and fewer sweet drinks. In the classic book, “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food,” Papa Bear is disgruntled when he learns that Mama Bear is overhauling the family’s food habits and is no longer going to buy his “Sweetsie-Cola.”
“And what are we supposed to drink?,” asked Papa. “Try this,” she said. “It’s called water.”
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Negative Impact of Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Children’s Health. A research synthesis from Healthy Eating Research examines the health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages. December 2009. http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/20091203herssb.pdf
Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?
Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness
Pediatrics 2011; 127:1182-1189 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/1182.full
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofice, December 2010.
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