Make Water the Default: Why and How to Avoid Sugary Drinks
We all want what’s best for our children and strive to keep them healthy and happy. This is very difficult in today’s hectic world. Our children are being constantly exposed to seductive advertising for non-healthy food and beverage options. Sugary drinks are one major culprit of health problems in children. These drinks include sodas, soft drinks, juice drinks with added sugar, sports and electrolyte replacement drinks, sweetened teas, and energy drinks.
Sugary drinks are consumed by millions of children and adolescents and are the number one source of added sugar in their diets. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda or juice drink has 17 teaspoons of sugar! Why is this such a problem? There is increasing evidence that drinking sodas and other sugary drinks are preventing kids from growing up at a healthy weight. By drinking just one can of soda a day and not changing any other caloric intake, a person can gain up to five pounds a year. With one in three American children already living at an unhealthy weight, this is certainly concerning. Further, drinking sugary beverages has been linked with higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, and cavities in children and adults.
The American Heart Association recommends that children over the age of two consume no more than one eight-ounce sugary drink a week. Unfortunately, children are drinking up to 10 times this amount.
Getting children to drink healthier beverages is not always easy, but there are ways you can work toward this. One of the most important things you can do is to serve as a role-model for your children by not keeping soda and juice at home and drinking water yourself. You can make water your default option for drinks with meals, whether you’re eating at home or eating at a restaurant. You can add a slice of lemon, lime or other fruit to make it fun.
For those children who are very resistant to water, try mixing a juice with seltzer water. It is less sugar and costs less than other sugary drinks. Children under the age of two should not have any sugary drinks in their diet at all. They offer no nutritional benefit to children at this age.
Switching to water may not be an easy transition, but it will certainly pay off in the long run. Let’s make healthy options the norm, not the exception.