Kicking the soda habit, kid style

Help your children consume better beverages

When a soda can is an appendage to a child’s hand and the water faucet is squeaky from disuse, parents should probably start enforcing a break in the soft-drink habit. Today, they’ve got lots of support.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are among the foods to consume less of in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. These fluids are singled out because they pack calories without nutrients. Americans are getting more added sugar from soda or sugar-sweetened fruit drinks than from candy or dairy-based desserts, such as ice cream, according to the experts reporting in the guidelines. Those sugars add up, especially for children.

“Children, especially in the Florida climate, need plenty of fluid intake to stay well and perform at highest potential,” says Dr. Richard E. Frates Jr., a board-certified pediatrician at Watson Clinic in Lakeland. “Water should be the main fluid provided to children, with increased intake during a hot summer months. Avoid the sweet sugary drinks. Water should be offered frequently throughout the day.”

However, having nutrition smarts may not be enough. Parents still need some strategies to get a child to drink more healthful beverages. “Drinks such as soda pop can be allowed on special occasions, such as a birthday gathering, but should not be encouraged as a primary fluid source,” Frates says. “Children who consumed sugary beverages were 32 times more likely to have dental caries (cavities) at age 3 1/2 than children who did not have that exposure. A sensible approach returns us to water as the best fluid for our wellness.”

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, with one in three American children overweight.

“Educating your children about what they should be drinking is very important, so that when they are at school or attend parties, functions, etc., they will make smart choices,” says Sandra Harrison, MSA, a registered dietician and the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. “Healthy drink choices have to start at home.”

One way to get children involved in the drink decision is to take a child shopping for healthier beverages.

As kids are weaned off sugar-sweetened beverages, parents may wonder which beverages are preferable.

“A diet of balance, not focusing on specific amounts, will be sufficient for most children,” Frates adds. “The good habit of balanced intake is more important than the amount of any specific food or drink item. And remember, good habits start young.”

Here are some recommendations from nutrition experts.


Harrison says that from ages 1 to 3, children should have two servings of milk per day, and low-fat milk should be given after age 2.

Children ages 4 to 8 should have three servings of low-fat milk per day. From age 9 to 18, children should have four servings of low-fat milk per day.

Chocolate milk contains extra sugar, calories and caffeine and would not be a good choice.

Fruit juice:

Harrison says to be moderate in fruit juice consumption. “Parents should limit juice to 100 percent fruit juice, which is going to have less sugar and more vitamins and nutrients. When you give your child juice, it should be 100 percent pasteurized fruit juice, and not fruit drinks.”

Infants under age 6 months should not be given juice.

Younger children, ages 1 to 6 years, should have only 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day.

Older children should be limited to 8 to 12 ounces of juice each day.

Instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits.

Plain water:

Although it’s what parents want children to drink, don’t set a target number of glasses per day. Instead, let children regulate how much they drink and when.

Coffee and/or tea:

This probably won’t be an issue until the teen years, but caffeinated coffee and tea could affect an adolescent’s ability to sleep.


story by BEV BENNETT

Accessibility Toolbar