How to Lure Kids Away from Sugary Drinks

By Sandy Schroeder

The medical community tells us too much sugar is as much, or more of a danger, than fats in our diet. But everywhere we look, sugary drinks are still in play in our kids’ world.

Every soccer game brings a fresh load of sugar-loaded Gatorade or sugary juices, lemonade and punch. Lunch and after-school snacks often include sugar-packed sodas, sweetened teas or sugary energy drinks.

High Risk Sugar

The risks are obesity, tooth decay, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says sports drinks are not needed by children or teens. Water, not sports drinks, is adequate for hydration. Kids and teens seldom lose enough electrolytes during sports to need extra replacement. Sodium is the most common electrolyte lost in sweat, and most diets supply more than enough sodium.

The Sugar Numbers

Just one 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade delivers 200 calories, and a stunning 52.5 grams of sugar, which is twice as much as the amount recommended for a woman’s daily diet.

Even one 12-ounce soda or sports drink daily increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60 percent, according to nutritionists. To burn those calories, an average elementary school student would have to do a half-hour of fast biking.

So What Do We Do?

To make a difference, most sports drinks, sodas and sweetened juices for kids need to be cut back at home, in school, and on the playing fields. Right behind that, sugary sodas that show up with fast foods or pizza nights need to go, too.

Of course, you can already hear the wail of protests, but providing as many attractive substitutes as possible, along with good snacks, as you gradually cut back the sugar-loaded drinks could help.

Smarter Choices

Low calorie, hot or cold chocolate drinks and sparkling water with slices of watermelon, lemon or lime can be good substitutes. Unsweetened bottled fruit juices can be mixed with sparkling water to provide another option. Freshly squeezed fruit juices also work. All of the juices can be frozen into homemade popsicles too.

Filling in the taste gap might be helped by providing healthy snacks like peanuts, seeds and vegetable chips. Or fresh baked homemade fruit breads and oatmeal cookies, or bags of bananas and clementines.

The sugar game has been going on for quite some time. To make inroads, we will have to keep working on it, helping to re-educate everyone’s tastes to a lot less sugar. But the rewards in health are worth the effort.

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