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Soda Pop: The Not So Sweet Side of the Story

October 7th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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In the past 30 years childhood obesity has more than tripled, and so has the amount of sugary drinks consumed by American children. There’s no question, decreasing the amount of sugary drinks will help take off some weight. Get some tips on cutting the sweetened beverages in your child’s diet.


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Experts say when we’re thinking about children’s nutrition, we have to think about more than food. “Kid’s drink patterns aren’t getting any better,” that’s Registered Dietician Althea Zanecosky. “In the late 70s kids were drinking maybe 21 gallons of sugary sweetened drinks, and the last data that came out in 2007/2008 said it’s tripled the amount, it’s about 65/66 gallons.”

So, if there’s 16 glasses to a gallon, that means kids are drinking over 1,000 glasses of sugary drinks a year. Adding at least an extra 100,000 calories to their diet. “Sugary drinks are empty calories, and as the dietician I’m concerned because if you’re going to have something that’s sweet, at least have it with a food that’s packing some nutrition. And the majority of the sugary drinks that kids are drinking, that’s not the case.” A lot of the commercial fruit juices have added sweeteners like corn syrup and are really low in actual fruit juice. Plus, with juice you lose a lot of the nutrients and fiber that you would get from a piece of fruit.

It’s not just the dietitians who are worried about how sugary drinks are affecting kids health, it’s the doctors too. Zanecosky again, “the American Academy of Pediatrics has said more than one juice a day, switch to fruit.” Okay, so you want to cut back on the soda, the juice, what’s a kid to drink other than milk? “Water is great,” says Zanecosky. For the kid who is used to juice, and thinks water is to bland, Zanecosky has a suggestion. “Take some slices of orange, or lemon, or cucumber, or anything else that has flavor, put it in a pitcher of water and add the flavoring that way and see if your child finds that acceptable.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics kids under the age of 6 months should not be drinking juice at all. So, if the goal is to drastically reduce the number of sugary drinks kids drink, Zanecosky has some advice for parents. “As parents we need to start early because what a child is used to as an infant and a toddler is something that they will carry through with them as long as you as a parent carry through with that. So, when a child is thirsty, offering them water is a really good alternative to offering them lots of juice.”

Coca-Cola Photo by Flicker user iboy_daniel / CC BY-NC 2.0
Juice Photo by Flicker user Charles Haynes / CC BY-NC 2.0
Slideshow Photo by Flicker user sfllaw / CC BY-NC 2.0

1 Response to Soda Pop: The Not So Sweet Side of the Story

  • Andrew

    As someone who drinks soda with meals, and who has tried water, milk and tea, among others, I take offense at your “alternatives”. With many foods, soda is near-perfect to cleanse the palate after a few bites, but milk is an insult to the palate, water does nothing, and tea, depending on the food, can work great or fail badly. For certain flavor combos, pizza and milk, for example, the combined taste can be so disgusting, that the food may be ejected from the stomache (I speak from experience). I would suggest that you run a test before making suggestions that simply sound good when you say them.

Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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