How can you steer your kids toward more healthful beverage choices? Here are some tips.
In an ideal world, kids would drink only water and milk in the quantities recommended by dietary guidelines: 16 ounces of nonfat or low-fat dairy for children ages 2 or 3; 20 ounces for children ages 4 to 8; and 24 ounces for anyone 9 and older.
But the lure of sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, flavored milks and flavored waters that have made sugar-sweetened beverages the leading source of added sugar in children’s diets — and, consequently, a prime culprit in tooth cavities and childhood obesity — is as unavoidable as Justin Bieber’s singing toothbrush.
How can you steer your kids toward more healthful choices? Here are some tips.
Practice what you preach. Pour yourself a glass of milk when you give one to your child, and don’t keep sugary drinks in the house, Dr. Mary Lou Gavin, a pediatrician specializing in weight management at Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and a medical editor at kidshealth.org. The younger your child is when you instill healthy habits, the easier it will be.
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Limit fruit juice. Though it provides some nutrients, 100 percent fruit juice has loads of sugar and, being liquid, doesn’t offer the same fiber and fullness you get when you eat an actual piece of fruit, Gavin said. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice per day for children age 1 to 6, and no more than 8 to 12 ounces for kids older than 6.
Treat sugary drinks as dessert. Rather than ban them outright, which might make them all the more appealing, allow them as occasional treats, said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Yale University.
Visualize the sugar content. A can of full-calorie soda has 39 to 44 grams of sugar — the equivalent of 10 to 11 teaspoons of sugar, an image that just might give a kid pause, Schwartz said. Convert grams of sugar to teaspoons by dividing by 4.
Avoid diet drinks. Although they can be useful tools when weaning overweight or soda-addicted kids off sugary beverages, it’s generally best not to feed kids artificial sweeteners when we don’t know their potential long-term effects, Schwartz said.
Interpret ingredient lists. Added sugars and artificial sweeteners can be hard to spot because they come under many names. Some common aliases for added sugar, according to the Rudd Center: high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline fructose, cane sugar. Artificial sweeteners might go by acesulfame potassium, aspartame, sucralose, stevia/rebiana.