As parents and caregivers alike, we are often faced with hard decisions regarding what to give our children - to help hydrate them and to keep them healthy. With many sports and juice drinks on the market today, the choices can be overwhelming at times.
Popular kids’ drinks advertise anything from added vitamin C and vitamin D to added antioxidants. The brightly colored juice boxes and packages display our kids’ favorite cartoon character or sports figure enticing them to pick the fun and exciting drink as opposed to the healthier more ‘boring’ options of 100% fruit juice, milk, and water.
Although healthier than other alternatives such as soda and other popular drinks, fruit juices and other sports drinks also contain a high amount of sugar. Is it wrong to let your child indulge in one of these drinks from time to time? Probably not, but on a regular basis these drinks affect the overall health of the child.
According to Anne Kolker, a registered dietitian, sport drinks have as much as 13 teaspoons of added sugar. It is important to look at the serving size on the nutrition label. The label might read that a beverage bottle contains 80 calories, however, it is important to double check the label. For example, if the serving size states 2.5 servings, you must figure out the math. In this case, the 80-calorie beverage contains 200 calories. Not all fruit juice is created equal. Most do provide 100% juice, but be careful of how it is marketed. Some juice drinks may look like regular juice and advertise 100% vitamin C; however one of the main ingredients is high fructose corn syrup.
How can we encourage our children to make healthier drink choices? We can make water, juice, and milk fun and exciting. Water is more tempting when it is chilled and has some fruit added to it. Juice is a favorite and can be frozen to make ice pops. Milk can be added to your child’s favorite healthy cereal or mixed with fruit or light chocolate syrup.
As parents, the best way to help our children make healthier drink choices is to set a good example by making healthier drink choices ourselves.