Sugary drink intake on the rise

Is your child drinking too much fruit juice?

Two large-scale surveys spanning from as far back as 1988 and as recently as 2004 have reported some interesting information about the daily diets of over 20,000 kids. Researchers have determined that two to 19-year-olds are making sweetened drinks like soda, 100 per cent fruit juice, fruit punch and sport drinks a big part of their everyday diets.

What’s the big deal? With childhood obesity rates on a dangerous rise it is important to note that these sugary drinks are accounting for a whopping 10 to 15 per cent of our children’s daily calories, putting them at greater risk of cavities, weight gain and in very young children, diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems.

Because of the amount of sugar in fruit juices, paediatricians recommend for children ages one to six years, no more than four to six ounces (½ to ¾ cup) of fruit juice per day, and for older kids and teens no more than eight to 12 ounces (1 to 1 ½ cups) per day.

Although juice boxes and soda offer pre-packaged convenience for hurried parents and kids, they should not be the main drink of choice for children of any age. Water and milk are, hands down, the very best beverage choices. Water is calorie-free and it teaches your kids to accept a low-flavour, no-sugar beverage to quench thirst. Besides calcium – which all children need to build and maintain healthy, strong bones and teeth – milk is packed with other key nutrients like vitamin D, potassium and protein. If you child cannot tolerate milk because of an allergy or intolerance, there are non-dairy alternatives out there like soy, almond, and rice milk – some even come in single serving boxes for school snacks!

The bottom line here is that even though your child is drinking 100 per cent pure ‘no added sugar’ fruit juice, they may still be taking in too much sugar if that is their main beverage choice – remember that the calories from the natural sugars found in fruit juice still count and can easily add up!

Encourage your kids to drink more water and milk. Cut out the sodas and fruit-flavoured drinks and offer more whole fruit to quench thirst and to provide energy.