4 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Sugary Drinks

When was the last time your children had a glass of juice for breakfast or a bottle of flavored water for lunch? They may seem like nutritious options, but don’t be fooled by their healthy-sounding labels — many of these drinks are riddled with sugar and unhealthy ingredients. In fact, according to a study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut published in Public Health Nutrition, these sugary beverages, which include soda, fruit and juice drinks, sports drinks, flavored waters, and energy drinks, easily contain 13 to 30 grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving. These sugar drinks have many negative impacts on kids’ health despite the study finding that many parents believe them to be healthy. Before serving your kids another juice box or sports drink, take a look at these four facts; your children’s favorite drinks aren’t nearly as nutritious as you may think!

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1. Sugary drinks contribute to the obesity epidemic

It is estimated that 60% of girls and 70% of boys between the ages of 2 and 17 drink at least one sugary beverage each day, according to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut’s study. Not only do these drinks provide little or no nutritional value, but they can increase the probability that a child becomes obese. The study notes that the likelihood a child becomes obese increases by 60% for every eight-ounce sugary beverage consumed each day. Web MD notes that pediatricians are beginning to see health problems in overweight children that they used to only find in adults, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels; all three of which can puts kids at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

When you eliminate or reduce the number of sugary drinks your children consume, you can decrease their obesity risk. Harvard University researchers found that teens who drank fewer sugary drinks for one year gained less weight compared to those who did not change their sugar intake. Instead of stocking your fridge with sugary beverages, the Obesity Action Coalition recommends replacing them with water and low-fat milk. In addition, one glass of 100% fruit juice per day can provide noteworthy nutrients, notes the Obesity Action Coalition.

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2. Sugary drinks are harmful to teeth

Consuming sugary drinks is one of the most significant sources of tooth decay, explains Colgate. This is due to the acids and acidic byproducts in soft drinks, which soften the tooth enamel and contribute to the formation of cavities. First 5 LA states that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses in the U.S. and is five times more prevalent than asthma.

Drinks Destroy Teeth notes that sugary beverages are a leading factor of tooth decay because they contain low pH levels, a leading factor in enamel erosion; in fact, just one bottle of soda or a single sports drink, especially when it’s slowly sipped, can cause extensive damage to tooth enamel. In addition to having your children regularly brush and floss, you can help prevent tooth decay by limiting the number of sugary drinks they consume, explains Drinks Destroy Teeth.

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3. Many sugary drinks are labeled as healthy, but actually aren’t

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut’s study, which polled 986 parents, found that many parents believe sugary drinks are healthy due to product marketing and labeling. “Although many parents know that soda is not good for children, many still believe that sugary drinks are healthy options,” Jennifer Harris, who wrote the study and is director of marketing initiatives at Rudd Center, told USA Today. “The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them.”

Of the parents surveyed, 83% rated fruit juice as healthy and 79% considered milk to be healthy. Nearly half of the parents surveyed rated flavored waters as healthy, 51% listed flavored milk as a nutritious option, and more than one-quarter labeled fruit drinks and sports drinks as healthy. In addition, one-third or more of respondents sought products that were advertised as low-calorie or containing real/natural ingredients, vitamin C, or antioxidants. The lesson here? Just because a drink is advertised as healthy doesn’t mean it actually is!

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4.  Diet soda is not a healthy alternative

Diet soda may seem like a smart alternative to sugary drinks, but parents should be just as wary of this zero-calorie, sugar-free option. Jill Castle notes that diet drinks are chock-full of artificial sweeteners and caffeine, both of which aren’t recommended for children. Artificial sweeteners haven’t been tested in children, explains Jill Castle, and large doses of caffeine can be dangerous for kids and teens.

Livestrong notes that daily consumption of diet soda can cause several serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and kidney problems. A far healthier alternative to diet soda is water or low-fat milk; Kids Health notes that water ensures your children are hydrated, while milk provides 300 milligrams of bone-building calcium per serving.

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