A child’s body is 70% water, and even slight dehydration could lead to a health risk. That is why drinking plenty of fluids is very important during the childhood years. When I talk about the importance of fluids, I don’t include sweet drinks such as soda in this recommendation. Soda drinks are fluids but with a high amount of sugar and other artificial additives (colors, flavors and more), which make them less healthy drink options.
Studies have shown that one cup (8 oz.) of soda could contain more than 10% of the recommended daily calorie intake for a child, and about 6-8 teaspoons of sugar!!! Some pediatricians even say that it is better to give a child a diet soda than a regular soda. That is due to the high amount of sugar in regular soda and the health problems related to consuming so much sugar on a daily base (obesity, diabetes and more). However, there is a much better option.
What should your child drink?
My recommendation is to drink plenty of water! You don’t need to eliminate sweet drinks completely. In a healthy, balanced diet, a sweet drink can be consumed once a week.
It’s important to know that natural fruit juices are also very high in sugar, even if the source is “natural sugar.” It is still important to limit juices to no more than once a week. So, when you are setting a goal of “one sweet drink a week,” that means one soda or one juice serving. Not one of each.
Your child doesn’t like water? What now?
Water is the best thing to drink, but what if your child does not like to drink water and refuses to give up sweet drinks? How can you help him reduce the amount of sugar he consumes daily in the form of sweet drinks (soda & juice)? It is not easy, however, with a few steps and a LOT of patience, you can help him change his drinking habits.
Steps to Reduce the Amount of Sweet Drinks Consumed
Remove juices and sweet soda drinks from the child’s daily menu. Children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened drink per a week. If soda drinks and juices are an integral part of the child’s daily menu, reduce to the recommended amount gradually.
- The first step is to limit the child to one sweet drink per day. The rest of the beverages should be plain water or lightly-flavored water. Sparkling water can be helpful here.
- The second step is to start reducing the number of sweet drinks to 2-3 times per week.
- The third step is to reach a quantity of no more than one sweet drink per week.
- Final goal: sweet drinks are only available on special occasions, not as a regular part of your child’s weekly diet.
What drinks can we offer a child who does not like water?
One of the problems with reducing soda drinks and juices from your child daily menu is that many children are not used to drinking water. They enjoy the strong sweet flavor and don’t like the plain taste of water. To help your child drink fewer sweet drinks and more water, you must help him grow accustomed to different levels of sweetness. He needs to get used to delicate flavors without too much sugar. What are the two healthiest options for this process?
“Spa water”: Adding slices of fruit to water adds a light, sweet taste without adding sugar. Try adding slices of different fruits and vegetables:
Also, try adding fresh herbs for a nice taste:
- Mint leaves
Add one or two types of fruit/veggies/herbs at a time, not every kind of fruit at once! For a stronger flavor, add the fruit a few hours before your child will drink the water. You can even make it the night before, and let it “blend” in the fridge.
Drink tea instead of sweet beverages: You can find a wide variety of teas with a sweet taste derived from combinations of herbs, dried fruit and different kinds of leaves. In many cases, the sweetness in the tea will be light and tasty without containing any sugar. Even if your child wants to add one teaspoon of sugar to the tea, this is better than serving him a can of juice that has 8 teaspoons of sugar. Tea can be made as a hot drink or served as iced tea, which the whole family can enjoy.
What about commercial water with light flavors?
There are some commercial options for flavored water drinks with varying levels of sweetness and without any added sugar. However, I prefer to make flavored water myself because then I know exactly what the ingredients are, and I don’t have to worry about any artificial sweeteners or other unhealthy additives. Commercial flavored water can be an option when you are away from home, but I prefer to make it myself whenever possible. Making homemade “Spa water” or cold/hot tea is easy and healthier for the whole family.
|Yael Dror is a Pediatric Nutritionist. She holds a Master’s degree in Physiology from Tel Aviv University and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and most importantly, Yael is a mother of 3 active children. Yael is a former professional athlete and is a co-founder of Habitz.|