How much added sugar are you drinking each day (gulp!)?
Many people are not aware of the liquid calories they drink each day. These extra calories can add up over time and lead to many health problems. Many of the calories in these drinks come from added sugar, which is an empty source of calories.
All this sugar can affect our health and our teeth and contribute to tooth decay. Kids (of course) have a smaller stomach size, so when they fill up on sugary drinks they consume less nutritious foods and beverages in their diet.
So what should you drink?
Choose most often:
- Wonderful water: the best choice when you feel thirsty.
- Marvelous milk: healthy drink choice! Contains naturally occurring sugar, and nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin A and D.
- 100% unsweetened fruit juice: healthy juice choice. Contains naturally occurring sugar, and other nutrients like vitamin C, A, folate, potassium, antioxidants and more. No more than 125 ml per day.
- Chocolate milk.
- Sports drinks: make up of water, sugar, salt, and electrolytes. Intended for use during INTENSE physical activity lasting longer than 60 minutes
- Fruit Drinks: e.g. Jammers. Contain only small percentage of juice and some have no juice at all. Flavour comes from added sugar. Some have added vitamin C and it is usually their only nutrient.
- Pop/Diet Pop: No nutritional value and provide empty calories. Regular pop is made from water and sugar. Diet pop has almost no calories, however it still contains acid (harmful to teeth) and caffeine.
- Energy Drinks: way too much caffeine and sugar.
Why choose sugary drinks less often:
- Sugar and tooth decay: sugar + bacteria in your mouth= acid. Diet drinks also contain acid. Acid breaks down tooth enamel. This can lead to cavities. Brushing teeth, or rinse with water after consuming sugary/diet drinks. Eating a piece of cheese also helps protect teeth and give kids a boost of calcium.
- Nutrient content: drinks with added sugar tend to have more calories and lack nutrients that mike and fruit juice contain.
- Osteoporosis: decrease in bone density (weakened bones). Bones break more easily. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D is a major factor. Peak bone mass occurs during adolescence. High sugar drinks replace nutritious choices. Studies have found that there is a correlation between a higher pop consumption with a corresponding decrease in bone density among adolescents.
- Increased caffeine consumption: Pop and some energy drinks contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the CNS. Intake can cause nervousness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, rapid heartbeat, and lead to dependency. Moderation is KEY! Effect of caffeine is dependent on body weight (e.g. 355 ml can cola may have same effect on a young child as four cups coffee on an adult).
What can parents do?
- Provide your sons and daughters with milk, 100% juice, or water in school for recess and/ or lunch
- Avoid stocking sugar-sweetened beverages at home
- Encourage kids to drink lots of water and 2 cups of milk every day.
In an effort to highlight the health impact of sugar-sweetened drinks and the importance of milk and water, the Western School District recently organized a Healthy Beverage Week. With this initiative, students identified the amount of sugar found in commonly consumed beverages, described the nutrition implications of drinking these beverages regularly, and identified healthier options.
The Western School District recently found that, on average,
- 33% of our students have sugar-sweetened beverages at lunch and 28% at recess. (Kool-Aid Jammers, Fruit Punch, Sunny Dee, and soft drinks are the most commonly consumed sugary drinks.) Some schools have percentages that far exceed these averages.
- With the Provincial School Food Guidelines, these drinks cannot be sold in school and are either brought from home or purchased at nearby convenience stores.
- Another statistic of note is that only 21% of students are having milk for lunch (18% at Recess).
For more information on Healthy Beverage’s check out the Healthy Beverage Week website – there are a variety of resources in which you may be interested.
Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.