What Are Your Kids Drinking?

Today I am getting back on my “nutrition for kids” soap-box to address a continuing trend of parents thinking it’s okay to give kids lemonade and 7-up (or any soda) with their meals. Every time we eat out with our daughter I see other kids getting lemonade or clear soda (7-up, Sprite) with their meals. At my daughter’s school every open-house, award ceremony or celebration includes cookies and 7-up or lemonade. I want to scream out “why are you offering them sugar and sugar? Don’t you know how bad that quantity of sugar is?

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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m all about moderation, and that includes sugar. But I am astonished to see how little regard these two innocent-seeming liquids appear to have with parents.

Just on simple logic, I would think if you’re ordering high fat and carbs “kid-friendly” foods like mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, that you’d opt for water to at least balance out these nutritionally void meals. Add into the equation that kids often get dessert after such a meal, and you’ve just given them plenty of sugar. But no, the world at large thinks nothing of sugar + sugar where kids are concerned.

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Many parents and restaurants offer fruit juices as an option, thinking that these are healthier. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Perhaps you need an in-your face assessment of what is really in these drinks?

8 oz of Lemonade (like Minute Maid) = 27 grms Sugar

8 oz of Orange Juice = 24 grms Sugar

8 oz of Apple Juice = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of 7-Up/Sprit = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of Coke = 26 grms Sugar

1 Capri Sun packet = 18 grms Sugar

8 oz Nesquik Chocolate milk = 29 grms Sugar

(Don’t forget, you often give them refills too!)

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Now you might be saying “so what? What’s so bad about 26 grams of sugar?” Well, besides the fact that it offers no nutritional value, it can damage their metabolism, and increase their risk of obesity and type II diabetes, among other health issues (like mood swings and hormonal spikes). I’m not even touching upon the deadly high-fructose corn syrup issue (in sodas), or the quantity of sugars in a Jamba Juice or other seemingly “healthy” juices.

The American Heart Association has set guidelines for the limits of added sugar that kids should consume each day. (Added sugar means “refined sugar or sugar substitutes” as fruit and other foods contain natural sugars.) The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis varies depending on the child’s age and caloric intake, but here’s their basic recommendation:

Preschoolers should limit added sugar to about 16 grams per day

Children ages 4 to 11 should limit added sugar to about 12 grams a day

Pre-teen and teens should not have more than 20 to 32 grams per day

Clearly you can see how one drink at lunch has already maxed out the quantity of added sugar your child consumes. Now factor in any desserts or sweet-treats they’ve consumed that day and you’ve easily overloaded their sensitive systems.

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I was criticized repeatedly when my daughter was a baby because I didn’t give her any refined sugar until she was 2. No birthday cake, ice cream, candies, fruit yogurt, or fruit juice. I was called controlling, silly, and even, albeit jokingly, evil. My Father-In-Law asked once why I didn’t give my toddler apple juice. I replied that she had a bowl-full of apple slices in front of her and a bottle of water and once in her stomach she would have “apple juice.” (He didn’t find my sarcasm funny.) I did point out that this way she was getting fiber that is missing from filtered apple juice, but he’d already tuned me out.

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The reality is that America loves it’s sugar and many well-meaning parents blindly fall into line with their children’s nutrition. But hopefully you’ll stare a little longer at the facts posted above, and at least think twice next time before giving your children that innocuous little beverage. Perhaps on another day I’ll bring up the issue of rampant use of sodium in America and how much of that harmful substance you and your children are consuming, but today my attack is on sugar. Have a sweet day!

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