We all want to do everything we can to help our kids grow up strong and healthy. But, research is indicating that many parents are inadvertently harming their children’s health because of a flawed understanding of nutritional labels. Are you putting your child at risk? Learn where many parents are making errors and how to fix them.
Surprising Amounts of Sugar in Drinks
Most parents strictly limit soda, only allowing it as a special treat. But, despite this, half of all Americans consume a sugary drink on any given day. In many cases, this sugar comes from energy drinks, flavored waters, fruit juices and juice drinks.
These drinks can often have as much sugar in them as a can of soda. The CDC says that flavored and sugar-sweetened drinks are now a major source of sugar in American diets and a contributor to obesity and diabetes. This can be problematic, as they can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake but supply few, if any, nutrients.
The Scope of the Problem
Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have doubled. In adolescents, they have quadrupled. At the current time, nearly one in five children between the ages of 6 and 11 can be considered obese. And, over a third are considered obese or overweight.
Obesity during childhood can have significant health implications later on in life. When someone is overweight or obese as a child, the chances increase that they will also struggle with obesity in adulthood.
And, children who are obese are also far more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular illnesses later in life. These factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Seven out of every 10 obese children have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Obese children are also far more likely to have weight-related issues such as sleep apnea, bone and joint problems and poor self-esteem.
In the long term, being overweight or obese increases the risk of cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes, as well.
Reading Labels, but the Wrong Ones
Researchers say that the labels that are on the front of packages have a strong influence on purchasing decisions. These will often boast of added vitamins or mention that the drink contains real fruit juice. However, they rarely mention factors such as the amount of sugar that is in the drink.
The right way to read labels is to flip the container and check out the nutrition facts on the back. That will tell the number of calories and how many grams of sugar can be found in each serving. Serving sizes are also important to look at, as they might not reflect the usual amount consumed in a serving. For instance, a bottle of soda may say that it contains two servings, but the bottle is more often consumed all at once.
Making Better Drink Choices
Nutritionists say that we should be consuming plain water the majority of the time. This can sometimes be a hard sell with kids, especially if they are more used to flavored and sweetened drinks. To make water more palatable and make it more likely that kids will reach for this drink instead:
- Keep a pitcher of filtered water inside the refrigerator. When water is cold and filtered to remove chlorine, the taste is improved.
- Serve water with slices of lemon, fruit or fresh herbs. While it doesn’t have the same sweetness, the flavor can help kids break the habit of sweetened drinks.
- Try carbonated water or seltzer instead. Look at the back labels to ensure that you are buying brands that do not contain sugar or artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Some experts recommend that carbonated drinks be used sparingly, as the acid in them can harm tooth enamel.
- Bring glass or metal water bottles with you when you are on the go. If you have a drink with you, you are less likely to head for a vending machine and pick the sugary beverages inside.
- Make sugary drinks a once in awhile treat. If they are only offered in the context of a special treat instead of as a regular hydration option, you can significantly cut down the calories that come from this source.
It can take some time to curb old habits and instill healthy new ones. By carefully monitoring what your kids drink, you can help them develop a taste for healthier beverages and give them the tools for better health for life.