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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if a drink is loaded with sugar?

Check the ingredients and the nutrition facts label on the back of the bottle. If a sweetener is listed as one of the first three ingredients, you’ll know it is loaded with sugar.

Also, check the label to see how many grams of sugar are in each serving. Remember that a can or bottle of a sugary drink may have more than one serving in it. (See the “Sugar Calculator” to determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in your drink.)

How many calories from sugary drinks do the average youth consume each year?

Sugary drinks such as soda, sports drinks or energy drinks are the third largest source of calories for today’s youth after grain- based desserts and pizza. Every day, the average youth consumes almost 120 calories from sugary drinks, which provide calories with few essential nutrients.1

What’s wrong with letting my kids consume drinks loaded with sugar?

Sugary drinks and naturally sweet beverages, such as 100% fruit juice, can contribute to weight gain and obesity because kids fill up on them rather than other, healthier foods. Sugary drinks can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, even in young kids. Kids who regularly drink soda are twice as likely to have tooth decay than kids who rarely drink soda.2 Alaska high school students who report high consumption of sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who rarely drink sugary drinks.3

Is it OK for my child to drink beverages made from powdered or flavored drink mixes?

Flavored drink mixes, both powdered and liquid concentrate, can have just as much sugar as other sugary beverages, like soda. Read the label to see how many grams of sugar are in one serving of the drink mix when water is added.

What type of milk should I serve my child?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 1% or less milk (low-fat or skim/fat-free) for children ages 2 or older. Reduced-fat milk, also known as 2% milk, is not considered low-fat.1

Isn’t chocolate milk good for my child? It helps her drink more milk.

Flavored milk contains added calories, usually from sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, which can contribute to extra calories in your child’s diet. Evidence shows that children who drink flavored milk consume more total calories, added sugars, and total fat each day than children who drink only plain, unsweetened milk.4

Is it OK for my child to drink 100% fruit juice?

Fruit juice offers no nutritional advantage over whole fruit. In fact, fruit juice lacks the fiber of whole fruit that can help you feel more full. Calorie for calorie, fruit juice can be consumed more quickly than whole fruit. Eating whole fruit, instead of drinking fruit juice, is the best way to get your recommended daily intake of fruits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup) of 100% juice per day for children ages 1 to 6 and no more than 8 to 12 ounces (1 to 1½ cups) for children 7 and older. Babies younger than 1 year old should not have any juice.5

If you choose to serve your child 100% juice, try mixing a small amount of juice with tap or sparkling water to reduce the amount of sugar.

Why did my pediatrician say to serve 100% fruit juice from a cup?

If you choose to serve your child 100% fruit juice, serve it from a cup rather than a bottle or box. Often times, juice in a bottle or box is carried around and sipped on throughout the day. This can lead to frequent sugar exposure on the teeth and increases the risk of cavities.5 Even serving juice or any sugary drink from a bottle or sippy cup can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Is a fruit-flavored drink the same as fruit juice?

Only 100% fruit juice can be labeled as juice. Fruit-flavored drinks may contain as little as 3% juice. They do not contain the same nutritional benefits, such as vitamin C, as 100% juice. Be sure to check the label for the percentage of juice in the drink.

What is the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks?

Sports drinks and energy drinks are significantly different beverages and the terms should not be used interchangeably. Sports drinks may contain sugar, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring and are marketed to replenish water or electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise. In contrast, the term “energy drink” refers to a very different beverage that contains stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, l-carnitine, creatine, and/or glucuronolactone, with claims of energy-boosting or performance-enhancing effects.6

Is it OK for my child to consume sports drinks?

Sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar and extra calories that children just don’t need. For most children, drinking water before, during and after exercise is best. The American Academy of Pediatrics says for “the average child engaged in routine physical activity, the use of sports drinks in place of water on the sports field or in the school lunch room is generally unnecessary.”6

Is it OK for my child to consume energy drinks?

There is no reason for children and teens to consume energy drinks. Energy drink refers to a beverage that contains stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, l-carnitine, creatine, and/or glucuronolactone, with claims of energy-boosting or performance-enhancing effects. The dose of caffeine they deliver is both potentially risky and unnecessary.6 The best source of energy for children and teens is a balanced diet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents and children to “understand that energy drinks pose potential health risks primarily because of stimulant content; therefore, they are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.”6

Is it OK for my child to drink beverages with caffeine?

Many soda products, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and other sugary drinks contain caffeine. Health experts discourage children from drinking caffeinated beverages because of the potential negative health effects of caffeine in young children and youth.6 While there is limited research on caffeine and children, research has shown that in some adults, caffeine can increase heart rate, blood pressure and disturbances in sleep.6

There is no requirement for companies to list the amount of caffeine on the product label or on the Internet. Therefore, it is difficult for you to know if a drink contains caffeine, and if it does, how much caffeine it has. The best way to avoid serving your child caffeinated drinks is to serve water or low-fat milk.

Health officials also discourage schools from selling drinks containing caffeine to students because of the potential negative health effects.7

Will my child get extra nutrients if she drinks vitamin-enhanced water beverages?

Most vitamin-enhanced water beverages contain sugar or artificial sweeteners that your child does not need. Also, if your child consumes too much vitamin-enhanced water beverage, they could get more of some nutrients than they need. If you are concerned about your children getting enough nutrients, make sure they are eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables. Talk to your pediatrician to see if a children’s multivitamin is appropriate.

Is it OK for my child to consume diet drinks with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin or sucralose?

Artificial sweeteners contain no nutritional value and are not healthier than real sugar. Additional studies and research needs to be done to determine if there are negative effects of artificial sweeteners.

Will my soda or sugary drink habit affect my children?

Your children look up to you and they see what you choose to eat and drink. Drinking sugary beverages puts you at risk for weight gain, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. If your soda or sugary drink habit is influencing your child’s drink choices, you can change what you drink. You can stop buying sugary drinks and stop serving them to your children.

References:

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, December 2010.
  2. Sohn W, Burt BA, Sowers MR. Carbonated Soft Drinks and Dental Caries in the Primary Dentition. J Dent Res. 2006; 85(3): 262–266.
  3. Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2013.
  4. Institute of Medicine (IOM). 2011. Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. The use and misuse of fruit juice in pediatrics. Pediatrics. 2001;107: 1210–1213.
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate? Pediatrics (2011); DOI: 10.1542/peds. 2011-0965.
  7. Institute of Medicine (IOM). 2007. Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.