by Michael Sena, C.F.S. with Kirsten Straughan, R.D., L.D., and Tom Sattler, Ed.D.
It may seem as if it will be an uphill battle to get your family to switch from heavily advertised sodas, energy drinks, and sugary juice drinks to healthier beverages such as water and milk. Believe me, though, it's a battle worth fighting.
The high intake of these sugar-sweetened drinks has been a driving force behind the high incidence of obesity among our children. Did you know that one 12-ounce can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar? I'm sure that none of you would knowingly give that much sugar to your kids with their meals or snacks.
Soda drinkers are also more likely to have a lower intake of important nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, magnesium, and calcium. The decrease in calcium can result in reduced bone mass, which can contribute to broken bones in children and can possibly lead to osteoporosis later in life.
There are two ways to win this battle. One is to make sure everyone understands just how dangerous sugary drinks can be. Let your kids and spouse know that these drinks are leading culprits in weight gain and dental problems and how the lack of dairy-based drinks can lead to broken bones.
The other necessary tactic is to provide healthier choices that your family will learn to love.
As you are convincing your family to decrease their sugary drink intake, you can introduce them to these better choices.
Water. Whether it is flat or fizzy, flavored or plain, water is a fundamental component of your family fitness plan and is the perfect beverage for everyone. It helps to fill you up and is important for many bodily functions. There are many drinks masquerading as water that still have sugar or artificial sweeteners added. Check to be sure the label lists no calories or artificial sweeteners so you get the real deal. Show your kids that the ever-present water bottles that lots of pro athletes, teenagers, and health-conscious young adults carry with them are healthy and cool!
Here are some ideas for making water more appealing to your kids.
Milk. Low-fat and fat-free milk are healthful beverage alternatives. Next to water, low-fat or fat-free milk and soy milk are the best beverage options for your family. Milk contains calcium, which we often don't get enough of, as well as protein. Soy milk is a great alternative to cow's milk, especially if you are lactose intolerant, have problems with chronic upper respiratory infections (sinus infections or ear infections), have asthma, or are just looking to include more soy in your diet. Chocolate milk is okay for an occasional treat; just try to control the amount of chocolate added to keep the sugar under control.
100 percent fruit juice.
100 percent fruit juice is just that -- it is made solely from fruit with no sugar added. Fruit juice has the added benefit of being full of the vitamins that are naturally found in fruit, such as vitamin C and folate. It's very important to remember, however, that a serving is only 4 ounces. The typical juice box is 8 ounces, and many bottles can be up to 20 ounces. I would suggest limiting the total amount of juice for the day to 4 to 8 ounces. If 8 ounces is much less than your family is used to drinking, dilute the juice with water. Start with 25 percent water and 75 percent juice, then slowly increase the percentage of water to 50 percent. Or try mixing juice with seltzer water for a fizzy treat.
Vegetable juice. Vegetable juice is a great low-calorie choice that offers antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, and other nutrients such as lycopene, which has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Eight ounces of vegetable juice has 2 grams of fiber, is very low in sugar, and has only 50 calories.