This problem really has two parts.
- Does the child understand why sodas are bad for them?
- What can they replace them with?
Let’s start with the first question; does the child understand why sodas are bad for them? Most of the students I have talked to will tell me that they have been told by parents, teachers and other adults that sodas are bad for them but in all honesty, they really don’t understand why. Look at how often the advertisements on TV and computer advertise sodas as a refreshing way to satisfy your thirst. These ads also show that everybody who is drinking the soda is having fun! The comments I get from the students are:
“If this is so bad for us why does the government allow it in the store?”
“Why do our parents let us drink it?”
“Why do our parents also drink it?”
Then my question for you is how many sodas does your child consume? My review of hundreds of diet diaries from teenagers reveals that some drink one per week and some drink five or more per day. It is very important that a child learn the importance of not only what we eat and drink but also how frequently we choose an unhealthy product. One soda per week is probably not a big problem. One or more sodas every day are a big problem. Now let’s help them understand why.
I remember learning a less about Coca Cola the summer I bought my first car. One bright and sunny morning my car wouldn’t start so I opened the hood to check the battery connections. I noticed there was a large amount of corrosion on the battery. My sister suggested I use a can of Coca Cola to remove the corrosion. It was better than magic. I saw the Coca Cola eat up the corrosion instantaneously. My car started. To this day I am still haunted by that image of disappearing corrosion when I look at a soda. How can this be good for us? It is not. In fact, drinking sodas contributes to a disease called osteoporosis. The bones get holes in them similar to a piece of Swiss cheese due to the loss of calcium.
Drinking too may sodas also leads to childhood obesity and diabetes. If your child is overweight, just stopping sodas can help with weight loss. When a child drinks sodas, they are not getting any nutrition. This amount of sugar without nutrients also contributes to acne, muscle aching and cramping, mood changes, depression and abnormal digestion.
Now that we have discussed why it is not healthy to drink sodas, let’s talk about what to replace them with.
Fruit juices can be used temporarily to reduce the number of sodas. However, fruit juices are very high in sugar and should not be considered a healthy choice. They are better than soda, but still not a healthy replacement.
The best replacement is water. Most people do not drink enough plain, clean water. You can always add a wedge of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber to give the water a refreshing flavor. Eat a piece of your favorite fruit with the glass of water. This is better than juice or soda!
If your child is a picky eater and doesn’t seem to like fruit, find out if there is even one or two fruits they like, keep these around to give them. Many teenagers tell me they like a few fruits but those are not the ones their parents buy. If we want our kids to eat fruit, we have to start with the ones they like.
Teas are another choice to quench a thirst. There are many naturally caffeine free herbal teas to choose from. If your child must have sweetened tea, you can sweeten with raw sugar, honey, or agave syrup. Even though they are getting sugar, at least they are getting a sugar that is providing some nutrients. Remember, one of the main reasons sodas are so bad is that they provide no nutrients with all the sugar and calories.
Additional drink options would include vegetable juices. These are not high in sugar like the fruit juices. Tomato juice or V8 would be two examples. There are also some juices that blend vegetables and fruits together. Since the vegetable juice is listed first on the label, your child is not getting as much sugar as a fruit juice or soda. V-Fusion is sold by the makers of V8 and includes a large variety of flavors. For example: Pomegranate/Blueberry, Acai Mixed Berry, Peach Mango, Strawberry/Banana, Cranberry/Blackberry, Passion Fruit/Tangerine, and Goji/Raspberry.
Homemade fruit smoothies are a big hit when I visit the local high schools. Equipped with a blender and utensils, I prepare fresh fruit smoothies for my classes. A mixture of an apple, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, banana and water makes a drink that keeps the students asking for seconds. The fruit can vary with the season. This morning I combined a plum, nectarine, mixed berries and coconut milk for my breakfast. It is very quick, easy and full of nutrition. You can also freeze some of that fruit you bought that starts to get a little too ripe and just use it in the smoothie.
I have been volunteering in the local high schools for the past ten years working with hundreds of teenagers concerning their diets. I am saddened when I hear experts say that teenagers are hopeless and won’t make changes. I have witnessed incredible improvements in their diets when teenagers get explanations, motivation and options.
This guest post is by Dr. Nancy Irven who is the author of the book, “Please Don’t Eat The Wallpaper! The Teenager’s Guide to Avoiding Trans Fats, Enriched Wheat and High Fructose Corn Syrup” www.pleasedonteatthewallpaper.com