Children and soda

We all want things that aren’t necessarily good for us, and soda is a perfect example. It’s sweet and thirst-quenching – but it’s also the opposite of a healthy drink. Soda has a lot of negative qualities, and in the long run, your toddler would be much better off avoiding soda altogether.

The problem with soda

The detrimental health effects of soda tend to affect children more than they affect adults, because kids are smaller and their bodies and minds are still developing. Here are some aspects of soda that have can a negative impact.

  • Caffeine content: Many types of soda contain caffeine, which can be a problem for kids because it has a stronger effect on them than it does on adults. Drinking too much soda can lead to overcaffeination, which can make a child feel anxious, sick, or jittery. Children may also develop headaches or have trouble sleeping.
  • Sugar: The Harvard School of Public Health reports that on average, a bottle of soda contains between 15 and 18 teaspoons of sugar in a 20oz (about 600mL) bottle. Compared to the recommended healthy limit for sugar consumption in children – 5 to 7 teaspoons a day – that’s a lot. Excess sugar intake contributes to weight gain, obesity, dental disease, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.
  • Lack of nutrients: Soda doesn’t contain any health benefits. Instead, it is full of sugar, which children should only consume a very limited amount of from any source, and carbonation, both of which can have dangerous effects on growing teeth, among other concerns.
  • Calories: Because of its high sugar content, soda has a hefty caloric content –  and it’s all empty calories, because it doesn’t have any nutrients. According to reports, soda is one of the top five leading sources of calories for Americans and provides nearly a quarter of many people’s daily caloric intake.
  • Artificial sweeteners and coloring: Artificial sweeteners help decrease the amount of sugar and calories in soda, but their effects are still questionable, especially when it comes to their effects on children. As a result, it’s recommended that children avoid artificial sweeteners and coloring whenever possible.

Limiting your toddler’s soda intake

The first and best way to curb your child’s soda consumption before it starts is to not just limit the drinks he is offered, but also the drinks he is exposed to or sees you drinking. Children want to do everything you do – just look at how he feels about your phone! Modeling healthy eating behaviors for him is like modeling saying please and thank you – if you do it often enough, it can become instinctive as he grows. If you can cut down on how much soda you drink, especially around your child, it can do as much as any amount of explaining to him that soda isn’t healthy.

Another key way to limit the amount of soda your toddler drinks is just to not buy soda when you’re at the grocery store. It’s difficult to avoid soda if it’s offered at a friend’s house or a social event, and in these cases, it’s probably not going to do lasting harm to let a toddler have the occasional treat. But for the most part, he really doesn&;t need soda and it won’t add anything positive to his diet or health.

It is definitely hard to tell a toddler he can&;t have something he wants (especially when he really, really wants it). But while toddlers are this young, the responsibility of limiting the amount of soda they drink falls on the parents and other caretakers. In 10 years or so, you won’t be able to influence Baby‘s habits as much as you can now, so it’s worth teaching him some healthy ones.

  • “Is caffeinated soda OK for kids?” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Jul 2013. Web.
  • “Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet.” The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2016. Web.
  • “Top 10 sources of calories in the U.S. diet.” Healthbeat. Harvard University, Nov 2014. Web.
  • “Artificial Sweeteners.” The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2016. Web.
  • Michael F Jacobson. “Liquid Candy Report.” PDF from Center for Science in the Public Interest, Jun 1 2005. Web.
  • CL Ogden, MD Carroll, BK Kit, KM Flegal. “Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010.” JAMA. 307(5):483-90. Feb 1 2012. Web.
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