Rethink Your Drink to Reduce Sugar in Your Child’s Diet

Let’s not sugar coat it: The average Hoosier kid consumes a lot of sugar on a daily basis. So much, in fact, that you could fill a 30-gallon bathtub with the number of sugary drinks that a typical Indiana child consumes each year.

That’s why Top 10, a local coalition committed to improving the health of Indianapolis
residents, recently launched a “Rethink Your Drink” campaign, to encourage people to choose drinks without added sugars.

“Indy’s kids are sweet enough,” says Rhonda Bayless, executive director of Center for Wellness and Urban Women, a member of Top 10. “None of us would encourage our kids to drink that much sugar, but many of us do so without realizing how much sugar is hidden in many popular drinks.”

Limit Your Child’s Sugar Intake

According to recommendations made by the American Heart Association, kids should
consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day — the equivalent of about six teaspoons. However, almost all sugary beverages surpass this daily limit. Sugary drinks can include
sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and sweetened teas and coffees.

“Most of us know that sodas contain sugar,” Bayless says, “but most of us don’t realize how much sugar. Just one 12-ounce can of soda often contains as much as 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s like eating four glazed donuts.”

The Risks of Too Much Sugar

What’s so bad about consuming large amounts of sugar? According to Julie Pike, a registered dietician with Riley Children’s Health, who is also a Top 10 member, even drinking one sugary drink a day significantly increases the risk for obesity and Type-2 diabetes.

“In Marion County, 40 percent of our youth are either overweight or obese,” Pike says. “Certainly, the amount of added sugars, especially liquid sugar, in their diet plays a large role in that.”

Too much sugar leads to other problems as well, including higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and tooth decay.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Sugar

So what can parents do to keep their child’s sugar intake down? Here are some tips that will get you and your family on the right path:

  • Opt for healthier beverage options, including water, plain milk and beverages with no added sugar, like unsweetened tea.
  • Be a healthy role model for your child by making water your drink of choice.
  • Offer refillable water bottles or cups, and teach kids to fill them before leaving home.
  • Choose healthier vending and menu options, such as bottled water or other low or no sugar alternatives.
  • For kids who have a difficult time drinking plain water, you can try flavoring the water with fruit slices to create more taste and excitement
  • Order water or milk instead of sugary drinks while dining out.
  • Read nutrition facts on product labels for added sugars.

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