Top 5 Questions about Sugary Drinks

Top 10, a coalition of local and national organizations committed to improving the health of Indianapolis residents, has launched a “Rethink Your Drink” campaign to encourage people to drink fewer sugary drinks. Here are the most commonly asked questions about sugary beverages and ways to reduce your family’s sugar intake.

Related Article: Rethink Your Drink to Reduce Sugar in Your Child’s Diet

Why should I be concerned with the amount of sugary drinks my family consumes?

Decades ago, sugary drinks were often a treat, something consumed only once in a while. In today’s culture, sugary drinks are everywhere and are often consumed multiple times per day. In fact, sugary drinks now account for almost half of the added sugar in our diets. Some children are consuming more than 60 teaspoons of added sugar per day (from food and drinks), which is 10 times the recommended amount of 6 teaspoons per day.

All of this sugar is creating health problems like obesity, cavities and the early onset of type 2 diabetes. It also increases the risk of heart disease later in life.

What are some easy first steps that my family can take to begin cutting out sugary beverages from our diet?

There are some easy ways to “Rethink Your Drink.”

1. Help your kids learn to take a refillable water bottle with them when they leave home. They won’t need to purchase a sugary drink when they become thirsty.
2. Offer water instead of sugary drinks at sports practices or kids’ parties.
3. Flavor water with fruit slices to create more taste and excitement
4. Choose healthier vending and menu options when away from home

What are some sugary drinks that I might not be aware are unhealthy options?

Many of us naturally think of soda when we think of sugar-sweetened beverages. But fruit juice, lemonade, sports drinks, sweet tea and many coffees also contain high amounts of sugar. Check the nutrition label for ‘added sugars’ and choose products with no added sugars.

A small 6-oz., fruit-flavored juice box contains about 4 tsps of sugar
A 20-oz. soda contains about 15 tsps of sugar
A 20-oz. sports drink contains about 9 tsps of sugar

Remember, the maximum recommended sugar intake from both food and drinks is 6 teaspoons per day.

How necessary is it for kids to drink sports drinks after sports practices and games? What about replacing electrolytes?

It is not necessary or recommended that children drink sports drinks during or after physical activity. Most people do not exercise long enough or hard enough to need the replacement of electrolytes; and no one needs that much sugar in one drink (around 35 grams or 9 teaspoons of sugar in a typical 20-ounce sports drink). If you are concerned about your child needing extra electrolytes, snacks such as oranges or bananas, or drinks such as unsweetened coconut water or plain low-fat milk replenish electrolytes. Tap water has electrolytes, too.

My child loves soda and sweet drinks. Would replacing these with diet versions be a better alternative?

Diet sodas and other drinks are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Although artificial sweeteners have zero calories, they increase children’s and adults’ preference for sweet food and drink. Taste preferences develop during childhood, so serving foods that are not too sweet can help kids develop healthy habits for the rest of their life. Having an occasional drink with artificial sweeteners can be a way to reduce sugar intake, but studies have found that consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners is associated with higher risk for type 2 diabetes, weight gain and a diet low in nutritious foods. Water and low-fat milk are the best drinks for kids because they do not have added sugar and promote healthy growth.

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