Lifestyle Lesson 5: Save your pennies – cool, clear water is the best drink for kids
Supermarket shelves and refrigerated cabinets are literally groaning with beverages targeting young people these days, but save your pennies and invest in your kids’ health because water is the default setting when it comes to quenching thirst and should always be the number one drink of choice for children (and grownups). In fact, recent recommendations from childhood obesity experts writing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggest that to help prevent obesity, sweetened beverages (fruit drinks, cordials, soft drinks, flavoured mineral water and the latest in the list of colourful tempters, vitamin water) should be limited to just twice each week. They are ‘sometimes’ drinks not everyday options.
Children don’t need any of these to be healthy – in fact gulping down these beverages they can make them picky about eating more nutritious foods at mealtimes and contribute to tooth decay. This is because sweetened drinks contain what nutritionists refer to as ‘discretionary’ calories, meaning they offer little in the way of nutrition and are easily over consumed, especially since they are frequently sold in super sized portions. Some sugar sweetened beverages also contain preservative 211 (sodium benzoate) as well as a number of artificial colours (some of which have actually been banned from use in some European countries).
What about 100% unsweetened fruit juice? Well, yes it does have some vitamin C and phytochemicals, but for the most part juice just contributes to excess calories and tooth decay. It’s much better to give kids orange or apple segments. To quench thirst, stick with the one that’s free and that nature provides – cool, clear, water. Try keeping ice cold water in the fridge or a filter water jug on the bench, always encourage your children to carry their water bottle with them (one that they can refill) and, most importantly, set a good example and drink water yourself.
Susie Burrell APD is a specialist Weight Management Dietitian at The Children's Hospital at Westmead. In her private practice, she balances her clinical work with writing for print and electronic media. For more information check out: www.susieburrell.com.au