A new study released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest calls on the Food and Drug Administration to require health warnings on sodas as teenage consumption of sugary drinks continues to rise.
Teenage boys who drink carbonated or non-carbonated soft drinks consume an average of three 12-ounce cans per day, and girls more than two cans, according to a new analysis of 1999-2002 government data. Teens who drink soft drinks get nearly 15 percent of their total calories from those drinks.
A dietary expert at Washington University in St. Louis has several suggestions for helping to curb teenage soda consumption.
“Excess soft drink consumption often occurs at the expense of other, healthier choices,” says Connie Diekman, director of University Nutrition. “Most research shows that kids shift from milk and water to soft drinks, thus depriving their bodies of the nutrition found in milk at a time when they most need the nutrients for growth. In addition to this nutrient shift, drinking too many soft drinks results in too many calories, which if not burned off means kids and adults will gain weight.”
How can we avoid the extra calories from sodas? “Parents can first make sure they aren’t over-consuming soft drinks, since what they do is what kids will do,” Diekman suggests. “Parents need to provide other beverage options – flavored, low-fat milks, 100% fruit juices, water or flavored water. Parents also need to remind kids that fruit juice, while a more nutritious choice, can provide excess calories if it is over-consumed.”
Diekman also suggests that parents should also talk with their kids about making healthier beverage choices so that kids understand why limitation is needed. “Simply telling your child not to drink any soda will, nine times out of ten, result in kids turning the other way and drinking the soft drink. Education and understanding are keys to behavior change.”
What about diet soda? “Diet sodas are an option, but since they don’t provide the nutritional benefits of milk, they would come second to either milk or fruit juice,” Diekman says.