In recent studies, including a CDC 2010 study, Beverage Consumption Among High School Students, we see that kids are generally heading in a good direction, consuming fewer calories from soda than in the recent past. Water, milk and fruit juices have become the most commonly consumed beverages among high school students. But for those whose kids are still loading up on sodas, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages, you may want to let them know that the CDC says those sweetened drinks are one of the top five contributors of calorie intake.
So, even if soft drink intake among children and adolescents fell in 2010 compared with 2000, there’s room for improvement, as data from the 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed. What researchers learned:
- Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups.
- About half of the U.S. population drinks sugary beverages daily.
- Certain U.S. minorities consume more sugary drinks in relation to their overall diet than others.
- Sugar drink consumption is highest among low-income groups.
Studies have linked sugar drinks to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes, which is why U.S. dietary guidelines issued in 2010 recommend limiting the consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars, and why the American Heart Association recommends no more than 450 kilocalories of sugar-sweetened beverages per week—that’s about three 12-ounce cans of carbonated cola.
Healthier Alternatives to soda
1. Limit bad choices where you can
- First, don’t keep sugar-sweetened beverages in the home.
- Second, kids will often go for what’s refreshing and easy to grab, so make sure that jugs or pitchers of water are easily accessible in the home fridge.
- Third, lead by example. Model the behavior you desire them to emulate; drink water and limit junk drink consumption.
2. Get your fizz on with carbonated water
- Add a couple squeezes of fresh lime juice or lemon juice.
- Mix in a little bit of 100% fruit juice.
- Put some crushed spearmint or peppermint leaves into the drink to add a refreshing zip.
3. The healthier sweetened drink: 100% fruit juice
Here's a recipe to make a fresh, refreshing fruit-based beverage your whole family will enjoy: Watermelon Mint Iced Tea – refreshing and healthy!
What about diet sodas?
To learn more about healthy alternatives to soft drinks, listen to the "Shun the Sodas" podcast from the CDC, discussing the importance of limiting the consumption of sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks by teenagers.